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Old 12-13-2015, 01:00 PM   #1
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First ride Kawasaki J125 review

Just dont call it a maxiscooter

MOST people who know me will tell you that I’m the epitome of urban. I’m so urban, I haven’t seen a tree since 1997 and when I do venture out of the city, I bring bottled exhaust fumes with me just in case I get sick from inhaling clean air. I could be in the most stunning of national parks, but if I’m not near a coffee shop that charges £7.50 for a small latte that’s delivered with a dirty look, I feel nervous.

I need a bike to match how urban I am and Kawasaki thinks the new J125 could be the small capacity maxi-scooter I’ve been looking for. Small capacity maxi-scooter – is that a contradiction in terms? I asked Kawasaki if it was a maxi-scooter – they said ‘No!’, instead dubbing it a ‘125cc scooter with mid-level features.’ It looks like a maxi-scooter to me.

Regardless of how it’s being classified, the J125 is a big deal for Kawasaki because it’s taking it further into the scooter market after the launch of the J300. It’s also important because it’s a scooter designed to make Kawasaki more accessible to a wider range of customers. It’s particularly aimed at young and inexperienced riders, female riders, plus car drivers and non-motorcyclists.

Being part of the same family, the J125 shares a few parts with the J300, its chassis being one, but its engine isn’t just a sleeved down version of the power plant from the J300. The motor is a new unit with a different ECU and J125 also has different clocks compared to its bigger brother.

Like me, the J125’s natural environment is the city, which is where the 13.8hp from its 125cc, water cooled, four-stroke engine is most at home. The Kawasaki is slightly more powerful than the Yamaha NMAX, but weighs more (see below) and the ABS version (the UK will only get ABS models) costs the same as the ABS NMAX. Compared to the other bike it’ll be competing against – Honda’s PCX 125, the J125 is more expensive (the Honda costs £2,699), heavier than the 130kg PCX, but slightly more powerful (the PXC makes 11.5hp). We also know the manufacturer stated fuel consumption for the Yamaha and Honda, Kawasaki hasn’t released any fuel consumption information for the J125, so we’ll have to wait until we can test one in the UK before telling you how frugal (or not) it is.

Through town the J125’s engine provides ample drive. Even though the bike has a claimed kerb mass of 182kg (Kawasaki doesn’t explain its definition of kerb mass), the motor has enough pep to easily beat cars off the lights and the power is enough for the J125 to easily hold its own in town.

On fast main roads and motorways, I had the J125 up to just under 75mph before it struggled to go any faster. Like I said, it’s most at home in a city, and overtaking at speed is definitely not its forte. Although you can overtake other traffic at speed (once over about 60mph), the engine lacks the punch to do it quickly, so getting past cars sometimes took planning.

Thanks to its CVT transmission, the J125 has that typical, slightly laggy scooter throttle response. It’s not bad though, and takes all of 30 seconds to get used to. The engine’s doing 2,000rpm on tickover and the J125 starts edging forward by the time the rev counter is displaying 3k. Most of the engine’s drive comes over 6k but depending on what gear it was in and what my throttle inputs were like, it occasionally felt like it was in the wrong gear, leaving the revs to rocket up to near the limiter or climb slowly. Again, this is something I became used to as I rode it more and after a time, it wasn’t difficult to feel what the engine and transmission were likely to do in a given situation.


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The ABS-equipped brakes are more than capable of getting the J125 swiftly brought to a halt. Feel through the adjustable levers is particularly good, giving me bags of confidence to wring all the available power out of the two-piston (with 260mm disc) front and single-piston (with 240mm disc) rear Kawasaki-branded stoppers. Perhaps that confidence is why I found the ABS quite easy to activate at both ends. Much like a cheeky Nandos, I was looking forwards to some cheeky rear wheel skids but the pulse through the left lever gave me a stern telling off every time I tried it on.

In town, the suspension felt good. The non-adjustable fork compressed in a controlled manner under braking and the rear felt OK too. It’s difficult to tell with the rear because the J125's immensely comfortable seat is so wide and squishy that it’s never going to give your bottom a private line to the preload adjustable twin rear shocks. I increased the preload to near maximum throughout the day, and it made the rear feel firmer, and more to my liking.

It handles well too. I thought J125’s weight and power would make it feel lethargic and heavy around town, but it’s well balanced and easy to thread through traffic at low speed. I think that’s a combination of the engine occupying the bottom back half of the bike, and the fuel tank being under the footboards. The J125 never gives you the sense that it weighs over 180kg. At motorway speeds, along with demonstrating its decent wind protection, the J125 proved itself stable and comfortable.

When it comes to the handling, the only point of note is that on a couple of occasions going round faster corners that required a bit more lean angle, it felt like the rear tyre briefly lost traction. I couldn’t be sure whether it was the tyre protesting as I used a part of it that hadn’t previously made contact with the (occasionally low grip) roads or whether it was the rear suspension having a moment.

Like every big scoot worth its salt, the J125 is practical and has decent storage - more than the Yamaha and Honda by the looks of it. Under the seat there’s enough room for a full face lid plus some shopping, and (if you're like me), a all the junk I want to cart around with me. A small compartment under the left side of the handlebar can take a phone and wallet, and contains a USB port for charging a phone or sat nav. This is definitely useful, but because of its compact size, if the head of the USB cable is particularly big, it obstructs easy access. The storage area can be easily opened and shut with gloves on, but it’s not lockable. The anti-tamper ignition should do more to thwart thieves though – press a button and the ignition gets covered by a metal plate which is opened up again with the other end of the key, which acts like a chuck.

Quality is high everywhere – the controls and switchgear are great, as is the quality of the finish and the plastics and paint.

In terms of ergonomics, I found it comfortable. The grippy footboards gave me enough room to adjust where I wanted my feet to sit and so how much I wanted to bend my legs. The bars are at a comfortable reach and height.

So is it going to steal the thunder from the NMAX and PCX 125? There's no reason why it shouldn’t - it’s a high quality, comfortable and capable scoot that gives you maxi-scooter capability for less than £4k. Personally, I think it looks better than the both the Yamaha and Honda, with a sharper front end and headlights that draw some inspiration from Kawasaki’s sports bikes. I’m pretty sure the J125 has more underseat storage than the Yamaha and Honda too. It remains to be seen how good it is on fuel, but if I was about to buy new 125 scooter to transport me and a lot of my stuff round the city, this would be on my list.

Model tested: Kawasaki J125

Price: £3,799, or £3,899 for the special edition

Engine: 125cc, liquid-cooled four-stroke single

Power: 13.8hp

Torque: 8.48lbft

Fuel capacity: 13 litres

Seat height: 775mm

Colours: ‘Metallic Anthracite Black / Green’, ‘Metallic Frosted Ice White’, ‘Metallic Anthracite Black’

Availability: End of January
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