What makes a scooter a scooter? Is it the step-through frame? The completely hidden engine? The underseat storage? The clutch-free operation? We have here two radically different visions of scooters in the form of the Honda NM4 and the Yamaha TMAX, representing the different design intents of maxi-scooterdom. The NM4 looks like a futuristic scooter but rides like a cruiser. In fact, Honda lists the NM4 in the cruiser category on its website. The TMAX strives to be the sportbike of scooters with its aggressive styling and performance. What the pair do share is a price tag separated by just $509, with the NM4 costing $10,999 to the TMAX’s $10,490.

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Had these two bikes been available at the time, they would have been included in our 2013 Uber Scooter Shootout. They fit the price range, and while the TMAX displaces only 530cc, it punches above its class, being fully capable of going head-to-head with the Ubers. Still, it’s hard to imagine two scooters that are as diametrically opposed to each other as these two. Let’s take a gander at what makes these two tick.

2013 Uber Scooter Shootout

Birth of the Scruiter

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Your eyes immediately tell you that the Honda NM4 is not your typical scoot, and I’m not talking about the styling – yet. First, this ain’t no step-through scooter. (The TMAX isn’t either, but at least it makes a nod towards that scooter physiology.) What you have instead is an extremely low, 25.6-inch seat height, thanks to the stretched out 64.8-in. wheelbase. If your eyes just follow the profile of the tank (which even has the filler cap on it) down to the seat, you get a pretty good idea of why Honda classifies the NM4 as a cruiser. So, you don’t step through the chassis to sit on the NM4 like a scooter, and if the pillion is flipped up for backrest duty, you don’t really throw a leg over like on a cruiser. Rather, the design asks the rider to step onto the bike heel-first, which initially feels odd but becomes normal almost immediately. As Category-Coining Editor, Tom Roderick, said, “With the NM4, Honda has created some kind of crossbreed, touringish scruiter.”

2015 Honda NM4 Review

Once ensconced in the saddle, the rider’s appendages naturally fall into a comfortable, cruiserish riding position. The floorboards offer footing for riders of differing leg lengths and remain vibration-free during rides. The riding position – particularly with the backrest deployed – is remarkably comfortable in conditions ranging from near gridlock to freeway cruising to backroad dancing. The weather protection manages to successfully straddle the fine line between wind protection during cooler weather and cooling air flow for warmer conditions. My only quibble with NM4’s creature comforts is the way the standard windshield directs the wind blast at the base of a 5-foot, 11-inch rider’s helmet at highway speeds. The optional tall windscreen on the NM4 we tested last year eliminated this issue.

The backrest converts to the pillion with a turn of the ignition key.

The backrest converts to the pillion with a turn of the ignition key.

Where the NM4 really differentiates itself from the scooter class is in the engine bay. The 670cc parallel-Twin’s cylinders cant forward to assist in the bike’s long, low presentation. However, the Honda steps away from traditional scooters by way of its dual-clutch transmission (DCT) as opposed to a traditional constantly variable transmission (CVT). The DCT means that the NM4 isn’t more difficult to ride than any other scooter. Once the ride mode (D for drive, S for sport) is selected, twist the grip and go. For riders who are used to specific gear ratios offered by traditional motorcycle transmissions, the DCT immediately feels more like a motorcycle than a scooter.

Discuss this at our Honda Vultus Forum.

In drive mode, gear choice is directed towards fuel economy, while sport mode makes the upshifts and downshifts more aggressive. Switch to manual mode, and the rider’s left index finger and thumb get to control the shift points – all of which means that when ridden in conditions where gear choice is preferable, like on a winding road, the NM4 feels like a motorcycle in a scooter’s package.

Well, at least we could carry our favorite cleaner and a couple rags in the saddlebag.

Well, at least we could carry our favorite cleaner and a couple rags in the saddlebag.

Scooter Fanboy Editor, Troy Siahaan, summed up the NM4’s engine, thusly: “Great platform for this engine. It certainly isn’t a sporty bike and doesn’t pretend to be. The 670cc Twin isn’t sporty either. It gets great mpg, is torquey for around-town riding, and the DCT is well calibrated to this bike. I could have shifted gears myself via the paddles, but I found myself deferring to Drive or Sport mode the majority of the time.”

Despite the futuristic scooter styling, the NM4’s handling places it in the cruiser camp. The 18-in. front wheel gives stability at the expense of the lightning-quick steering of the TMAX. The long wheelbase adds to this. “With more rake and a lower seat height than a Shadow RS (albeit with a full inch less trail -Ed.), and nearly as much wheelbase, the NM4 certainly feels like a cruiser,” said Roderick. Although you can get the NM4 to turn quickly by applying some effort, it’s cornering clearance ends the party much quicker than the TMAX. That said, if you’re comfortable dragging floorboards on a cruiser, you’ll feel right at home on the NM4. However, if you’re riding with a TMAX, you’ll need to content yourself with following it in the twisties.

Love the NM4’s style or hate it, you’re gonna have an opinion.

Love the NM4’s style or hate it, you’re gonna have an opinion.

Braking is another place where the NM4 suffers a bit. Although it has ABS and the front and rear binders are not linked, the power they deliver is on the modest side, requiring a healthy pull from both levers to quickly attenuate speed.

The NM4 also comes up short in its storage capacity. Despite the apparent size of the integrated saddlebags, their interior dimensions are almost laughable, and the NM4 has no underseat storage. The storage compartments in the fairing, while welcome, offer oddly shaped, low-volume carrying capacity. The left compartment, the one with the power port, is small enough to require some jiggering to get a large smartphone to fit. Honda is usually a little more thoughtful than this.

+ Highs

  • Funky looks
  • DCT for more motorcycle-like power delivery
  • Comfy as hell
– Sighs

  • Funky looks
  • Minimal storage space
  • Relatively short on sport

And then there’s the NM4’s styling. Either you like it or you don’t. It’s a visceral thing. Like arguing politics, no one is going to change anyone’s mind, no matter how misguided the other person is. Personally, I think the NM4 is fun. Everyone deserves to be Judge Dredd at least once in their lives.

Scooting to the Max

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Apart from sharing the same shade of black as the NM4 and having all capital letters in its name, the Yamaha TMAX is a world apart from the Honda. Consider it the sportbike that doesn’t quite fit in with the sportbike crowd, or the scooter that’s too cool to actually hang out with the other scooters. With the TMAX, Yamaha is catering to the scooter rider looking for a taste of an R-model supersport.

2015 Yamaha TMAX Review

Granted, that’s a very small niche of people, but I happen to fit into this category. With its 530cc Twin, the TMAX feels lively for a scooter, every bit the equal of the Honda. Indeed, it gives up 140cc to the Honda Twin, but it’s also pulling around 77 lbs. less weight (485 lbs. vs. 562 lbs., according to manufacturer claimed wet weights) than the NM4. Its CVT is well calibrated to deliver minimal lag once you twist the throttle, and though it doesn’t quite compare to the instant-on feeling from the NM4, it feels almost direct when compared to other scooters.

Immediate acceleration from a stop makes the TMAX a great around town mount.

Immediate acceleration from a stop makes the TMAX a great around town mount.

The TMAX perches its rider high above the road ahead, its 31.5-inch seat height lending to this seating position. You get a commanding view of what’s in front of you, and the generous floorboards extend beyond what would normally be considered the leg shield and dip towards the front of the bike. Placing your feet directly below puts you in a sport position, but also having the ability to kick your feet forward and lean back is a nice feature. Personally, I found the NM4 more comfortable, with its backrest and forward-placed foot controls more to my liking for a freeway stint, but Evans thought otherwise, stating, “If the TMAX had the NM4’s backrest, it would be the perfect scooter for freeway commuter drone mode.”

In the twisty bits, it was no question which one was the steed to be on. The TMAX attacks corners with an agility you don’t expect from a scooter. It’s capable of impressive lean angles a good pilot can use to embarrass lesser riders on “real” sportbikes. Evans noted, “On more than one occasion, I had to get on the brakes mid-corner because the NM4 ran out of ground clearance in front of me, and the TMAX was carrying significantly more speed – thanks to its generous ground clearance.”

The seat may be high, but it allows for the TMAX’s ample ground clearance.

The seat may be high, but it allows for the TMAX’s ample ground clearance.

Combine that with a 41mm inverted fork that soaks bumps while providing clear communication of road conditions. Further sportbike influences are seen in the radial-mount brakes, providing consistently powerful and predictable stopping power that puts the Honda to shame. From the onset we knew the Yamaha would excel in this environment when compared to the Honda, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Perhaps more surprising is the Yamaha’s storage capacity, which we criticized in our solo review, is comparatively generous in relation to the NM4. While the Honda’s deceptive saddlebags and integrated fairing compartments are barely large enough to fit a cell phone and a few packs of cigarettes, the Yamaha is able to fit a full-face helmet under its seat, plus a convenient fairing-mounted compartment.

The only way to improve the TMAX’s brakes would be to add ABS.

The only way to improve the TMAX’s brakes would be to add ABS.

+ Highs

  • Immediate power delivery
  • Sporty handling
  • Great ground clearance
– Sighs

  • No ABS
  • Minimal storage under seat
  • High seat with wide bodywork stretches legs

From a performance aspect, it’s clear the Yamaha is the runaway winner. Its engine and chassis are more athletic than the Honda. Having usable storage space is another bonus. However, some people simply can’t stomach being on a scooter. For them, the Honda is a more familiar ride; its chain drive and dual-clutch transmission being items more motorcyclists will appreciate. So then, which one do we choose?

The Envelope, Please

Whenever we join a few bikes together, there is the expectation that we will determine a winner, and we use a carefully considered scorecard to assist us in the task. However, before we open the envelope to tell you which bike won in this comparison, we’re gonna weasel a little bit – and for a good reason. These two bikes were designed for different purposes. Yes, they’ve got scooter styling cues and scooter ease of operation, but the TMAX is clearly gunning for sporting-focused riders, while the NM4 is, in its DNA, a cruiser. In any functional comparison, sporting machinery will always trump a cruiser because sporty bikes are designed to accelerate, corner and stop as efficiently as possible, and higher performance almost always results in higher scores. This is not a criticism of cruisers. When testing motorcycles – or any tool – one must look at the purpose for which it was designed.

Ultimately, the TMAX stands on the top of the box thanks to its impressive performance capabilities.

Ultimately, the TMAX stands on the top of the box thanks to its impressive performance capabilities.

With that in mind, we’ll open the envelope to reveal the winner … but it’s empty. Yes, the TMAX wins the scorecard portion of the shootout with an aggregate score of 81.9% to the NM4’s 77.0%. However, in discussions amongst the riders, no clear winner stood out.

Troy, being sporty minded, said the TMAX was the one for him, purely because of its performance capability. Meanwhile, Tom acknowledged the Yamaha’s performance advantage but had a preference for the Honda.

“The TMAX costs $500 less, offers more storage and isn’t a rolling fashion statement, making it the more prudent choice between the two. However, I find myself attracted to the NM4 the same way I’m attracted to street-legal golf carts: there’s more practical alternatives, but sometimes you just gotta say, what the f*&k.”

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As for myself, the MO staffer with multiple personality disorder, I’d have a hard time choosing because both bikes appeal to differing sides of me. However, if you held a gun to my head and gave me 10 seconds to choose, I’d pick the TMAX because, well, you can never be too rich or skinny or have too much performance under your saddle.

So, take the results as you will, and if one of these scooters appeal to you, that’s all that matters.

ALL CAPS SCOOTER SHOUTOUT Scorecard
Category Honda NM4 Yamaha TMAX
Price 95.4% 100%
Weight 86.3% 100%
lb/hp 100% 100%
lb/lb-ft 100% 100%
Engine 75.0% 81.3%
Transmission/Clutch 85.0% 86.3%
Handling 70.0% 85.0%
Brakes 75.0% 82.5%
Suspension 70.0% 70.0%
Technologies 82.5% 67.5%
Instruments 70.0% 70.0%
Ergonomics/Comfort 80.0% 80.0%
Luggage/Storage 40.0% 70.0%
Quality, Fit & Finish 77.5% 81.3%
Cool Factor 77.5% 77.5%
Grin Factor 72.5% 77.5%
Overall Score 77.0% 81.9%
ALL CAPS SCOOTER SHOUTOUT Specs
Honda NM4 Yamaha TMAX
MSRP $10,999.00 $10,490
Engine Type 670cc liquid-cooled parallel-Twin 530cc liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, forward inclined parallel-Twin
Fuel System PGM-FI, 36mm throttle body Electronic fuel injection
Ignition Digital transistorized with electronic advance Digital
Valve Train SOHC; four valves per cylinder DOHC; 4 valves per cylinder
Transmission DCT automatic six-speed with two automatic modes and a manual mode CVT
Final Drive Chain Belt
Front Suspension 43mm fork; 3.9 in. travel 41mm upside-down telescopic forks; 4.7 in travel
Rear Suspension Pro-Link single shock; 3.9 in. travel Mid ship horizontal positioned rear shock; 4.6 in travel
Front Brake Single 320mm disc; two-piston caliper with ABS 267mm dual hydraulic discs; four-piston, radial mount calipers
Rear Brake Single 240mm disc; single-piston caliper; ABS 282mm hydraulic disc; single-piston caliper
Front Tire 120/70ZR-18 120/70-15
Rear Tire 200/50ZR-17 160/60-15
Wheelbase 64.8 in. 62.2 in.
Seat Height 25.6 in. 31.5 in.
Curb Weight 562 pounds (claimed) 485 lbs (claimed)
Fuel Capacity 3.06 gal. 4.0 gal
Tested Fuel Economy 54.1 45.2 mpg
Available Colors Matte Black Metallic Sonic Gray
Warranty 1-year transferable, unlimited-mileage limited warranty; extended coverage available with a Honda Protection Plan. 1-Year (Limited Factory Warranty)

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  • 12er

    Only one quibble, the NM4 is Batman’s ride, not Judge Dredd. That would be the Diavel (or so I felt aboard one).

  • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

    Just got this email from Mr. AllCaps:

    WHAZUP, MO-RONS? I JUST DOWNLOADED THIZ SHOOTOUT BECUZZ I WAS EXCITED ABOUT THE TITLE, BUT THEN I READ IT AND THERE WAS NO GIXXER IN IT? WHATZ UP WIFF DAT? AND THEZE BIKEZ CAN’T WHEELIE AND MY COUSIN DOESN’T HAVE ONE, SO I WOULD SAY THEY BOTH LOSE.

    YOU WILL HEAR FROM MY ATTORNEYZ AS SOON AS I CAN PAY THEIR RETAINER. YA’LL ARE LUCKY I STILL HAVEN’T GOTTEN MY SETTLEMENT CHECK YET.

    • 12er

      Someone change the fluid in the Jar?

  • BTRDAYZ

    Good comparison. I’ve yet to see what an NM4 feels like to sit on, because dealers refuse to stock them in my area (NJ). No one wants to take the risk of ordering a unit and getting stuck with it if it doesn’t sell.

    Thanks for doing this comparison!

    • Warren W. Weiss

      I sat on one and I was sitting on my tailbone. The seating position needs work.

      • BTRDAYZ

        Warren, several reviewers have said the same after long rides on the NM4. That with your feet forward for so long, they can’t help support your bodyweight, so your tailbone takes the brunt of the riding forces.

        • Bruce Steever

          Welcome to cruisers.

      • Evans Brasfield

        Did you have the backrest up? That makes the riding position tremendously comfortable.

  • octodad

    my dick got hard when I sat on the NM4. so I say “go Big Red”. I will ride it….

  • CJ

    As the owner of an NM4 with nearly 2000 miles on it, I just wanted to point out a few things that I think were missing in the review.

    1) The NC700 drivetrain was designed to be economic, not all out power. That you averaged MPG in the 50’s indicates that you were on the throttle a lot. Typically I get nearly 70mpg and on some longer runs have eclipsed 80. So, while it only has a 3 gallon tank, you are still looking at a 200 mile range.

    2) The storage is a strange shape, but there is more than you think. I routinely keep a large tool roll, air compressor, rain suit, spare gloves, ball cap, and two syntetic towels in the right rear compartment. In the right front, I can easily carry stuff like a bottle of fuel stabilizer (cold weather use), kickstand pad, sun glasses, package of Kleenex, a small first aid kit, pen and pad of paper, and still have room for a pair of gloves. I have also added a topcase which really helps with larger items. The double wall construction of the left pannier actually works as a cooler where an ice pack keeps a lunch cool. It is little things like this that you don’t get unless you really live with a bike. Most underseat compartmnets on scooters are great for keeping takeout warm as they sit over the engine, but you can’t easily keep cool drinks.

    3) The tall windshield makes a HUGE difference. in fact, in the rain, I get most of the spray on the inside of my ankles from the front wheel., Not bad at all for what looks like minimal fairing.

    4) Every light on this bike is LED.

    5) Lubing the chain is a PIA without a center stand. I was able to modify the stand for an NC700S to fit. Honda really needs to address this.

    6) The seat is very comfy and the large footboards really let you stretch out or pull your feet in. This results in different parts of your butt supporting you. On longer runs, this is a very nice feature.

    I came from a 250cc Honda Reflex that I ride for 10 years and put nearly 60,000 miles on. Maybe because I didn’t come from a rocket, I find the NM4 to have plenty of power. It will easily in ‘D’ mode pull off the line faster than all but a supercar.

    Even when in an automatic mode, you can shift manually. Want to pass? Just tap the downshift a couple and roll on the throttle. Once you let off the power, the computer takes over again. Descending a hill, downshift and it holds your speed. Start to roll on as the hill ends and the computer again takes over the shifting.

    With a rear brake pedal, this is legally classified a Motorcycle. However, since I was so used to having hand brakes, I added a Silver Wing rear brake master to the handlebars and plumbed it to the ABS controller. Now mine is even more a scooter. I do not find the brakes wanting. I can activate the ABS just by pulling on the levers, so obviously it is the tire, not the brakes that is the gating factor.

    Nothing against people wanting race bikes, but remember that there are also people that commute, tour, and otherwise put long miles in all kinds of weather on their bikes. I find the NM4 does a lot of things very well. It is easy to maintain. It is a Honda, so it will run for as long as I care for it. Parts are usually simple to get. I don’t have to replace a CVT every 8-10k miles. Larger 17 and 18″ wheels are going to go longer miles than any other scooter between tire changes. And the comfort is just amazing. Also, unlike just about every scooter out there, the seat is at a practical level where I can flat foot both sides on nearly any road surface.

  • Ozzy Mick

    Interesting report….I’m considering a scooter after years on a sports tourer. As an Aussie, it’s interesting to see that the warranties you get are only for a year. Mostly, ours are for 2 years, and occasionally 3 up to 5 on promos.

  • Tim Quinn

    The NM4 is not a scooter!
    However, if you guys want to call it a scooter…..then I guess it’s a scooter.

    George Costanza, “Just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it.”

  • Jaime Cruz

    The NM4 is NOT a scooter!!!! If you consider that fugly contraption a scooter just because it has an automatic transmission, then the Aprilia Mana is ALSO a scooter. It also has more usable storage than that product of bad sushi and hallucinogenic drugs.

    • SteveSweetz

      I tend to agree – I’d call it more a fully fared cruiser – but the definition of scooter seems pretty nebulous. Whoever wrote the Wikipedia article says a scooter is a motorcycle with a step through frame, but neither of these (or other maxi scooters) truly meet that definition.

      • carewser

        The T-Max is a step-through design, a high step-through but still a step-through, thus Jaime is right the NM4 is not a scooter for that reason. It would be nice in the future if these two reviewers would learn the difference.

  • SteveSweetz

    $10K “performance” scooter without ABS; seriously WTF Yamaha? Why do you hate ABS?

  • Ducati Kid

    To all,
    I recognize Tokyo’s NM4 represents their latest ‘Swing for the Fences’ effort attempting to create hybrid product between a High Wheel Scooter and Motorcycle.
    Analysis and revision recommends Electronic ‘Automatic or Manual’ Clutch-Shifting without the complexity, cost and weight of a D.C.T. vs Conventional design.
    Note the length adjustable while inclinable Floorboards with Hand Lever C-A.B.S..
    Storage?
    Full length beneath the Fuel Tank Cover with additional Rear Flanking Side Pods affording Easy Access, Central Locking on-board Storage. Bags optional!
    Fuel?
    Beneath the Seat as per ‘NX’ Series of cycles.
    Below a HONDA ‘City’ Concept!
    It based upon a revised ‘CTX750N’ (European Engine) with recommended S.L.P. of $6,999 Stateside.
    A HONDA ‘City’ could be vended GLOBALLY affording greater product economies!

  • JSF

    I own a Honda NM4 and I can tell you it is one of the most comfortable bikes I have been on. When the backrest is up and your legs are stretched out on the floorboards, you almost want to take a nap. Handling is like a dream even at slow speeds, and it is very stable on the highway. It also has plenty of usable highway power, but it is not a speed demon by any stretch. The bike is a bit heavy, but you sit so low in the saddle you don’t really even notice it. The saddlebags are kind of small, but if you get creative, you can make all kinds of stuff fit in them. I use mine for commuting, and I can easily carry everything I need and then some. I have taken the bike on several long rides, and have never had a problem with being uncomfortable. The only thing I really can complain about is the stock windshield. It blasts the airflow right at your head. I also like the big 200mm back tire on the bike. It gives it a good look and the large 18 inch front tire makes it handle well. Not a bad bike at all. It is kind of pricey, but it comes with a lot of little extras.