Mean Machines: Honda PCX 125 vs Yamaha NMax vs Suzuki Address
They’re not fast or sexy but they can get 90 miles-plus from a single gallon. But which frugal scoot is best?
Pint-chugging sportsbikes are all well and good but what if you want something less excessive and a little more frugal, that sips petrol like the lady of the manor? Enter stage left the contenders for our 2015 mega mpg test, surely the most important and glamorous test of the year.
The Honda PCX125 was the second biggest-selling powered two- wheeler in 2014, second only to the Honda CBF125, and in 2011 it was the biggest selling powered two wheeler in the whole of Europe. When it comes to sales it’s the king, and Honda reckon it’ll do 133mpg, too. If that’s right, the other two bikes on test have a fight on their hands. Enter Yamaha, relatively new players in the 125cc scooter market, and the tasty looking NMax that was released earlier this year. This is the bike Yamaha hope will take the fight to Honda across the bustling cities of Europe. And enter Suzuki’s ‘MotoGP replica’ Address, the odd one out. With a capacity of only 110cc it might struggle in the quick bits but it’s £1000 cheaper than the most expensive bike on test, the Honda PCX.
RIDER: Liam Marsden
There’s no doubt about it, the Yamaha is the coolest looking scooter of the lot. Its LED running lights and short, stubby screen tell me it’s ready to scythe through Sheffield’s city centre traffic like an angry Marc Marquez starting from the back of the grid.
Although the NMax looks small it accommodates my lanky six-foot frame with ease – the footboards providing plenty of room so my knees don’t get hit by the bars whenever I need full lock. On the move the NMax feels as svelte as it looks – it’s well balanced, providing plenty of confidence to lean over at roundabouts, while the ABS-equipped brakes purvey good feel and stopping power without being overly strong. When the ABS does kick in, it feels overly intrusive and the levers pulsate wildly, which detracts from the otherwise quality ride of the bike.
It’s nippy away from the lights and can keep up with the 30kg lighter Suzuki if you want to race. On the open road the NMax can just about match the traffic, reaching a top speed of 67mph with me sat bolt upright, although it’s possible to eke a few more mph out of it if you tuck in, which no doubt helps the fuel economy, too. Talking of which, it takes 47 miles for the first bar on its futuristic and minimalistic dash’s fuel gauge to disappear, which initially suggested the NMax was going to cakewalk the economy competition but in fact revealed that its petrol metering is wildly inaccurate.
Despite coming a distant third in the mpg test with a return of 97.7mpg, the Yamaha is a nice place to be – it behaves like a premium scooter, especially compared to the Suzuki, which without its racy paintwork would look like a generic template from the Far East. It’s comfortable for hours at a time, gets up to speed quickly, handles well and looks the part. And almost 100mpg on MCN’s urban cycle isn’t too shoddy.
Engine: 125cc single cylinder, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, SOHC, 4-valves
Power: 12bhp @ 7250rpm
Torque: 8.63ftlb @ 7250rpm
Seat height: 765mm
Fuel capacity: 6.6 litres
Finance: £99 deposit, 24 x £116.87, total £2903.88
Suzuki Address 110
RIDER: Charlie Lester
Two smart scooters bask in Sheffield’s sunshine. The day glows with promise – until my steed emerges from behind them. The Address’ small, basic chassis coupled with its lairy MotoGP colourscheme prompt unkind jibes about needing the return address, though apparently plainer versions are available at £100 cheaper.
Cringing, I start it up – but instead of the racy high-pitched whine I feared there’s a low, pleasant thrum. The 110cc engine is the least powerful of the three, with a noticeable delay between throttle action and application of power, but from our standing start I immediately pull away from the Yamaha and bolt neck-and-neck with Jimmy’s Honda PCX125 into the city streets.
The nimble Address makes my relative inexperience with both scooters and Sheffield irrelevant. It’s narrow, light, effortless to turn; a joyful little ride that inspires me to push and progress. Filtering through hectic streets I’m eyeing Liam’s back impatiently and grinning as Jimmy falls behind in my mirrors.
Okay, so I’ve seen egg-timers with more equipment – the clocks are incredibly basic, lacking even a trip meter, while the 20.6-litre luggage compartment can fit a helmet and little else. But it handles energetically and is endlessly comfortable, the single flat floorboard allowing me to stretch my legs as Liam begins to squirm. While the front disc brake seems weak, the back drum brake is perfectly able to slow the 97kg scooter to a squealing halt.
I’m nervous as we dive onto the motorway, but though acceleration is painful above 55mph the Suzuki eventually battles to 70mph. I triumphantly take and hold the lead for a while before remembering we’re supposed to be on a fuel economy test.
By sunset I’m actually a little smitten. At £1799 (with basic paint, £1899 for the swanky, go-faster MotoGP replica) it’s £1000 cheaper than the Honda, and although there’s a sizeable difference in luxury and ride quality it’s a cheap and very cheerful city ride. The little Suzuki can keep up with the bigger boys but at a price. Thrashing its little motor has returned a slightly disappointing 117.7mpg.
Engine: 113cc single cylinder, air-cooled, four stroke, SOHC
Seat height: 755mm
Fuel capacity: 5.2 litres
FiNANCE DEALS: None currently listed on Suzuki website
RIDER: James Doherty
The Honda looks the biggest and heaviest of the bunch (at 130kg it’s only 3kg heavier than the Yamaha), which doesn’t fill me with confidence when it comes to sipping fuel.
As the schools empty and traffic begins to build, Charlie slithers away through the stationary traffic on the small Suzuki. The Honda sticks with her at first, until the right hand mirror touches a trailer, quickly followed by the left touching a car. Charlie disappears through the traffic, while I’m stuck, with Liam behind beeping furiously. The Honda doesn’t look a great deal wider than the Yamaha, but it feels a lot bigger when you’re sat on it – and the mirror incident saps my filtering confidence.
Not that it matters. The Honda has switchable stop/start, so the engine cuts out to save fuel. Liam, meanwhile, is stuck behind wasting gas.
While the stop/start tech is a nice touch, and no doubt helps the Honda’s bid for victory, it does mean it’s slower away from the lights. It takes milliseconds for the Honda to switch on, but in that time the Yamaha and Suzuki have already pulled away. On the short stretch of M1 included in our Sheffield lap the Honda is unable to close the distance. It accelerates briskly up to 67mph and stays there. Tucked in, downhill – the speedo sits exactly at 68mph.
In town the Honda feels well balanced and stable. I remember scooters of my youth feeling a little like shopping trolleys but the PCX is perfectly planted and nimble. Scooters have certainly come a long way.
I get off the Honda with the sun setting behind one of the hills Sheffield is built on, confident of victory in the economy challenge. The mpg function on the dash hasn’t dropped below 110 all day despite my over enthusiastic riding. When we sit down to do the maths, the real brilliance of the PCX is stunningly revealed.
Engine: 125cc single-cylinder, liquid cooled, SOHC 4-stroke 2-valve
Power: 11bhp @ 8000rpm
Torque: 8.85ftlb @ 6000rpm
Seat height: 760mm
Fuel capacity: 8 litres
Finance: £99 deposit, 36 x £76.87, total £2866.32
- Latest Honda PCX 21
‘The Honda is stunning’
This test isn’t just about how the bikes feel or how they go round corners, it’s also about their numbers: specifically, which returns the best mpg. Disappointingly for me, the otherwise excellent Yamaha comes in last place, with 97.7mpg. Second is the basic-but-effective Suzuki Address, which managed to achieve 115.7mpg with fast-but-light Charlie onboard. That makes the Honda PCX125 the winner, and with a fuel economy of 124.9mpg it wasn’t even close. It may be the most expensive to buy, but it sips petrol despite Jimmy’s skids and generally unruly city riding. For that reason alone, the PCX is a stunning performer.
Photos: Gareth Harford