The Metropolitan offers Vespa inspired retro styling with some technological advantages such as liquid cooling and the amazing fuel economy, reliability and lifespan of a 4-stroke engine.
Reliable (2006 - Pres.)
Ample underseat storage
Crankshaft bearing problem (2003 - 2005)
No glovebox / leg shield storage cubby
Slow accelerating, Yamaha’s 4-stroke 50’s are faster
HONDA METROPOLITAN / JAZZ (CHF50)
“Honda retaliated with its fun, but painfully underpowered Metropolitan with the first four-cycle engine among modern 50cc scooters” – Collin Shattuck (Scooters: Red Eyes, White Walls, Blue Smoke)
The way some Vespa enthusiasts see it, Japanese manufacturers brought innovation and quality to the scooter market in the 80’s but got lazy in the 90’s due to the lack of competition. With Vespa’s return in 1999, the Japanese could no longer offer 15 year old designs, so they set about bringing in a new generation of products to compete, such as the CHF50. Perhaps this is true, but the collapse of the scooter market in the late 80’s did create an environment that was very unappealing to introduce scooters into during the 90’s.
Whatever the case, the market was growing in the new millennium and Honda’s 2002 introduction of the Metropolitan (Jazz in Canada) was a clear shot at potential Vespa customers. For $1000 less than Vespa’s 50cc ET2 scooter, the Metropolitan offered Vespa inspired retro styling with some technological advantages such as liquid cooling and the amazing fuel economy, reliability and lifespan of a 4-stroke engine.
The CHF50’s 90-100mpg was significantly better than the ~65mpg that Vespa’s ET2 50 and Yamaha’s 2-stroke Vino 50 could manage. By 2006, both the ET2 and Vino 50 2-stroke ended up being replaced with 4-stroke models (LX 50 and Vino 50 4-stroke respectively).
Honda has sold two main generations of the Metropolitan. The first generation (model code CHF50) was sold from 2002 to 2009 in North America and is the focus of this article. This scooter was badged the Metropolitan in the USA and Jazz in Canada. For 2013, Honda introduced an entirely different second generation (model code NCH50) which has been discussed separately. This second generation Metropolitan uses the Giorno moniker in Canada and overseas.
The first generation was sold from 2002 to 2009 under the Metropolitan (USA) and Jazz (Canada) names in North America, while internationally it used other monikers including Crea and Scoopy. From 2002 to 2006 Honda also sold a restricted speed / moped compliant version in the USA called the Metropolitan II. Honda’s model code was CHF50P, with P being Honda’s long used indicator of a moped restricted variant. This scooter was restricted to 25mph via a series of restrictions to the variator, ECU, intake and camshaft. 2009 was the last model year for this CHF50 in Canada and the USA, although this scooter was available for a few years after this due to excess inventory from the 2009 crash of the scooter market.
The ’02 – ’09 Metropolitan / Jazz used a short case (small rear wheel) version of Honda’s modern GET2 engine. This motor was also used in the Honda Ruckus, but with a longer swing arm. Overseas the GET2 was used a wide range of Honda’s 4-stroke 50cc’s.
The GET2 was developed around the turn of the millennium by Honda Japan and it featured a number of neat innovations. Honda slipped a tiny radiator for this liquid cooled engine directly onto the right side of the engine next to the flywheel. By using a fan on the flywheel that blew on the radiator, Honda was able to create an exceptionally strong liquid cooling system without having coolant hoses routed all over the scooter. Another innovation was the double use of the alternator as the starter motor, thus eliminating the traditional electric starter motor. Honda devised a way to run power backwards through the alternator and thus spin the engine to start it. This simple system was noiseless and saved the weight, cost and complexity of a normal starter motor.
The 2002 – 2005 Metropolitan had a decent top speed of 38mph, the same as the restricted Vespa ET2. The Metropolitan is rated by Honda at 4.9hp whereas the ET2 is rated at 5.1hp, but the Metro has a 40lbs weight advantage (176lbs. vs. 216lbs) making it quite comparable to the ET2 but slower than Yamaha’s Vino. For the 2006 model year, Honda made a few tweaks to the Metropolitan that raised the top speed to 42-43mph. These changes included a higher redline (8850 RPM vs. 8000 RPM), a new carb needle, a new ECM and an improved crankcase ventilation system.
Perhaps more important than the top speed increase was the new crankcase ventilation system. This easy change eliminated a huge problem with the GET2 engine, which was the ineffective flushing of gas vapors from the crankcase. In any engine, gas fumes sneak past the rings and into the crankcase when the motor is cold. Unfortunately for the Met, it wasn’t able to properly expel these fumes so they would up contaminating the oil fairly quickly. This occurs because the 2002 – 2005 GET2 engine tries to breath through a single hose – which is like you trying to breathe through a 10 foot snorkel. It works if the snorkel is short, but if it’s too long then you just cycle the same dirty air over and over. In the Met, gas fumes inside the engine are trying to escape out the same small hose that the fresh air is arriving via. This flat out didn’t work very well, so Honda switched to a two hose system with an integrated one way valve to radically improve the engine venting for 2006.
In 2002 – 2005 Metropolitans, the oil gets quickly contaminated, which spells eventual death for the main crankshaft bearings (usually the left one). It’s unfortunately common for these crankshaft bearings to go after only 6000 miles, although twice that is achievable with frequent maintenance (oil changes). The right crankshaft bearing is permanent part of the crankshaft, so to replace the bearings you need a new crankshaft unless you want spend all that money on labour just to replace the left one.
To change the bearings, your scooter will basically need a complete engine rebuild. This can be done for $150 in parts if you’re doing it yourself but many owners don’t have the expertise and getting Honda to rebuild your engine is a $1000 labour job. If you do want to tackle this job, order a new crankshaft (it comes with bearings) and you’ll also need a new woodruff key, crank seals (especially the variator side) and a head gasket. You’ll probably want to replace the rollers and belt while you’re in there, and maybe take a look at the condition of the rings.
Design and Amenities
The original Metropolitan (CHF50) used plastic body panels mounted to a light but strong aluminum frame. The use of aluminum played a large part in achieving a low total weight of 176 lbs. The CHF50 is over 40 lbs lighter than a steel bodied Vespa, and also allows easier and cheaper replacement of damaged body panels.
The early Metropolitan didn’t have a glovebox or any sort of cubby holes in the leg shield area, but it did have a nice amount of space under the seat where most full face helmets will fit. Honda wisely located the fuel tank inside the floorboard, so all of the underseat volume has been made available as storage space.
Drum brakes are used both front and rear in the Metropolitan, which results in lazy braking. A disc brake would have been handy, but larger riders can upgrade the front brake for a few hundred in aftermarket parts.
The dash of the Metropolitan is pretty standard fare. There’s a speedometer, fuel gauge, odometer and a few indicator lights. Honda could have gone the extra mile and included a trip odometer, tachometer and/or clock, but those are minor things.
Over its run, the Metropolitan was sold in a wide range of colors, pattern and two tone color schemes. Scroll to the bottom of the page for a listing of these options.
In addition to the aforementioned Vespa and Yamaha competitors, a few other scooters worth looking are the offerings from Taiwan brands Kymco, Genuine/PGO and SYM. Competing scooters include Genuine’s Buddy (aka PGO Metro), SYM’s Mio 50 and Kymco’s Like 50, Sento 50 and Sting 50.
Early in its run, the Metropolitan was the technological leader, but scooters like Yamaha’s updated 4-stroke Vino have bettered by offering fuel injection and 3 valves. Still, the GET2 engine used the Metropolitan is a solid design post-2006 when the crankshaft bearing failure issue was addressed.
Compared to the second generation (NCH50) Metropolitan, the original Met is a higher end machine. While lacking the fuel injection of the NCH50, the CHF50 Met boasts a high end aluminum frame (vs. a steel tube frame), liquid cooling and more underseat storage thanks to the fuel tank located in the floor. They’re both good scooters with similar performance numbers, so the decision mostly rests on price and styling.
If you’re in the market for a Metropolitan / Jazz, you would be wise to select a 2006 or newer scooter. These engine ventilation problem in the first few years is nice to avoid, plus the newer ones are several mph faster. The Metropolitan has a great reputation as a well built, quality machine and is a smart buy in the used market. The second generation of Metropolitan offer better fuel mileage due to it’s PGM-Fuel Injection, but otherwise it is a lower cost scooter with a steel tube frame instead of an aluminum one, no liquid cooling and less under seat storage.
Reliable (2006 – Pres.)
Ample underseat storage
Crankshaft bearing problem (2003 – 2005)
No glovebox / leg shield storage cubby
Slow accelerating, Yamaha’s 4-stroke 50’s are faster.