YAMAHA NMAX 125 (2021 - on) Review

Highlights

  • Keyless ignition, ABS and traction control
  • Claimed 128mpg and 200-mile range
  • Stop-start shuts down engine when idling to save petrol

At a glance

Power: 12 bhp
Seat height: Low (30.1 in / 765 mm)
Weight: Low (289 lbs / 131 kg)

Prices

New £3,399
Used N/A

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The Yamaha NMax 125 is one of the UK’s best-selling bikes. Its popularity has flourished during the pandemic, as commuters shy away from public transport.

Affordable, frugal and so easy to ride, the NMax 125 offers everything to welcome new riders looking for a quick, convenient and cheap way to get about town. Now Yamaha has set its sights on the number one spot.

With a new look and fresh features including keyless ignition, traction control and a stop-start engine system, they hope this 2021 NMax 125 will become the UK’s outright biggest seller.

To do that, it has to overtake Honda’s PCX 125 – and, truth be told, most of these updates have been to bring the NMax’s features in line with it. However, the Yamaha is priced slightly higher than the Honda.

Regardless of whether it goes on to top sales charts or not, the NMax 125 is an impressive, affordable and capable commuter. Quick enough in town, smooth at speed, slim, light and well-balanced through traffic, with a decent sense of fit and finish.

Our only gripe is being unable to fit a full-face lid in the underseat storage, contrary to Yamaha’s claims.

Watch our Yamaha NMax 125 video review here:

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
3 out of 5 (3/5)

The NMax is small, slim and light – just 131kg with a full tank. It’s incredibly nimble on its Dunlop-shod 13-inch wheels, but never feels flighty or unstable. Low-speed balance is excellent, and for threading through traffic it’s hard to imagine anything doing the job any better.

The Yamaha NMax 125 is easy to ride in the city, but with a top speed of 67mph it's not ideal for the motorway

Suspension has been tweaked for 2021. The 30mm forks are still unadjustable, but the rear twin shocks now have a neat, simple, two-step preload adjuster you can turn by hand. Ride quality from the front end is decent, but the back end’s still pretty bouncy at times.

Brakes are a 230mm disc and single-piston caliper at each end of the bike, with ABS as standard. They’re excellent: plenty of power, good bite and reassuring feel – there’s no numbness or grabbiness here.

Engine

Next up: Reliability
3 out of 5 (3/5)

The 125cc liquid-cooled undersquare single is dubbed Blue Core, and hasn’t been changed massively, but it does have a new cylinder head to help reduce emissions and improve fuel economy.

All four valves are still operated by a single overhead cam, while the NMax’s elegant and simple variable valve actuation system – which increases inlet valve lift for more power above 6000rpm – is unchanged. Peak output remains 12bhp, giving enough poke to indicate 67mph on the LCD speedo.

In a first for Yamaha’s scooters, the NMax now has a Stop-Start system. This means after a few seconds of sitting stationary just idling on a shut throttle – for example at a red light – the motor turns itself off to avoid wasting fuel.

Then, when the lights turn green, the moment you open the throttle the motor fires straight back into life and off you scoot. Restarting is near-instant and almost silent, thanks to a clever design that does away with a traditional starter motor, instead using the alternator in reverse to spin the crank directly.

Traffic-light drag racers who go on the ‘g’ in green may find just the tiniest fraction of a second delay between twisting the throttle and moving forwards, but if you really don’t like the system and are happy to burn petrol there is a button to turn it off.

The benefit, of course, is that when the engine isn't running you're not using any petrol, so it's great for fuel consumption purposes.

The Yamaha NMax 125 has traction control to keep its mighty 12bhp under control

The NMax also gets traction control for 2021. Yes, really – even with just 12bhp. It’s there for safety (think wet drain covers, diesel spills and gravelly potholes) rather than reducing your laptimes. It’s a fairly basic system and most riders will probably never trouble it – but surely it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Especially on a bike with new and novice riders square in its sights.

The motor pulls easily through the CVT drivetrain and never feels strained, even flat out. It’s super-smooth too, with no nasty vibration, in part thanks to new rubber bushes on the engine mounts. Low-speed throttle connection is perfectly intuitive too, making it easy to do walking-pace U-turns.

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
4 out of 5 (4/5)

For a bike costing as little as the Nmax does, its overall sense of fit and finish are impressive. The switchgear feels reassuringly solid, the panels all join together nicely, and nothing is left exposed that shouldn’t be.

Like the previous NMax it continues to be built in Indonesia, and there’s no reason to think the resulting quality will be any different. MCN readers give the 2015 NMax a solid four stars out of five for reliability, which bodes very well for the new model.

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Yamaha has packed a lot of features into a small bike boasting a very attractive price tag. Official RRP is £3399 on the road, or about £50 a month on PCP. Given Yamaha want to sell this to new commuters, many of them moving away from public transport, that’s a very keen price. Running costs should be ultra-cheap too.

Keyless ignition is a carryover from cars, just like the stop-start system, but the NMax remains a rival to Honda's PCX 125

Yamaha’s claimed 128mpg fuel economy means £10 of unleaded will easily cover 200 miles. Maintenance should be minimal, though a valve-clearance check every 3500 miles seems a little excessive given the mildly tuned motor. Owners of the previous NMax report typical annual servicing costs of around £150.

Yamaha openly admit the NMax’s biggest rival is Honda’s ultra-popular PCX 125, which also has an update for 2021, a similar tech spec and now costs £3169. That’s a tempting £230 saving over the more expensive NMax.

Equipment

4 out of 5 (4/5)

If you like gadgets, the NMax has an impressive tech spec. As well as the new traction control and stop-start, there’s now a convenient keyless ignition system taken from the Xmax 300. Just keep the fob in your pocket, then turn a dial to unlock the steering and switch the bike on.

The Nmax also now comes with basic Bluetooth connectivity. Pair your smartphone and the new LCD dash will inform you when someone’s calling, or you have a new message.

It’s not as complete a system as 'bigger bikes' connectivity setups though – so you can’t also pair a headset, answer or make calls from the bike’s switchgear, nor control music. Using Yamaha’s 'MyRide' app reveals extra trip and tech information too.

2021 Yamaha NMax 125 TFT screen

A 12-volt lighter-style power socket lives in the open cubbyhole by your left knee. A second closable storage space sits by your right knee, though it’s not lockable. Underseat storage is 23 litres and Yamaha claim you can fit an XL-sized full-face lid.

We’d dispute that – we tried two different helmets (one full-face, one flip-front) and in neither case was the seat even close to shutting. Different sizes and styles of helmet might have more success – but definitely don’t assume your lid will fit without checking first.

There’s a handful of practical options and accessories too, including a tall screen (£132), a 39-litre top box (£292 will all the fittings), plus heated grips and an apron also due but not yet priced. The firm say they'll offer Yamaha NMax 125 performance parts such as replacement Öhlins shocks with adjustable damping.

Specs

Engine size 125cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, 4v, single
Frame type Tubular steel
Fuel capacity 7.1 litres
Seat height 765mm
Bike weight 131kg
Front suspension 30mm telescopic forks, no adjustment
Rear suspension Twin shocks, adjustable preload
Front brake 230mm disc with single-piston caliper, ABS
Rear brake 230mm disc with single-piston caliper, ABS
Front tyre size 110/70-13
Rear tyre size 130/70-13

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 128 mpg
Annual road tax £21
Annual service cost -
New price £3,399
Used price -
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two years

Top speed & performance

Max power 12 bhp
Max torque 8 ft-lb
Top speed 67 mph
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 200 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

Compact but clever commuter scooter arrives with some very neat tricks up its sleeves, including variable valve actuation, ABS and a £2599 price that undercuts Honda’s best-selling PCX 125 by £100.

  • 2021-on Yamaha NMax 125

Quiet but comprehensive update adds sharper looks, a stop-start system, traction control, basic Bluetooth connectivity and keyless ignition. Larger fuel tank and improved economy gives a claimed 200-mile range. Aims to steal the sales crown from Honda’s PCX, but the Nmax is £230 dearer.

Other versions

None.

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