Yamaha N-Max 125
Sporty, urban and commuter. We’ve heard it all before of course, but this time Yamaha thinks it’s onto a real winner.
The engine uses Yamaha’s ‘Blue Core’ approach – basically, a fancy way that Yamaha has chosen to say it is making compact engines that offer good fuel economy but are fun to ride too. The 125cc liquid-cooled, four-stroke engine produces 12bhp of power and 8.6lb-ft of torque. The NMAX is the first Yamaha scooter to feature a four-valve cylinder head with a newly developed variable valve actuation (VVA) for a strong, linear feeling when rolling back the throttle.
The VVA system works via a mechanism that shifts between two different intake cam lobes depending on engine speed. Valve timing normally uses just one lobe, a compromise between low speed torque and high speed power, but this, says Yamaha, offers the best of both worlds.
With Honda’s stop/start PCX clearly in its sights, the NMAX has made fuel economy a priority, with much attention paid to minimising the frictional losses between the piston and cylinder wall. So the NMAX features an offset cylinder and there’s a DiASil coating on the bore. Yamaha quotes 107mpg in WMTC mode – after a morning blatting around Lisbon we saw 108mpg on the dashboard display, so if that’s accurate, it’s bang on what it claims.
The new lightweight tubular frame is covered by an aerodynamic cowl with those distinctive ‘Boomerang’ side motifs inspired by the bigger MAX models in the Yammie range. Again, like its bigger brothers, the NMAX features a central ‘tunnel’ containing the fuel tank and features linked type engine mounts using rubber bushes that absorb vibration for a comfy ride.
Despite being a 125, Yamaha has been keen to offer ‘premium class comfort’ for riders of all shapes and sizes. The body design allows plenty of room to stretch out your legs and change from a sporty to relaxed riding style when required or desired and because of the side mounted radiator there’s plenty of space on the footboards. There’s plenty of room for a pillion on the stepped dual seat with grab bar and dedicated footpegs.
Twin rear shock absorbers, equipped with dual rate springs (though no pre-load adjustment) look after the suspension on the rear, while 13in wheels are fitted front and rear. There’s a 6.6-litre fuel tank and the seat height is a comfortable 765mm. Under the seat is a large helmet storage compartment that will swallow a large full-face lid (provided it’s put in upside down) and a spring mechanism keeps the seat open so you don’t have to balance it on your head to keep it open.
Lisbon is probably an ideal city to test ride the NMAX – it’s a maze of hilly narrow streets, many of them cobbled, with manic traffic and trundling trams thrown in. Fortunately, the Yamaha is a typical twist & go scooter in that it’s supremely easy to just hop on and ride. The low seat (765mm) allowed my 30-inch legs to have both feet flat on the ground and the riding position is nicely upright.
So does the VVA (variable valve timing) actually work? The NMAX certainly has plenty of punch from low down – Yamaha claims that it accelerates faster than its arch-rival Honda PCX, although without a side by side comparison that’s difficult to verify. The good news is that there’s no power ‘step’ when the VVA moves to the high speed cam at 6000rpm – power just keeps on building. It’s plenty for city traffic up to 50mph limits.
With 13-inch wheels and a longish wheelbase, the NMAX feels stable as well as easy to nip in and out of gaps, which is just what you want for an urban scoot. The brakes aren’t linked, which some riders prefer, but the extra confidence endowed by ABS, especially on wet and greasy tarmac, will be a real boon to year-round commuters, so full marks to Yamaha for making this part of the standard spec for Europe.