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Peuguot are perhaps the only player in Europe with the resources to rival Ital’s Piaggio group, so the Elystar range is a significant step forward for the French auto giant, building upon its Elyseo model.

OlaDele Akinsehinwa went to the 2002 launch of three Elystar models, covering the 50cc-150cc engine sizes. Are we talking gourmet quality, or just a bit of French dressing? The Scoot-a-bout star of London gives his verdict.

For some reason Peugeot were determined to keep the identity of their new scooter a strict secret and managed to do so long enough to keep us wondering what it looked like, right up until the moment our eager eyes fell upon its eerily familiar form.

My knee jerk response was "Isn’t that an Elyseo?"

It had taken thirteen hours of tormenting travel to get to this moment, topped off by a crow-happy cockerel, who insisted on singing at 4:30am, regardless of the absence of the dawn, and the Elyseo was by no means a new scooter, so at that moment, I was not impressed.

The Elystar is essentially an Elyseo but Peugeot have built on the latter’s basic premise by throwing a bunch of technology at the already proven scooter whilst retaining the elements which made it popular. The result is the Elystar, which is as different from the Elyseo as the Ford Cosworth was from the basic Sierra repmobile.

The evolution to the Elystar was spurred on by the responses to a marketing survey carried out by Peugeot in 2001, where 70% of respondents hadn’t thought about owning a scooter. About three quarters of those cited the perceived risk of accident as the reason for not scootering.

STOP ME AND TRY ONE

At the time Peugeot were already committed to developing an ultra-sophisticated braking system combining Integrated Braking with ABS/PBS (Anti-locking Braking System/Powered Braking System), in partnership with German parts manufacturer FTE/DANA. One year later the pair unveiled a braking modulator system, which they claim "allows for better braking than that achieved by some of the world’s top motorbike champions."

The system works by linking both brakes together, so squeezing the left-hand lever effectively has you pulling fore and aft anchors simultaneously, resulting in a stopping force on par to that of an experienced rider applying both separate brakes for maximum effect.

What this means is any skill of rider can stop sharply in a fraction of the distance it might normally take, whilst to counteract the danger of over-braking (and wheel locking), the system includes an anti-lock mechanism, the ABS/PBS releasing the front wheel in the event of its overzealous use.

It’s a pretty sophisticated unit that’s smart enough to take into account changes in the road surface, so even breaking from wet to dry or vice versa, it can adjust itself accordingly stopping your momentum safely and quickly. Or at least that was the theory.

After standing, watching Peugeot’s test rider demonstrating the system more or less unimpressed, I tried it out for myself and it works. At 60kph Peugeot reckon you’re stopping within half the distance it would take if you were a novice using only the rear brake and I reckon they’re right. More importantly I reckon it stops you more quickly than using the front brake alone too. I rode it through deep water, on loose road and even off road and the result was the same. Controlled braking, within the distance it would normally take the measured fettling of the two levers to acquire, just by pulling on the left-hand lever.

But where’s the right-hand lever in all of this?

Well, it’s more or less redundant. Peugeot’s official line is it’s an ’emergency’ rear-brake. The reality is the Elystar doesn’t need an emergency rear-brake. However, scooters are legally required to have two sets, so there you are.

IS IT BECAUSE ME IS FRENCH?

It’s not all good though, or at least it’s not for me. On most scooters, motorcycles and pedal cycles, the front brake is the right lever, on the Elystar it’s the left and I can’t say I’m particularly keen on the change or Peugeot’s insistence as to why they’ve done this.

Granted, moving the braking away from the throttle hand isn’t a terrible idea, but even for that reason the Elystar, and every other bike Peugeot chooses to add this system to, will condition riders to go for the left hand lever first which, should they ever decide to change manufacturers, means going for the rear brake. To me, that defeats the object of the decision. Even if the system does work.

Basic handling of the Elystar felt no different from the Elyseo. As a feet forward machine it’s designed primarily for comfort but is easy to chuck around, simple to tip into bends, a doddle to turn because of its tight turning circle and even holds its own over fairly rough dirt paths, with more than ample ground clearance. Although touching the centre stand down mid-corner is a possibility if you’re really trying.

Peugeot have tinkered with the Elyseo motor, enabling it to better cope with cold starts - imperative for a life in the UK. Acceleration is quicker and though still not superbike quick, the 125cc is no slouch as it forges its way up to 110kmh top speed. The 150cc makes about 10kmh more and the 50cc works its way up to a de-restricted 75kmh (around 45mph).

Plus each of the fuel-injected engines are more efficient. The 125cc and the 150cc four-strokes both reducing fuel consumption by 10% whilst the TSDI (Two-Stroke Direct Injection) motor of the 50cc two-stroke consumes fuel 36% more sparingly, enabling an impressive 429km on one tank.

From ten yards, it’s impossible to tell the three capacities apart. The front lights look like a version of the Speedfight 2 basic design with a single glass, multiple reflector lens covering the two regular beams, the central main beam and the front indicators, whilst at the rear crystal finish lenses shroud each of the indicators and the tail light.

The back-lit cockpit uses luminous indicator needles for night riding and clocks that are finished with chrome look surrounds. As well as the usual dials and warning lights of a digital odometer, trip counter clock and fuel gauge, there’s also a reserve petrol indicator, an ABS diagnostic light, a battery voltage indicator and a fuel-injection engine monitor (on the 50cc).

The seat is adjustable plus it’s long, wide, comfortable and has a choice of backrests. The big, clear mirrors are encased in a hard shell, like on many a modern cars, so you just have to pivot the glass within to get a view of what’s behind. I found they tend to fuzz with vibration when you’re on the move but otherwise allow you to see right past your shoulders and beyond, no problem.

The foot-board has been kept purposely flat for better legroom and carrying capacity, and the neatly styled exhaust has been designed so it tucks right in and doesn’t spoil the overall symmetry of the bike. Add to these features; Paioli suspension, dual real shocks, a big front disc, braided hosing, hazard warning lights on the bigger capacities, a flip up side stand (boo), plenty of room beneath the seat for a full faced helmet, a lockable front glove compartment and the option of Peugeot’s boa lock and immobiliser security set-up.

Pretty comprehensive specs, for machines starting at £2,016 otr for the 50cc, £2,999 otr for the 125cc and £3,024 otr for the 150cc. You get a worthy amount of scooter for your money.

The Elystar is as simple a bike to ride as any I’ve ever tested, with the bonus of being able to account for some of the lack of skill a novice rider has with its in-built safety mechanisms. I’m not won over by the reasons for swapping over the functions of the brake levers and feel a bit uneasy about the overall effects of attempting to do away with the skill element of braking.

However, the Elystar makes use of some important technology that could not only help encourage the number of new riders but increase the number of safer riders and reduce the number of rider-error accidents too.

Peugeot have stated they intend to launch up to 2 new products per year over the next four years, as well as investing in their current product lines. The braking system on the Elystar has been earmarked for the entire range by 2003. That means a family of automatics using this ground-breaking technology which, all things considered, is no bad thing.

Get Peugeot bike insurance for your Elystar.



Vital Statistics
Engine
Engine Single cylinder, air-cooled, fuel injected 2-stroke
Capacity 49cc
Claimed power 4.5bhp@7000rpm
Transmission Automatic
Cycle Parts
Front suspension 33mm diameter hydraulic forks
Rear suspension 1 adjustable hydraulic shock absorber
Front brake Single-piston with 226mm disc
Rear brake 2 calipers with 210mm disc. Intergrated synchro braking concept (50cc)
Wheel rims 12" 3 spoked aluminium
Front tyre Tubeless 120/70-12
Rear tyre Tubeless 120/70-12 / 130/70-12
Wheelbase 1360mm
Seat height 825mm
Cycle Parts
Fuel capacity 9 litres
Oil tank 1.4 litres
Buying Info
Current price £2,016 OTR
Accessories Boa lock, immobiliser, Peugeot insurance scheme and 1 year’s unlimited mileage warranty

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