It’s almost a waste of time writing this piece. After all the Yamaha NMAX 125 is currently the UK’s top-selling scooter, it’s flying off the showroom floors faster than Yamaha can get the scooters here.
There are a few good reasons it’s doing so well though – so we’d better tell you all about the updates to this 2021 model (and the D’elight 125) before you start camping outside your nearest Yamaha showroom.
The NMAX was already a very well rounded and established player in the 125cc scooter sector. It’s well used by commuters and a growing number of fast-food/delivery riders, both in the UK and across Europe.
At just £3399 it deserves to do very well because you’re getting quite a lot of scooter for your money. In fact, it currently has the highest spec in its class. It may be a little bit more expensive than the £3049 Honda PCX 125 but I think Yamaha have nailed it.
They’ve pretty much ripped the old model apart and beefed things up in all the right places, as well as significantly upping the spec for this quite significant year. Scooters are very much in vogue at the minute and sales are likely to continue to rise as dealers (and punters) get back to post lockdown normality, albeit with a new way of travelling for many city workers. Scooters are the best form of socially distanced personal transport.
Let’s take a look at what’s new for 2021…
Firstly, the twin-spar frame has been redesigned, it’s more rigid and stronger to allow for bigger back boxes and accessories (how big can a Deliveroo rider’s box get?). It also gives greater comfort in the footwell area and the frame beams are set wider apart to allow for a larger underseat area.
New rubber bushes on the engine linkage reduce vibration, 30mm fork stanchions increase rigidity and give 100mm of wheel travel at the front. The twin rear shocks have 86mm of travel and can be easily adjusted by big plastic adjusters at the top of each shocker.
The Blue Core engine has been redeveloped to meet Euro 5 standards. It comes with a new cylinder head with wider intake valve, higher compression and switchable intake valve timing thanks to a new VVA – Variable Valve Actuator. This switches to the high cam at 6,000rpm and back to the low cam at 5,500rpm. It helps improve fuel consumption, acceleration and gives some extra torque.
Yamaha claims a 200-mile range from the 7.1-litre tank.
Start & Stop
Many commuter-focussed machines come with car-style Start & Stop technology. The NMAX has a dual system that adjusts automatically depending on riding conditions. Regular mode will start the engine immediately as you twist the throttle for a quick getaway. With ‘Heavy Traffic’ mode there’s a 3-second delay before the engine starts, which is better for crawling. Start & Stop can be switched on or off manually and will work once the engine is up to temperature and you’ve ridden away.
You’ll usually only find traction control on larger capacity scooters and bikes but on a machine aimed squarely at commuters/delivery riders, any safety gadget is a bonus. The traction control system can be turned on or off and will control wheel spin from a standstill – or during harsh acceleration in less-than-ideal conditions (gravel/wet/slippery surfaces). The NMAX also features front and rear disc brakes with ABS to both wheels.
Keyless ignition can be a handy thing to have when you’re cold or wet, it means you don’t have to faff about in your pocket to find a key. As long as you have the fob in your pocket the proximity sensor will read it and allow you to unlock the steering, start the scooter, open the seat, or pop the fuel cap. It only works when you’re either sat on the scooter, or very close to it so it’s not a security issue that will see your scooter being ridden away whilst you’re sat in a cafe. It’s easier to use than some other keyless scooter systems as well, just turn the ignition knob to ‘on’ or ‘open’ to start or get under the seat/fuel cap. If you’re missing your wife or girlfriend it also has an ‘answer back’ function. Although I’m told this is to help locate your scooter from up to 20 metres away, rather than shout at you.
The new dash is crystal clear, the digital speed reading is big and easy to read (perfect for many of you middle-aged commuters) and it has all the functions you’ll need. It also has Bluetooth connectivity to the dedicated Yamaha MyRide app, which will show missed or incoming calls, messages and your phone battery level. The app itself gives plenty of useful info and stats on your journeys, fuel consumption, where and when your scooter was last turned off etc.
It’s fair to say the NMAX has had a thorough makeover from the ground up, the styling is fresh, slick and gives the scooter a feeling of a premium product, even though it’s sensibly priced for such a well spec’d scooter. The redesign also includes LED lighting all around with a 4 LED low beam/2 LED high beam headlight, an LED guide light and integrated indicators. Finally, new wheels complement the three paint finishes, Phantom Blue, Anodised Red and Power Grey.
Yamaha likes to give owners the choice of a few extras. The NMAX has an Urban Pack complete with a high screen, rear carrier and 39-litre top box with passenger backrest. There’s also a Winter Pack with an apron and heated grips. If you’re wanting to up ride quality (and street cred) there are dedicated NMAX Öhlins shocks, plus a few other styling goodies, like stainless footrests for instance.
Those Yamaha boffins have certainly taken the NMAX to the next level to make sure it has a class-leading spec and premium feel to it. Looking around the scooter I couldn’t find anything really to criticise. If I was being picky with the design I’d have preferred the left side storage pocket (which houses a 12v charging socket) to have a pop-open lid on it, (rather than just being an open hole) like the one on the right side of the legshields, both for symmetry and security – although you’re not really likely to leave anything of value in there.
Before we ride it though we need to mention the new ‘Smart Motor Generator’ starting system, it’s near silent in operation, smooth and quick. It works by reversing the charge from the battery to the alternator, rather than using a conventional gear-driven starter motor. This system provides a quick ‘one push’ start on the button, it also allows the Stop & Start system to work.
Like most 125s, the NMAX isn’t likely to rip your arms out of their sockets but it is still pretty nippy and easy to ride. The liquid-cooled Blue Core engine produces a learner-legal 12bhp (or 12.06bhp if you want to be precise). It packs enough of a punch from the off, allowing quick getaways (from traffic lights and junctions rather than after doing a bank job or phone snatch) and should see close to 70mph flat out. On the launch, we had a quick blast on a section of dual carriageway but didn’t quite have long enough to see the top end. I saw 64mph on the clock and it still had a bit to go. It’s perfectly at home on national speed limit roads though and doesn’t feel underpowered, although you may wish to opt for the taller screen if your regular journeys are on faster roads.
Start & stop
Once the scooter is warmed up the start & stop system comes into play. Pull up for 3-seconds in traffic, or at a junction and the engine cuts, twist the throttle and it fires up instantly and very quietly so you can ride off with very little lag. I’m sure most riders will just leave that switched on but you have the option to turn it off if you desire. If you’re one of the 25% of UK NMAX riders who use these for your delivery job you’ll be pleased to know it’s quick enough to get your fast food to the customer’s door before it’s had a chance to go cold and the revised suspension will get it there without messing up the pizza toppings (probably). A liquid-cooled engine costs more than an air-cooled motor but makes more power, is always better for longer rides, or for stop/start city riding so it’s worth spending a little more on your scooter if your budget allows it.
The NMAX comes with a 13” front wheel shod with Dunlop ScootSmart tyres (as it happens these are my usual scooter tyre of choice on the road). They’re a sporty tyre, good in the wet or dry, they’re softer than some original fitment tyres though so aren’t the longest-lasting mileage wise. They suit the Yamaha though, it felt stable enough on them and because it’s lighter and less powerful than my usual steeds, tyre life should be better as well. The brakes are powerful, thanks to their 230mm discs, they’re also pretty safe thanks to the very well set up ABS system and for added safety the traction control will stop things getting out of shape too easily on wet roads. We didn’t get a chance to test the scooter out in the wet but had plenty of loose gravel to contend with and the added tech works very well. The scooter handles well, it’s well balanced both at slow speeds (very important for city riders) and at faster cruising speeds.
Seat height is a big consideration for many novice riders, mainly from a confidence point of view. They need to feel able to touch the floor easily. The 765mm seat height of the NMAX is a comfortable enough height for me (I’m 5’10” and can easily get my feet flat to the floor). The actual seating position is relaxed and natural, with two positions for your feet you can ride with your legs at 90º, or slightly further forward if you prefer.
Our launch ride was around the quieter than usual streets of Peterborough and the surrounding countryside. We didn’t get to ride in busy traffic but the start/stop still comes into play at junctions/traffic lights etc. The scooter is agile enough, feels well planted and gives you enough oomph to keep up with other traffic no matter what type of road you’re on. It’s practical, stylish and has a great spec for an affordable £3399. That’s a lot of scooter for not a huge sum of money.
If you’re looking for a decent 125 then get yourself down to your nearest Yamaha dealer. Some showrooms may still be closed for face to face visits but check for the latest details.
Yamaha NMAX 125 specifications
Overall Length 1935mm
Overall width 740mm
Seat height 765mm
Weight 131 kg
Engine type 4-stroke, SOHC, liquid-cooled, Blue Core
Power 12.06 bhp @ 8,000 rpm, 11.2 Nm of torque @ 6,000rpm
Engine capacity 125cc
Lubrication system Wet sump
Transmission V belt automatic
Suspension Front Telescopic forks, 100mm travel
Rear Twin shock absorbers – preload adjustment
Brakes Front 230mm disc
Rear 230mm disc
Tyre sizes Front 110/70-13M/C 48P
Rear 130/70-13M/C 63P
Fuel tank capacity 7.1-litres
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Choosing the right tool for the job
Not everybody has the budget (or need) for an all-singing and dancing scooter with all the gadgets. Remember, many scooters are bought as a tool just to get to work, rather than being an aspirational model to dream about. The NMAX is a couple of rungs below the mighty TMAX on the Yamaha scooter ladder but in evolutionary terms, it still sits above an entry-level 125 – like the D’elight.
Lots of commuters choose a scooter like they do a washing machine, they want something that does the job but maybe doesn’t hang it out to dry for you afterwards. They’ll probably read a couple of reviews (like this one) and choose something within their budget and with a dealer locally who can service it for them. If they can manage without a combined tumble drier and save £500, plus lessen the appeal to thieves then it’s going to tick a few extra boxes. That’s where Yamaha’s D’elight 125 comes in. It’s a great little scooter but is significantly cheaper than the NMAX.
Here’s a quick look at the new 2021 version…
Groove is in the heart
You can’t help but sing the old Deee-lite classic when you ride this scooter, I heard at least three other riders singing it at the recent launch. The Yamaha D’elight is a great little lightweight commuter, it weighs in at just 101kg, is easy to move around, isn’t hard to get on the centre stand, looks nice enough and it’s cheap to run.
It costs just £2899 so won’t break the bank, that’s £500 less than the NMAX.
How do you save £500?
- That cost-saving is down to a few things, firstly the Blue Core engine is very similar to the NMAX but this one is air, rather than liquid-cooled (it still has start & stop). I’ve ridden air-cooled scooters all my life, they’re simpler and cheaper than an LC version
- The brakes are another place costs have been saved, this one runs a disc up front, drum at the rear and rather than ABS uses a combined braking system
- There’s no traction control, again not a problem – 99% of scooters don’t have it
- Other than an LED running light this scooter uses old-school bulbs
- The dash is a bit less complicated
- No keyless ignition
Great for a newbie
Even though the D’elight is cheaper and less complicated than the NMAX it’s still a surprisingly good little entry-level scooter. The design on this is quite retro and it’s been freshened up for 2021. Yamaha market this as a unisex model (although all scooters are gender neutral as far as we’re concerned) and it’s aimed at newer riders who may be less confident. It’s the lightest in its class at 101kg, which makes a difference to a newbie. If you can ride a pushbike you can ride an automatic scooter. If you’re one of these potential riders who keep putting it off, just get a CBT booked and do it. You won’t regret taking the plunge.
The seating position is quite upright and has a height of 800mm, a bit higher than the NMAX but because the seat isn’t too wide and the bodywork is fairly narrow it feels like it’s lower. Have a sit on a D’elight in a showroom rather than being put off by the height on the spec sheet, it’ll probably surprise you. Again I can get my feet flat to the floor very easily.
The flat floorboards are another nod to traditional scooter design, it means you don’t have to swing a leg over the central tunnel (the NMAX has it’s fuel tank there) to get on and off. It also means you can hang a bag of shopping off the folding hook and rest it on the floorboards. A bag hook is a very handy thing to have, believe me. As is the large (36-litre) underseat area, it’s wider and longer than the 23-litre space beneath the NMAX, although neither scooter could take my large full-face Arai. If you ride in a different style of lid you’ll probably be able to get it in but I usually just use the storage space for waterproofs and stuff I need to take with me.
This engine makes just 8bhp (the NMAX is 12) but I was surprised at just how well this scooter goes. It may be slightly slower than the NMAX at the top end but it pulls away nicely and gives you enough confidence to filter to the front of the traffic, or hold your position on the road – without feeling slow and intimidated, like you would on a moped (if you’re older than 16 I’d always recommend you go for a 125 rather than a 50cc).
The D’elight has an unusual wheel size combination of a 12″ front and 10-inch rear, it works well enough though and the scooter’s aesthetics aren’t compromised, neither is the way it rides. In fact it feels quite a sporty little scooter. The geometry makes it feel like a Piaggio Zip, which isn’t a bad thing. You can throw the Yamaha around on its Maxxis tyres if you desire, or ride sensibly to work if you prefer…
The linked braking system means you can apply pressure to the front and rear brakes by simply using the rear (left) brake lever. A novice rider is more likely to brake this way, it’s an added safety feature and all new 125s need to have either linked brakes or ABS. The brakes are pretty good for a simple set up, unlike some weedy feeling drum brakes I’ve used in the past – you can actually stop quickly and under control with these. You can lock the rear wheel if you try hard though, unlike an ABS system which won’t let you have any fun. Skids are cool…
We briefly mentioned that the engine was an air-cooled version of the Blue Core motor. It’s been revised to meet Euro 5 regulations and comes with a new piston, camshaft and crank to improve fuel consumption. Like the NMAX the D’elight also has a DiASil cylinder body and runs the Smart motor generator and Start & Stop. The set up is slightly different on this one though, in regular mode it starts within 1.5 seconds, in heavy traffic mode it starts in a lazier 5 seconds – which surprised me the first time it happened. Or rather didn’t happen as I waited for the scooter to start when I wanted to ride away. You soon get used to how it operates though.
190-mile tank range
Fuel economy is fantastic, with a claimed 190-mile tank range from the 5.5-litre tank. 1 litre of fuel will take you 34.5 miles so running costs are negligible really. Whilst we’re talking about savings, the D’elight also helps to save the planet by having a very low C02 emissions level of 43g/km (the class average is 56g/km).
Colour & options
There are three colours available in this model, Pearl White, Power Black and Lava Red. You can also add an optional rear carrier and 30 or 39-litre top box to increase carrying capacity.
The final word
Two very different scooters but both with the common aim of getting people to and from work, into the city, or out and about. Scooters provide not only a great fuss-free way to travel but they’re also very cheap to run, you don’t have to sit in queues of traffic and their environmental impact is negligible.
Either of these machines is a good option for the modern commuter. Your budget, the style of machine you’re looking for and the type of riding you’re doing will all be part of the choice. If you don’t need all the bells and whistles go for the D’elight. If you prefer all the toys, need a stronger engine for longer journeys and can afford an extra £500 go for the NMAX.
Photos: Chippy Wood
Video? We’ll be updating this with a video soon so check back….
Yamaha D’elight 125 tech specs
Overall Length 1805 mm
Overall width 685 mm
Wheelbase 1275 mm
Seat height 800 mm
Weight 101 kg
Engine type Euro 5, 4-stroke, 4-valve, SOHC, air-cooled, Blue Core
Power 8 bhp @ 7,000 rpm, 9.8 Nm of torque @ 5,000rpm
Engine capacity 125cc
Lubrication system Wet sump
Transmission V belt automatic
Suspension Front Telescopic forks, 81 mm travel
Rear Single shock absorber
Brakes Front 185 mm disc
Tyre sizes Front 90/90-12 44J
Rear 100/90-10 56J
Fuel tank capacity 5.5-litres