Review: Suzuki Burgman scooter is an easy rider

USA TODAY’s Bill Welch reviews the Suzuki Burgman scooter (Photo: Michael Kofsky/USA TODAY)


Feel like riding a motor bike but aren’t comfortable with the clutch and gear shifting? Suzuki has an answer for you.

The Suzuki Burgman 650 is both a scooter and a motorcycle – offering the convenience and economy of a small scooter that can carry a commuter’s briefcase and even light groceries, combined with the power, performance and handling of a modern motorcycle.

Suzuki redesigned its decade-old scooter-on-steroids for 2013, giving it a more modern look in an updated, accessory-rich luxury package, and is applying a few stylistic tweaks for 2014.

The centerpiece of the vehicle’s design is what amounts to a clutchless automatic transmission for the rider. The Burgman has on board a continuously variable transmission, or CVT, which is Suzuki’s version of the automatic drive train that is appearing in more and more automobiles to maximize fuel economy.

In the case of the scooter, it also maximizes ease of having fun. A beginning rider, or even an experienced one, can hop on, turn the throttle and go without having to use their left hand to operate the clutch while changing gears with a foot, as is standard on motorcycles.

This isn’t the first automatic two-wheeled motorized vehicle, but it may be one of the most well executed. You can go back to the 1970s and find examples of shiftless motorcycle transmissions, such as the old Moto Guzzi Convert, which used a torque converter for a two-speed automatic. It wasn’t a great performer or success, but in those days the joke was you could drink a cup of coffee at a stop light since you didn’t have to use a hand to hold in the clutch.

The Burgman mates that ease-of-use factor with a handling and power package that is totally modern. Power is delivered by an advanced 650cc eight-valve twin cylinder engine, positioned horizontally to maximize rider space. Like a Vespa or other old-school scooter, there’s no gas tank between the rider’s legs, making it easy to swing a leg over the bike to ease in and out of the saddle.

Fuel goes in the back, but the designers still found room for a trunk under the seat – where you can stow that briefcase or your latest purchase. Or, you can stow a couple helmets under the seat while parked.

Adding to the convenience factor – a windshield that raises or lowers with the flick of a switch, providing wind protection at highway speeds. There’s even a switch to collapse the two side mirrors for squeezing through tight spaces or stowing alongside other vehicles in the garage.

The motor is powerful even with an economy-minded transmission. And for those times when you need a burst of added speed in traffic, it has a power switch that changes the transmission’s shift characteristics to keep the revs a little higher and deliver enhanced performance.

Even at the standard economy setting, though, the Burgman has plenty of power – triple digit speeds are possible, though not advised. Don’t be surprised to see one of these scooters passing you on the Interstate.

And the scooter comes standard with linked ABS brakes front and rear, providing stopping power to match the motor.

The success of the Burgman has drawn new entrants to the class. BMW has a pair of similarly sized scooters that are worth a look as well.

All that modern technology, performance and convenience doesn’t come cheap. The Burgman 650 starts at $10,999. Suzuki also offers two smaller sizes, 400cc and 250cc.


Suzuki AN 250 Burgman
Suzuki AN 250 Burgman
Suzuki AN 250 Burgman
Suzuki AN 250 Burgman

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