Pros: fuel economy, ease of parking, no motorcycle license required, reliability, FUN TO RIDE.
Cons: saying "NO, not a vespa!"
last month, i bought a used 2004 honda metropolitan with ~4000 miles on it. simply said, it was one of the best decisions i ever made. i've already put over 200 miles on it, and have only had to fill it with gas twice ... not really fill, it still had a little less than a quarter tank each time.
okay -- let me calm down enough to write a coherent review.
NOT A VESPA
i'll start with the only drawback about the honda metropolitan. when you tell people that you bought a scooter, they will all respond by saying "a VESPA???!!!" after you explain that you have a honda, not a vespa, and that if the vespa is the "porsche of scooters", then the honda is the HONDA of scooters, it's smooth sailing extolling all the virtues. their eyes will widen, and after they see it, they'll tell you that they want one too!
over 100 mpg. seriously. i've tested it twice, and it's for real. the tank holds 1.3 gallons of gas. twice i've filled the tank, and divided how many miles i rode by how much gas it took to refill the tank. both times i went 100 miles on slightly less than 1 gallon of gas. amazing!
i rode a motorcycle for a little while when i was younger, but even so, i very quickly felt comfortable on the scooter -- 20 years later. it's easy 'twist 'n' go', no gears or clutch to contend with.
in massachusetts, because the engine is less than 50cc, you only need a regular driver's license to ride it. i paid $40 to the rmv for a registration sticker for the back of the bike (no license plate), and was legally riding it around boston the day after i bought it. you might want to insure against theft, but regular insurance -- as for a car -- is not required.
this is not to say that you shouldn't give it the respect it deserves vis a vis safety. i have regularly gotten this scooter up to 37mph, and you will too. you don't want to fall off of anything going that fast without protection, so even though it's "just" a scooter, still invest in some protective gear: gloves, helmet, jacket at the very least.
(just a note re: mph, the metropolitan can get up to 40mph, the metropolitan II is restricted to 25mph to comply with laws restricting the speed of this category of scooters.)
as with all scooters, it is possible to pick this thing up and put it in a truck if a thief is so inclined. there are 3 built in deterrents: (1) you need the key to start the ignition; (2) you can lock the wheel with the key; (3) there is a way to lock the bike on the kickstand so that it can't be moved. however, i recommend investing in a heavy duty lock to attach it to something immovable.
well, maybe i just got lucky, but i only paid $1100 for my metropolitan. i actually went into the vespa dealership on a fact-finding mission after i bought it. even for a used 50cc vespa, i was still looking at paying more than twice that. no thank you -- the honda is a much better bang for the buck.
i've heard vespa enthusiasts cast derision at the honda as being "plasticky-looking". i don't know about that. i think it's cute, it certainly is taking me wherever i need to go, and every time i park it, someone asks me what it is, how much i paid for it, how many miles to the gallon, and how fast it goes. they usually conclude by saying -- you guessed it -- "i want one of those!" i GUESS you can pay twice as much for a vespa if you think you'll LOOK cooler. i think i look plenty cool on the met though :-).
too soon to tell, but all i've read about metropolitan reliability suggests that with regular maintenance, i won't have any problems. indeed, so far every morning it starts like clockwork. similarly, body integrity (assuming i don't break any of the "plasticky" parts) should be easy enough to maintain. i've cleaned it with a damp rag and some windex.
i understand that the body of the vespa is more metal than fiberglass, which will stand up better to collisions with other vehicles, or even just to being knocked down at the bike rack. can't argue with that. but with the metropolitan, you don't have to worry about rust if you live anywhere other than arizona. and maybe i'm old, but i like that the met is small, light, and easy to move around. and the reality is that if ANY scooter comes into contact with a moving vehicle -- metal or fiberglass -- it is not going to be pretty.
i can't begin to tell you what a joy it is to be able to freely travel about boston/cambridge without worrying about finding a parking spot. and my wallet is THRILLED that it costs me $2.75 for gas to cover the same ground it costs me $15.00 to cover in my car. sure, you have to worry about rain, and cargo space is limited (even though you'll be surprised at how much you can pack into that space under the seat and that you can tie to the (optional) rack in the back). yes, you really have to watch cars very closely, and you might feel nervous at first. but overall, the fun you'll soon have just riding it around is well worth it. you'll WANT to go run errands.