Yamaha have been making scooters for years; it is not new to them. They do it well and consistently. Likewise Honda are the world leader in scooter manufacturing. Both (as well as many others manufactures) are looking to the Asian markets for a payday. Luckily a lot of the models are merely adapted for each countries laws and thus back here in the UK we still have models to drawl over, critique and put head to head. For me the Yamaha Majesty comes to mind as a revered scooter that remains in production today, starting out in 1995. At the time it was pitched to battle the similarly capable Honda Helix. Both scoots now have a niche subset of followers keeping prices strong and parts available. Reviewers at the time diligently report MPG, space under the seat, comfort and reliability.
Not that you would know it but currently there is a revolution happening with modern scooters in dealerships as they vie for everybody’s cash. Maybe this has been happening for the last twenty years but it appears that over the last five years scooters have made leaps and bounds in features and technologies. As an entry level and since its incarnation in 2010 Honda’s PCX 125 is well established as the UK’s bestselling scoot. It has charmed with its ease of use, impressed with its stop/ go technology and reassured with unstoppable reliability. If I am not mistaken there may even be a few spotted around Europe topping best seller lists as well.
Since 2010 Honda’s PCX has come under some strong criticism and the cracks are starting to show. Firstly, service intervals are expected every time 2500 miles passes on the odometer. Even when used for short commutes day-in-day-out this racks up fast. You will find yourself getting to know you dealer very well indeed. Due to the two valves per cylinder motor each service includes valve clearances. This quickly begins to rack up both in visits and cost. Another concern that has been voiced repeatedly is that of the PCX’s suspension. Basic and sometimes acting as it is not there at all riders start to appreciate the PCX’s nimble handling to avoid any road imperfections. Add to this that some full face helmets will not fit under the seat and you are forgiven for starting to wonder how the PCX has sold so dominantly. Despite the above the PCX remains a competent best seller that is well priced, good looking and economical.
Fortunately, other manufactures have cottoned onto Honda’s runaway success and are going for their sales. Two prominent manufactures have stepped up to the plate to take a swing at the big H.
Firstly Yamaha. Yamaha have been very clear that their Nmax 125 is aimed directly at the Honda PCX. Much like the Majesty was to the Helix. Over the Honda it boasts ABS, variable valve timing, full LED screen, improved suspension, 4000 miles service intervals and it is cheaper than the current PCX. Well built, high quality this is an exceptional entry level scooter with an impressive stat list.
Piaggio true to form have come out swinging. Piaggio, excluding the Vespa, have never been able to boast large sale numbers in competition to their Japanese rivals. Classically Japanese scooters work Italian scooters look great and the two shall never mix. Well put all that behind you. As reliability is of little concern and styling is personal taste Piaggio now have a dog in the fight.
Piaggio’s Medley 125 has adjustable suspension, 6000 service intervals, start/stop technology, LCD lights, ABS, enough room under the seat for two helmets and a larger front wheel for improved comfort over road imperfections. Quickly the Medley appears to be the best of the bunch.
With the Yamaha and Piaggio besting the PCX on paper I am sure Honda will start to consider updating the PCX to keep up with the segment.
Honda needs to fight to retain its crown as the top seller in the entry level 125cc segment for they can only maintain or drop whereas Yamaha and Piaggio only have space to grow. MPG, space under the seat, comfort and reliability still remain important for buyers in the UK as well as price. However, expectations continue to grow for less money. A scooter without ABS, start/ stop, or adjustable suspension will quickly begin to look dated and loose out to superior machines that are more competitively priced.
But of course if price is of little concern you can get the class leading Honda Forza. The Forza is approximately £1500 more than the PCX but by all accounts is a superior machine and where the extra money goes is immediately clear. Yamaha have the Xmax, Piaggio have the Vespa GTS. With these machines you creep into motorcycle territory in terms of money which for a 125cc scoot understandably could put people off.
Go to your dealer, take a test ride, ask questions, haggle and ride well.