The Honda CN250 is a scooter introduced by Honda to the United States market in 1986. It was marketed in the U.S. as the Helix and in other parts of the world as the Fusion or Spazio. It was so successful that, as of 2007, it is still in production.
In the early 1980s, Honda hit the market with a line of scooters known as the CH series, comprising the CH50, 80, 125, 150, and 250 models. In the U.S., these were known as "Elite" scooters but overseas they were marketed under the "Spacy" name. While they were useful as "scooters", generally their performance and comfort levels limited them to short trips. However, when the CH250 was introduced it could reach highway speeds and be used for long-range touring. This new use of scooters (that is, the CH250) was mainly confined to the United States. Even with the Elite 250 writing a new definition of the word scooter, it still suffered from the limitations of all scooters: limited storage capacity, short wheelbase, small size and not comfortable enough for extended riding periods.
Honda's response was the CN250 or Helix. Honda had lengthened the CH250 by 14 inches, placed an integrated trunk in the rear of the machine and lowered the seat. The added length allowed what many have referred to as a "Barcalounger" seating position and a smoother ride than that of previous models. The top speed of the machine was limited to 70-75, (however speeds of 79 have been obtained) MPH (about 113-121 km/h) but the drivetrain was of an understressed design allowing extended running at or near top speed.
The Fusion CN250 found instant popularity in Japan
. In Europe, the Japanese put Italian makers under pressure to improve their scooters' capabilities and reliability. In the U.S., though not elsewhere, the Helix was a hit with middle-aged and older people. People who no longer wished to or were unable to shift or hold up a large conventional motorcycle
yet wanted long-range touring capabilities bought the Helix. The CN250 was a deceptively capable machine complete with trip odometer
, fuel and temperature gauges, glove compartment and trunk. The understressed 250 cc
liquid- cooled single cylinder engine
could take the machine on 1000 mile tours with no problems. There are many stories of extended touring with the Helix with the only concern being the limited rear tire life of around 5000 miles, a consequence of small-diameter (10 inch / 25.4 cm) wheels.
The Helix was in its last year in 2001 and was to be replaced by the NSS250. The NSS250 was marketed in the U.S. as the Reflex and in other countries as the Forza. The Reflex handled better and had a higher top speed than the Helix, but there were some arguments that there was a tradeoff in seating comfort and ride. In the Japanese market the Helix (Fusion) had an aftermarket and cult following with the younger generation, not unlike sportbikes in America. Seeing that the customer base was still there, the CN250 (Helix) made a return to all markets in 2004. In the U.S. the Helix sold next to the Reflex and at a similar price.
- Honda made very few changes to the Helix through its 20 year run. Aluminum rims replaced steel wheels in the early 90s and there were a few emission controls added to the engine. Beyond those changes, the machine stayed the same right down to its 80s style, multi-colored digital gauges. Due to this, the Helix enjoys more cross-compatible parts between years (for example, a part from a 1999 model will fit without modification on a 1986 model) than many other scooters or bikes.
- The CN 250 was also produced/manufactured and sold within Canada, also as the "Helix" and was the first "maxiscooter" of its kind to be offered in that country with an initial MSRP of $4,995 CDN for a "basic" model. However, production within Canada was halted after the initial production year of 1986. If one wishes, a Canadian citizen may still purchase a Helix, however, it must be imported from the U.S. and a majority of Honda dealerships in Canada do not even stock a "floor model" for display. Additionally, the purchaser to be will often be required to pay (or finance) upfront for their purchase, sight unseen.
- It was the Japanese scooter "scene" that, in fact, saved the Honda Helix/Fusion. Honda had intended to discontinue production in the late 90's in favor of the "Reflex" and, in fact, ceased production at one point. However, pressure from the members of Japan's now-outraged multitude of Fusion riding groups and modification enthusiasts pressured Honda into reinstating production with an announcement to that effect in February 2003 (site is in Japanese only) to begin production once again for the 2005 production year.
- In the U.S., human-touring modifications are available. Increasing appeal to the older customers, third party accessories such as sidecars and tricycle kits are also available.
- In 1995, motorcyclist Ed Otto piloted a Honda Helix 9,361 miles in 11 days in the International Iron Butt Rally.
- The Japanese modification market for many scooters is very large and the Fusion, being one of the most long lived and venerable of maxiscooters, has a special place in the industry. In addition to more pedestrian and utilitarian add-ons, such "showpiece" modifications include; lowered suspension kits and even side stands that are "low profile", full blown stereo systems (complete with "sub woofers") neon ground effects lighting, "European crystal" style brake/turn signal assemblies, customized body panels in a multitude of colors and styles and special digital speedometer displays that change color in a "rainbow" effect continually.