Big enough to ride on the open road, yet light and agile for the city traffic, 125cc scooters are consistently among the biggest selling motorcycles in the UK and one of the cheapest ways to get from A to B.
With twist and go transmissions, they’re easy to ride and can be ridden on an A1 licence (or even a provisional and L plates after passing the CBT), making them the perfect city bikes for new and experienced riders alike. There are plenty of options out there, and here are five of the most popular models from the biggest brands.
Honda’s PCX125 is regularly the biggest selling powered two wheeler in the whole of the UK, as a visit to any major city will testify to.
Whether you’re delivering takeaways or commuting to the office, it seems that the PCX has found fans from all walks of life. The combination is simple but easy to understand. Combining a good spec, with neat styling and typical Honda build quality, the PCX has a magical quality that makes it greater than the sum of its parts.
The two-valve engine is whisper quiet and clean running, capable of over 130mpg and 200 miles on a tank, with more than adequate acceleration around town. Honda make the much more upmarket (and expensive) Forza 125, but for most of the people, most of the time, the PCX does everything you could possibly want from a 125cc scooter.
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Yamaha XMAX 125
Yamaha unashamedly targeted the PCX125 when it introduced the XMAX 125 in 2015, which is no surprise when you see how much success their main rivals had enjoyed with their best seller.
In true Yamaha tradition, the XMAX 125 feels sportier than the competition. The four-valve engine features variable valve timing, a real rarity at this price, to give stronger performance without losing the bottom end torque needed to get away sharply from the traffic lights. The chassis is on the sporty side too, with good Dunlop rubber and ABS brakes as standard.
The XMAX has proved a popular addition to the Yamaha range in recent years and is a common sight on British roads for a good reason. Inexpensive to buy, cheap to run and fun to ride, it’s a 125 for riders who love to ride.
Kawasaki were relative latecomers to the scooter market, taking until 2014 to introduce the J300 with this, the 125cc version, appearing two years later.
Both of Kawasaki’s scoots are built by Taiwanese company Kymco, whose Downtown 125 model is virtually identical. The J125 is physically bigger and heavier than the best selling XMAX and PCX125, and more expensive too. That in itself is probably the reason why the Kawasaki is a fairly rare sight on UK roads, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad bike. Actually that’s far from the case. The understated Kawasaki (and indeed the Kymco upon which it is based) is a well specified bike with a 12 volt charging socket inside the glovebox and a generous underseat storage area that can swallow up a full faced helmet and some A4 sized files. Add in an optional top box and the J125 has some serious carrying capacity. The ignition barrel has an anti-theft, anti-temper device fitted and overall it’s a classy package.
Vespa Primavera 125
For many, there can be only one brand of scooter to even consider – Vespa.
First manufactured in 1946, the original Vespa provided inexpensive transport to the masses in post war Italy. Much like four-wheeled icons, the Mini and the Fiat 500, Vespa has reinvented itself in recent years, building traditionally styled machines fitted with the latest clean running engines and modern technology. The three-valve engine is perky and economical, although understandably it lacks the waspish buzz of the two-stroke originals.
The Vespa is one of the more expensive 125s on the market, but its one of the better specified too, with LED lights front and rear, a remote controlled seat release and a need ‘bike finder’ facility to help locate your scooter in a crowded Milan bike park. Like all the other models here, there’s enough storage for a helmet under the seat – even if other designs are more generous in their capacity.
The swoopy styling echoes those of the 1950s originals but blends in plenty of modern elements, such as the trendy 12” five-spoke alloy wheels. Piaggio, who own the Vespa brand, also make a 50cc moped version, which can be ridden legally by 16 year olds, while real classic enthusiasts may be tempted by the even more retro GTS, which also packs a more powerful motor, higher spec and an even bigger price tag.
Best known as a French car manufacturer, Peugeot actually started out making bicycles and built their first motorcycle in 1898. In recent years, the company has specialised in scooters and mopeds, with the Speedfight becoming a modern day classic with over 600,000 sold since it first arrived on the scene over 20 years ago.
Now in its fourth generation, the Speedfight is Peugeot’s sportiest model. Early Speedfights were super responsive and ultra agile two-strokes, powered by 50 and 100cc engines, and although the latest examples, with their cleaner four-stroke engines, feel more grown up and substantial, they retain a sportier edge than the other scooters here.
The Speedfight is the least expensive option on our list, but you wouldn’t know it to ride one. The riding position is a little taller than the other scooters here and the solid spec sheet included LED lights, linked brakes, smartphone holder and USB charging socket. For £100 more, Peugeot will do you an ‘R-Cup’ version with sportier graphics and superbike-style upside down forks. A 50cc moped is also available, while other models in the range include the more basic Tweet, the retro Django and executive Citystar.
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As well as these scooters from the established brands, a whole host of lower cost 125s are emerging from Chinese companies like Scomadi, Lexmoto and WK Bikes, as well as Italian Italjets and Piaggios.