2012 125cc Scooter Shootout [Video]
Three different takes on economical transportation
2012 Yamaha Zuma 125 ($3350)
Don’t mistake the Yamaha Zuma 125 as “girly” or effeminate in any way. If it could, it would punch you in the nose. Yamaha has made an effort to bestow masculine qualities to a scooter otherwise classified in a feminine category. Its rugged exterior, accented with bug-eye headlights, dirtbike-inspired hand guards, knobby tires and a thick, exposed steel frame all contribute to change the perception of small-displacement scootering.
All of our testers agreed the Zuma wins the “most rugged” award, with Duke going so far as to say, “it looks amazingly manly for a 125cc scooter.” In Tom’s review of the Zuma, when comparing it to other more street-oriented scooters, he points out “Yamaha’s Zuma 125 radiates a more adventurous attitude.”
Underneath that hard exterior lies a 125cc, fuel-injected single-cylinder engine with four valves controlling intake and exhaust gasses. It’s a peppy engine compared to the Piaggio, with more torque off the bottom and a more refined CVT that gives it the edge off the line. Thanks to fuel injection, starting the Zuma requires a simple press of the starter button (with a brake lever squeezed, of course). Fuel injection also gets credit for the Zuma’s second-place mileage figure of 58 mpg under our hard flogging. We were able to achieve speeds in excess of 60 mph on all three scoots, with the Zuma topping out just above 60 mph.
In real-world applications, sometimes the Zuma’s brash exterior can be too much. For instance, it’s impossible for shorter riders such as Duke and myself to flatfoot from the Zuma’s 30.7-inch seat height because the seat itself is obnoxiously wide. “Even for my height it was uncomfortable straddling the seat at a stop and putting my feet flat,” Tom wrote in his notes, adding, it “felt like I was paying a short visit to the gynecologist at each stop light.” That said, once in motion the broad seat is very supportive, and holding its light weight up with just one foot at a stop isn’t difficult.
All three testers also agreed the Zuma’s suspension is unnecessarily firm. “Overly stiff springs at both ends deliver a firm ride, and yet rebound damping is insufficient for the spring rates,” says Kevin. While this is mildly appreciated off-road, we can’t imagine a Zuma owner spending more time off the pavement than on, in which case the ride can be jarring.
With a wide steering sweep and little 12-inch wheels, maneuverability is superb at slow speeds. Turning in tight spaces is easily done on the Zuma and we liked the handlebar angle in terms of turning leverage.
The Zuma stops quickly thanks to a 220mm front disc and rear drum brakes, though there’s a slight reach to the non-adjustable levers. The Piaggio and Honda also don’t feature adjustable levers, but we didn’t notice any excessive reach with either.
Like the Typhoon, storage space on the Zuma is also compromised by the fuel tank. Despite this, we still managed two six-packs of beer and a box of wine in the storage area. Or, in more relatable terms, the equivalent of a three-quarter helmet. We’re disappointed not to see any bag hooks or water bottle holders integrated into the leg shield, however.
Other notables: we like the Zuma’s adjustable and replaceable handlebars. This allows the bars to be tilted either towards or away from the rider, or replaced altogether for bars with different profiles or bends. We also appreciated its angled valve stems, as it would be difficult to fit a pump onto vertical stems on the tiny wheels.
We were shocked at just how loudly the turn indicators click. “The Zuma blinkers are deafening,” says Tom. “It’s like entering a German clock store every time the blinkers are initiated.” Another annoyance is the incredibly long rear fender/license plate holder, which is made especially puzzling by the fact there’s already a rear fender nearly enclosing the wheel. It’s unsightly to put it mildly. Lastly, while the Zuma engine is generally a smooth runner — even smoother than the Typhoon — we did notice a strange shake from the horizontal cylinder at idle.
The Zuma has built an almost cult-like status in college parking lots and major metropolitan cities, and we can see why. Its build quality is typically Japanese, it’s affordable, practical and there’s a wide dealer support network. In many ways it answers the gripes we had about the Typhoon. We appreciate its off-road abilities and rugged appearance, but its harsh suspension takes its toll after a while, but that’s our biggest complaint.