Yamaha NMax 23

Scooters are perhaps the prime example of individual urban transport, designed to be light, easy to ride and fit into holes in the traffic where other bikes dare not go. That scooters are popular in urban areas amongst new riders and commuters isn’t a mistake.

By design, scooters are basic transport, meant to take a rider and his or her gear, wherever they need to journey in the urban jungle. Most manufacturers know this, and, serving to fill a market niche, have some sort of automatic scooter in the range.

Even BMW Motorrad does it, with its maxi-scooters, while Kawasaki has just brought in the J300. Taiwanese manufacturers Kymco and Sym are also well-represented in the middle-weight scooter stakes.

Yamaha NMax 60

But, where the money in the market lies is in the small-displacement scooter segment, where engine capacity falls between the 100 cc to 150 cc range. This market segment is filled with young working adults and college students, and hence, reliable, easy-to-use, cheap transport is the paramount consideration.

Boon Siew Honda saw this niche, brought in the PCX150 a few years ago, and it proved to be a strong seller. Not wanting to be left behind, Hong Leong Yamaha Motor (HLYM) has now entered the fray with the NMax, its offering to the 150 cc scooter class.

Yamaha NMax 32

If you include the underbone (kapchai) market in Malaysia, alongside the scooter, the place is crowded. It takes a lot for a particular machine to stand out with all the big guys having a product or four in the range to satisfy specific customer needs.

But, in the 150 cc automatic scooter class, the dominant model over the past two years has been the Honda PCX150. Svelte and stylish, there was a lot to like about the PCX150’s design, except its price. With a five-figure price tag (RM11,446.94 including GST), it was a lot to swallow for what was basically urban transport.

HLYM intends to address that issue with the 2016 Yamaha NMax, direct competition for the Honda PCX150. Carrying a 155 cc liquid-cooled, four-valve single-cylinder “Blue Core” engine, with variable valve actuation (VVA), the 2016 NMax is rated at 14.8 hp at 8,000 rpm and 14.4 Nm at 6,000 rpm. That compares favourably against the PCX150’s 12.5 hp/13.1 Nm 149 cc motor.

While it may not sound like a lot, and it isn’t, but remember, for urban transport, these figures suit the NMax appropriately. The VVA, which switches intake cam lobes depending on engine speed, makes for quick take-offs from traffic lights, leaving the mass of traffic behind.

The thing of it is, the 2016 Yamaha NMax runs out of grunt somewhat shortly after, topping out at 124 km/h – maximum. Maybe if the author went on a bit of a weight loss diet a month before, we might have been lucky to see 127 km/h, maybe.

So, romping down the highway is not in the 2016 NMax’s suite of tricks. We wouldn’t recommend it anyway, unless getting run over by an express bus is on your bucket list.

Yamaha NMax 69

Stick to the surface roads, and the NMax will do fine. Which is what it is meant to do anyway. The daily commute, the college daily trip, the quick run out to the shops or market, that is well within the NMax’s performance envelope.

Getting on the 2016 NMax is easy, with its 765 mm seat height, and it isn’t particularly wide in the footboard area, as scooters go. With a wet weight of only 136 kg, the NMax will be super easy for anyone to manage.

The seat felt to be adequately supportive, although we didn’t take it for any extended journeys to put the padding to the test. While broad across the beam, the length of the NMax’s seat was not that accommodating at the rear, especially with a pillion passenger on board.

We found ourselves settling into one position, and living with it. While our pillion didn’t find the rear seat uncomfortable, it was noted the splayed-out leg position was a little alien to her, and said that wearing a short skirt while riding the Yamaha NMax would be an exercise in modesty.

Riding the the Yamaha NMax was quick and fun, and ride stability was acceptable. This was helped in part by the 13-inch wheels and 110/70 front and 130/70 rear tyres.

While handling was somewhat stable, for a scooter, the suspension was a little harsh. With no adjustment except rear pre-load available, options were limited in terms of customising the ride to suit the rider.

This is expected at the price point for the Amax, where cost of purchase tends to over-ride mostly everything else. This included the lack of ABS on the Yamaha Nmax. To be fair, the Honda PCX150 is not fitted with ABS either.

It was explained to us, when we returned the NMax, that buyers in Malaysia preferred a cheap scooter, as opposed to paying approximately RM3,000 for ABS.

The brakes did work as advertised though, bringing the NMax to a stop with no fuss or drama. Again, bearing in mind the purpose to which the NMax would be ridden, we weren’t expecting Brembo levels of stopping power, but we were not disappointed.

Yamaha NMax 65

Cruising city streets and splitting lanes on the Yamaha NMax was done with no issues, save that the slightly wide-set mirrors needed some extra margin in order to safely negotiate its way past car wing mirrors.

The generous under seat storage on the NMax was enough to swallow a full-face helmet, and during other times was put to good use carrying miscellaneous items around. The 6.6-litre fuel tank resides under the foot board, and is accessed by a locking filler cap. Fuel range was a somewhat reasonable 150 km or so, and your mileage will vary.

Up top on the instruments, a singe LCD circular panel displays all the rider needs to know. The speedo number was clear and legible, and the fuel and fuel consumption gauges fill in the speedometer on either side. The trip meter and odometer fill in the top and bottom, respectively.

Overall fit of the plastic body panels was good, with no obvious gaps or bad fitting. The LED lighting on the NMax is a nice touch at this price point. While not being the absolute brightest, the lights were perfectly adequate for safe navigation of city streets at night.

Coming in two colours for the Malaysian market – Power Red and Frozen Titanium – the 2016 Yamaha NMax retails for RM8,812, including GST, but excluding road tax, number plates and insurance. This compares against the RM11,446 including GST that Boon Siew Honda is asking for the 2016 Honda PCX150.

In the case of the Frozen Titanium Yamaha NMax in the pictures, the tall windscreen is an original Yamaha accessory imported from Yamaha Europe at the owner’s cost, and was included in the gallery for comparison purposes.

Yamaha NMax 44

So, who needs a 2016 Yamaha NMax? If you’re a new rider, a short- to medium- distance commuter, or just want a simple machine to run around on and do the occasional trip to the shops, the NMax will do all these things admirably well. That it rocks in below the price of its nearest competitor does count in its favour.

For the cost-conscious commuter, the NMax does it in a stylish manner, like the PCX150, and the specifications list between the two is almost identical, save for the PCX150’s Idlestop mode. At the end of it, the consumer is the one in charge, and the choice to be made is a hard one.