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  • December 3, 2014
  • Alfonse Palaima
  • Brian J. Nelson
  • 34 Comments

2015 Yamaha Smax: MD First Ride

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The most southwesterly city in the United States, Imperial Beach, California, was chosen by Yamaha to introduce their latest scooter offering, the sporty, freeway-legal Smax to a group of U.S. journalists. MD was there.

Like some of its competitors, Yamaha found a growing need for an affordable, but highway-capable scoot. With 55% of scooter owners intending to buy another scooter, and roughly 60% of them using their current machine for both fun and commuting, building highway capability into an affordable machine makes lots of sense. Seeing the gap between their sub-149cc Zuma line-up and the pricier Majesty 400 (nearly double the MSRP!), they wedged in a 155cc machine at a market-friendly price.

New for the US for model year 2015, the Smax has been available in Taiwan for the last year — hopefully shaking out any possible bugs in the process. At the core of the Smax is a liquid-cooled 155cc 4-valve, fuel-injected single with a fully automatic clutch and smooth CVT transmission, in a 328 pound (wet) package.

Built on a steel frame with plenty of room for this 5’10” rider and rolling on a pair of 13-inch wheels, shod with model-specific Kenda tires (120/70 up front and 130/70 in the back), Yamaha pits the Smax directly against the Honda PCX150, offering larger brakes and more storage capacity thanks to the step thru chassis and suspension setup. Neither the Smax, nor the Honda offer ABS brakes.

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Thanks to the horizontally positioned, monocross-type rear shock (with 3.6-inches of travel – more than the Honda’s by 0.6-inches), there’s 8.5 gallons of storage space beneath the 31.3-inch high two-up saddle — enough for a full face helmet and then some.  A water-resistant accessory console bag, designed to sit in the open floor space between your feet, offers more room for carrying your gear. A traditional hook beneath the steering column as well as an open bucket-type storage space adds further functionality. The fuel door is also right there below the dash. Push-to-eject passenger pegs tuck neatly into the bodywork. And for even more carrying capacity, the available top box offers 10 more gallons of space (full face helmet capable) while retaining the passenger grab rails.

Trolling thru San Diego’s Balboa Park, passing school children and families, the unintimidating Smax garnered friendly waves and happy smiles. The CVT allowed for silky smooth low speeds but when the light turns green, the snappy throttle response races the ‘max to the max with ease.

A dual digital and analog meter offers the usual ride data and indicator lights such as speed, rpm, time and trip meters, as well as an oil change meter (600 mile initial service is followed by 1800 mile cycles after that). Boasting 81 mpg, the Smax sips fuel from the 2-gallon tank but on our 50-mile day-long tour in and around San Diego, we didn’t get to verify that number.

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We did however get to test for top speed. Being highway capable, and legal in California for machines over 149cc (check your state for local laws), we seized the opportunity to max out the Smax on our last stint. Unable to test the Honda in the same way, we cannot make direct comparisons, but this time our pack of scooter hooligans proceeded to huddle together in a slipstream seeking the Smax’s top speed. Drafting and tucked in behind the non-adjustable windscreen we peaked at an indicated 84 mph before running out of U.S. highway near the U.S.-Mexico border.

When it came to bringing the Smax back down to the minimum, a pair of disc brakes got the job done with ease and good feel: the front slightly more progressive than the rear.  The 267mm wave type rotor up front outshines the Honda’s 220mm disc while the 254mm disc, in the rear outclasses the PCX’s rear drum. LED position and tail lights let the world around you know your intent.

With Yamaha’s motorcycle line-up offering plenty of opportunities for their owners to step up from one model to the next, the addition of the Smax parallels that trend for the buyer intending to stay within that segment… giving them room to breathe and a chance to go beyond the Zuma’s local range. On the street, there’s no way to beat the maneuverability of a scooter, and the Smax delivers on that notion with a well-priced and affordable machine.

Whatever you do, please don’t call it a ‘smacks’ ask the Smax designers… and no, it’s not a Ford product either. Their european product is titled the S-max, see the difference? Available in two colors, a silky gray called Matte Titan and the “faster” ultramarine Yamaha blue with sexy red brake calipers, the Smax retails for just $3,690, nearly half the MSRP of their Majesty and slightly more ($241) than the Honda PCX150. For additional details and specifications, visit Yamaha’s web site.

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34 Comments

  1. CV3460 says:

    Check out the lean angle. He’s dragging the center stand!

  2. Sam says:

    Currently, I have a 2012 Goldwing, a 2006 Suzuki Burgman 650 and a 2013 Kymco Xciting 500RI ABS. The Kymco is the 77th bike/ scooter I’ve owned in 52 years of legal street riding and I get more actual fun out of leaning in and out of corners on the fantastic roads in SW Missouri and NW Arkansas on the scooters than on my wing or my past 170 mph crotch rockets. The Kymco will do 95 actual top end and the Burgman an actual 110 which is sufficient performance to put a smile on a riders face. The storage and wind protection and fuel economy plus great maneuverability and ease of parking makes for a pleasant experience. The ‘twist and go’ CVT has to be experienced to be believed.

    I had a new Yamaha T-max 500, a scooter that is/ was as close to a sportbike as a scooter can be and in the foothills and ‘mountains’ of the Ozarks and upper Arkansas, it was almost unbeatable with it’s real front suspension, race spec R6 brakes, twin cylinder FI engine and 15 inch radials. Other’s that I let ride the scoot were incredulous when they could easily leave many, many bikes in the dust.

    I view any bike that I ever had as a TOY and a thing to have fun on. Sure, I ride to work on the Wing or on the scoots but I do it for FUN, not necessity. These things make fantastic ‘second’ bikes to add to the stable.

    I do think that the top speed mentioned on this Smax was very exaggerated and obviously not verified by a GPS. I’ve owned them from 50cc’s to 650cc’s and I know how they perform.

    Sam:)

  3. Stan says:

    Me Likey… especially the traditional scooter flat floor/step thru.

    One concern is the seat height – guess that’s the trade off vs. the knees in your armpit feeling.

    Comparo – Burgman 200 vs. PCX vs. SMacks??

  4. red says:

    How about a head to head vs the Honda 150?

  5. Kentucky Red says:

    I can’t imagine a better way to get A-to-B on the cheap. I think I might have to buy one.

  6. Lenz says:

    So at 150kg wet, reasonable brakes, basic suspension, wind protection, 80+mpg and shows 84mph out of a 155cc 4 stroke single and there are still whingers …… damn some of you guys are hard to please on what is a very low cost transport item.

  7. Klaus says:

    I’m quite disappointed by Yamaha! I own 2 Yamaha Nouvo Elegance 135, together they’ve done over 80,000 trouble-free km and I expect each of them to reach that. This scooter stands out because of its styling, it’s not as fat and round and small-wheeld as the rest of them. It’s light, only 110kg or so, has 16″ wheels and I’ve been waiting for an updated 150cc version. Now what do I see? A Honda copy! Maybe a bit better but also more expensive. Nah! I could have bought the PCX150 years ago.
    Yamaha could have done something original, like the Nouvo was; slim, light, big wheels, sporty styling, almost like a bike, not a scooter. Too bad, they did a good job on the Nouvo but dropped the ball with the Smax.
    Looks like I’m going to put some more km on my trusty ’09 air-cooled, carburated 2-valve Nouvo 135 and wait…
    In case you haven’t heard of the Nouvo: http://thaimoto.ru/scooters/nouvo_elegance/1.jpg

    • Klaus says:

      If you click that link it says: “Yes, we are different!” on the pic.
      Yes, Yamaha, you were, but not anymore!

  8. Montana says:

    The San Diego Craigs List is currently offering an ’08 Suzuki SV650 with 20K miles for the same price as this scooter. It’ll provide more trouble-free miles with less maintenace than this scooter, so it’ll be cheaper in the long run. After a year of ownership, it’ll still be worth what was paid for it, so it’s a better investment. It’s suitable for long trips, two-up travel and gravel roads, so it’s more versatile. Most importantly, it has the power to get up to highway speed much more quickly than this scooter, and the large wheels won’t get trapped in pot-holes, so it’s safer.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Yes, but will it carry a milk jug under the seat or get 81 mpg?

    • DCE says:

      No twist-and-go, no sale (nor comparison). If you want to compare it to a “true” cycle, then you would have to go to a – nothing! There is no “true” cycle of this displacement sold in the USA. Saying it is the same purchase price is like saying you could get a Jeep Wrangler.

    • mickey says:

      You must have some serious pot holes in Montana. Been riding a scooter for years and never once had one of my wheels trapped in a pothole.

  9. Buzz says:

    The return of the Fonz!

    AYYYYYYY!

  10. Gronde says:

    Just read the link to the Hpnda PCX150. I suggest you follow the link before you buy. The Honda is the one I would choose as it has bigger wheels, better mpg, lighter and is better looking IMHO.

    • Curly says:

      I dunno, the Yamaha has wider tires, a longer wheelbase, more “road hugging” weight for better ride comfort and hey, 2 whole more cc’s. Better looking IMHO too.

      • Dave says:

        I’d worry that the guy in the photo looks on the short side of average and about all the more this scooter can fit reasonably comfortably.

        I’ve sat on a PCX150 and while I wouldn’t call it “roomy”, I could ride it in the stock configuration @ 6’4″. This looks like my knees would be pressed into the console.

  11. Frank says:

    …”600 mile initial service is followed by 1800 mile cycles after that..” What services need to be done every 1800 miles?

  12. TimC says:

    So, the high-performance version will be called the “Bitch Smax”?

  13. johnny ro says:

    Kjones? I have a mild jones for a Morphous.

    On the S-Max, the more the merrier.

  14. Gabe says:

    Nice story, Fonz!

  15. Hot Dog says:

    Let me be the first to say that I think this is a fantastic design and a really good scooter for the money. I’ve owned 3 Yamaha scooters, from a Zuma, to Majesty and now a Tmax. They’ve all been bullet proof and fun as all hell to ride. Insecure types will have a problem with their image on a scooter but they are so much fun and convenient that a public tar and feathering is worth it. One ride is about all it takes to see the advantages a small machine like this has to offer. I rode my Majesty on a poker run and left egg on a few clown suit wearing egos. And jeez, look at lower floorboards where you can lay your large scooter riding kjones.

    • John A. Kuzmenko says:

      Speaking for myself, I don’t ride a scooter not because of an image, but how they feel while riding them.
      If you like them, have a ball riding.
      To me, I’d much rather ride a conventional motorcycle that allows you to grip the machine with your knees and inner thighs – this is a big deal to me.

      I have bought only one scooter, a brand-new 2003 Yamaha Zuma 50 2-stroke, and regretted doing that because I felt it was such a boring little machine, I sold it with about 20 miles on it.
      It was supposed to be my ride-to-the-Post-Office runner in town, but it felt gutless, boring, and a waste of money.
      I got more enjoyment walking the 6/10 mile one-way.

      I do, however, have a healthy respect for the design and quality of the engineering that goes into a Yamaha scooter, especially the ones still built in Japan (if there are any left).
      Back in 2002-or-so, I was the one drafted into doing the maintenance work on my sister’s 2001 Yamaha CY50N Jog scooter, a 50cc 2-stroke (49cc in actuality).
      That little machine was amazing.
      It was ridden by somebody who knew how to put gas in the tank.
      Period.
      After numerous rear tire changes (mostly due to running over sharp objects on the side of the road), transmission oil changes, air filter servicing, control cable lubricating, and several drive belt changes (about 5,000 miles per belt), that little oil-injected 2-stroke was still running and functioning perfectly after 16,000 miles up until the day it got stolen.
      So, I respect the machinery, itself, but find no enjoyment in riding it.

      Also, not a jab at you, but I often get asked if my leather suit helps to, “block the wind”, or, “keep me warm”.
      When I’m wearing the older of my two Spidi suits, I’ll show them the right-hand forearm and patchwork on the right-hand butt cheek due to road rash, and tell them that’s the reason I wear it.
      I’ve tried crashing both with and without that kind of suit.

      • mickey says:

        A 50 cc scooter for a 6/10 mile trip to the post office.? Yea, can’t imagine that being a thrilling ride.

        I have a Yamaha 400 Majesty and do a lot of store running, and just pleasure riding when not riding my CB 1100 or ST 1300. 5000 miles on the scooter so far. 65 mpg, It’ll go faster than I want to ride it. Rails the curves actually. Passes traffic on the freeway effortlessly when I venture out there. Tons of storage. It’s eye opening to the possibilities of what a scooter CAN do.

        Much rather have one than a Grom.

    • Cory says:

      I am not as familiar with larger scooters, but my reason for not not being in love with most scooters is the tiny wheels. A larger hoop creates more gyroscopic stability than the tiny doughnuts on most scooters. I prefer the more classically styled ones over the more swoopy bodywork of this (and the Honda). I wish April would bring back the 125/150 Scarebo—Vespa-like classic lines, 14″ wheels and enough power to get out of its own way.

      • mickey says:

        Cory, most of the larger scooters have at least 14″ wheels, some have 15 front 14 rear and the new H Honda Integra has 17″ wheels.

        I know I rode a 3 speed handlebar shift 2 stroke, foot braked Vespa scooter back in the 60s that had maybe 10″ wheels and the handling was ” quirky” to say the least. Classic look though.

  16. RRocket says:

    I’ll take the Honda, I think. About 40 pounds lighter and at a consistent near 100MPG, the $241 saved buys LOTS of fuel. FWIW, on the 2015 PCX150 I tried I saw 74MPH. So you’d be giving up 10MPH. Which in this class of vehicle, I’m not sure matters much?

    How’s the fit and finish? The revised 2015 PCX’s finish was impeccable.

    For my money…it’s still the Honda.

    • Dave says:

      I read that the Honda PCX’s speed was rev-governed. They managed 84mph on this by drafting downhill. In flat conditions they’re probably the same.

      Which is the better fit for a tall guy?

      • toad says:

        The article says 84mph indicated and from my experience scooter speedometers are notoriously optimistic so until GPS verified I’d take that 84 with a gain of salt.

        • PatrickD says:

          yep. I’ve got a 2010 PCX 125, and an indicated 64mph is tops A rev limiter removes much chance of eaking out extra. Add in speedo optimism and it’s likely to be 60mph.
          I get 95 mpg (UK), although I’m doing very short runs (4 miles) and so the engine is only just up to temperature (i guess).
          I use it everyday, with a big bike for other times. As I use the train to get to work, the idea of the scooter is keeping my legs dry and being able to stash the helmet and gloves easily.
          The yamaha seems to trade some economy for performance, which is fair enough. It depends what your priorities are. A-ropad runs would benefit from the speed, but I don’t use it there much. Being a biker, though, more speed is alway good!
          If i get 7 years out of it (4 down), we’ll see where the electric scooter market rests at that time.
          So many people buy these, get soaked/frozen one day and then they languish in a garage with low-low miles and a 40% price cut in a few months. Well worth keeping your ears to the ground for, people.

        • Provologna says:

          CRAP! I’m cancelling my order if it tops out at only 82mph! Forget it! That’s insane!

          /sarc off