Scooters are, by definition, quick, easy to ride, and well suited for personal urban transport. Not every errand or trip requires you to bring along two armchairs and a sofa, and looking at the traffic congestion in most major Malaysian cities, not enough drivers are considering there are alternatives to using a car for most short journeys.

Typically, scooters fall into several broad categories – the maxi-scooter, usually above 400 cc, the ‘normal’ scooter, from 300 cc and below, and retro scooters like the Vespa and Scomadi, which feature “classic” styling with modern components and reliability.

For most, though, a scooter is meant for urban transport, and recognising this, every major manufacturer has a scooter in the 150 cc and 125 cc categories. However, there is a shortcoming with smaller, single-cylinder engines, in that such power plants can lack a certain amount of “get-up-and-go”.

This is especially pertinent on today’s city roads, where most cars are capable of cracking 150 km/h, and smaller bikes keeping up with fast-moving traffic can be an issue, especially on highways. For this situation, the 250 cc scooter is almost ideal.

Recently launched by Modenas, as a collaboration with Taiwanese scooter manufacturer Kymco, the 2017 Modenas Elegan 250 is the successor to the previous-generation Elegan 200. Marketed as reliable, daily transport for the urban dweller, we took the Elegan 250 through the paces.

In the city, traffic congestion is a fact of life. Most live with the situation, usually grumbling about it on social media. But, for a select number of riders, short, personal trips is a problem best solved with the use of a scooter.

This is where the 2017 Modenas Elegan 250 comes in. As a recent tie-up between the national motorcycle manufacturer and Kymco, the Elegan 250 – with its smaller sibling the Karisma 125 – are what is hoped to be Modenas’ attempt to regain market share after falling behind in the local scooter market in recent years.

Looking at the Elegan 250, which is being marketed alongside the Kymco Downtown 250i in selected Modenas dealers, it is obvious it shares a lot of design DNA with both the Downtown as well as the 2016 Kawasaki J300 we tested last year. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as platform sharing between brands means the spread of spare parts and service can sometimes be better.

Approaching the Modenas Elegan, the rider is confronted with a broad and chunky machine, with a seat width to match and a long 1,540 mm wheelbase. There is a lot of apparent bulk to the Elegan, and its 193 kg dry weight proves this out.

But, does this mean the Elegan is not nimble in city traffic? Obviously, with a wheelbase that long, this scooter will handle highway cruising well. We know this from the Kawasaki J300, which gave us a top speed hovering around 150 km/h mark (performed with police escort on open highway).

Getting on, we found the wide and long seat provided lots of space for the rider, and the step up to the pillion seat provided a short, but convenient, back rest for somewhat longer journeys. Starting up the Elegan showed a vibration at idle, which could be felt in the handlebars and pants.

Shooting off on the CVT gearbox showed the scooter had a reasonable amount of go, the 249.1 cc liquid-cooled SOHC single-cylinder providing 22.1 hp at 7,000 rpm. Rolling on a 14-inch wheel in front with a 13-inch hoop at the back, take-off was quite stable, with none of the roll-off wobble typical of small wheel scooters.

Rolling along on the Elegan, we found the amount of roll-on torque available adequate, enough for overtaking on the highway. Caution is called for though, as the response from the CVT gearbox, while sprightly, do have a touch of lag, so take that into account when expecting the Elegan to shoot forward.

Handling from the Elegan 250 was quite good, with the scooter tracking straight and stable on the highway due to its long-ish wheelbase. Quick changes of direction were also quite easily done, avoiding the ruts and holes on the highway.

The suspension was also well-suited to the Elegan, but it felt a little too harsh for solo riding on some road surfaces. Sharp bumps in the road would kick the back wheel up, and with the rear suspension only set for pre-load adjustment, options are somewhat limited, though not surprising at this price point.

Slinging the Elegan 250 into corners was done with aplomb, the handling being actually quite confidence inspiring. Right on the edge, the Elegan runs out of ground clearance quite quickly, a function of its wide floorboards.

Cutting through traffic called for good judgement, as the Elegan’s width made splitting lanes a little dicey. However, when cruising through moving traffic, there was more than enough power from the engine when calling for overtaking speed, and gaps in the traffic were dealt with quickly.

Braking on the Elegan 250 would be charitably termed “enough” from the front brake. For most effective stopping, combined braking – using both the front and rear brakes – is required.

Of note is the fact that ABS does not come standard on the Elegan 250, nor is there an option for it in the Modenas catalogue. This is despite there being an ABS sensor disc mounted on the front wheel, implying that the Elegan 250 is ABS-ready. The Kawasaki J300 we tested came standard with front and rear ABS.

At traffic stops, the vibration at idle from the Elegan was somewhat annoying, but holding on the rear brake tamed it, somewhat. This made us suspect the engine/swingarm mount, and is perhaps something Modenas should look into.

Another minor issue we had when we picked up the Modenas Elegan 250 was a rather loud exhaust. We wondered what the hell was causing it, and thought there was a leak in the exhaust system. It turned out we were right, and a bolt had dropped out of the exhaust pipe.

A little work with some chewing gum and we had a temporary fix, but Modenas QC really needs to get on the ball for this one. May we suggest that one of the assembly steps during the manufacture of the Elegan 250 include a quick application of some high-temperature thread lock to the exhaust bolts?

Cockpit accomodations on the Elegan were straight-forward, double analoque clocks on either side of an LCD display. The LCD display itself was clear and legible, though we did wish for the numbers on the tachometer and speedometer be a little bigger to make it easier on the author’s old eyes, but that’s neither here nor there.

Suffice it to say, everything the rider needed to know was on display. On the left side of the panel was a little glove compartment, big enough for a smartphone and a pack of cigarettes. Inside the compartment is a USB charger, making it convenient to keep the rider’s electronics charged-up on-the-go.

As per typical Kymco design, the fuel cap is located under a panel in the floorboard, giving access to a 12.5-litre tank. Riding the Elegan over the course of a week, we found fuel consumption to be around 5.2 litres/100 km. This is purely a rough estimate, and included several (high-speed) trips around the city and canyon strafing.

On the longer trips we took on the Elegan 250, the seat was found to be a little hard after the first 30 km or so. We assume the seat will pack down with use to fit the rider, and we did find enough space to move around for a comfortable position.

Distance between the handlebars was perfect for our shoulder width, and the controls fell easily to hand. A nice touch in the Elegan 250’s floorboard is a pair of cut-outs on either side, allowing the rider to bring the legs closer to the scooter during stops.

This would be helpful for shorter riders, or lady riders who don’t wish to inadvertently display their knickers. On the passenger side, a pair of flip-out footpegs lets the pillion rider find a stable perch, and folding them out of the way gives the Elegan a sleek look.

Under the seat, a cavernous compartment is available, enough to swallow a full-face and open-face helmet together, and still leave space for a raincoat and other bits and bobs. The seat itself is lifted with a gas strut, which slowly raises the seat to an upright position. Pulling it down, though, did take some effort, and a firm thump was needed to lock the seat.

The twin headlight assembly gave good beam spread and throw at night, and is coupled with DRLs and separate turn signals blended into the front cowling. At the back, the ‘X’-shaped brake light assembly was quite attractive, and bright, with turn signals integrated into the unit.

Priced at RM13,599, including GST, there are two colour options available – white and black. Competition to the 2017 Modenas Elegan 250 include its stablemate, the KYM Downtown 250i, which comes with more expensive ABS plastic bodywork, ABS and a price of RM22,790, including GST.

This compares against the 2016 Kawasaki J300, at RM31,498, with front and rear ABS and a 300 cc engine. Another option in the quarter-litre scooter segment is the SYM Symphony Evo 250i at RM18,300 including GST.

So, is the Elegan what Modenas needs to bring its brand back to the forefront of the Malaysian scooter market? Certainly, there is a place for a low-cost, reliable 250 cc scooter, which would probably be a hit with riders wanting urban transport, for the daily commute and the like.

At around RM14k, the Elegan 250 is more affordable for most riders, young or old, and being a scooter, ease of use and riding is certainly a plus point. For the author, the Elegan 250 has a lot going for it, especially for short-range trips in the city, and it would make a very good substitute for a car.