The Looking Glass Magazine

PCX vs Yamaha Nouvo Elegance Motorbike Shootout
by Jack Corbett

Honda PCX and Yamaha Nouvo Elegance bikes

In Thailand there are a lot of small motorbikes to choose from in the 125 c.c. market segment starting with 100, 110 and 125 c.c. Honda Wave manual transmission bikes and small automatics such as the Honda Click, Honda Scoopy, Yamaha Mio, and Yamaha Fino.  But the top dogs in the small motorbike  category are the 135 c.c. Yamaha Nouvo Elegance and the latest and greatest technological marvel, Honda's 125 c.c. PCX. 

There's been a lot of spouting off about which one of these top of the line offerings from Honda and Yamaha is best--running from Yamaha Elegance is outdated and lacking in fuel economy to the Honda PCX being too slow and its being overweight for a 125 c.c. bike.   This shootout was a head to head test of my Yamaha Nouvo Elegance 135 c.c. against my friend Per's 125 c.c. new Honda PCX on a two hour round trip run from Pattaya, Thailand to Rayong.  I'll get right down to the punch line to give you the bottom line results on which bike gets the best gas mileage, goes fastest, handles better, and rides better before taking a closer examination of the two bikes pros and cons.

We filled up at the same gas station on the same side of the pump so the lean angle was identical and then we left for Rayong at 12:30 and got back to Pattaya at 3:30 p.m.  We immediately went to the same gas station and filled up at the same pump. Due to my weighing around 77 kilos with Per much heavier at 100 kilos Per drove my Nouvo Elegance to Rayong while I drove his PCX, then on the way back we switched bikes to make everything 100 percent equal. We had stopped in Rayong for a coca cola at a restaurant and also spent a little time watching the boats come in so our total time gone was 3 hours round trip. Total distance traveled was 124 kilometers. It took 2.94 liters to refuel my Nouvo Elegance and 3 liters to refill the PCX but Per said he had overfilled the tank of his PCX a trifle in trying to get it all the way full so he felt the two bikes used the EXACT same amount of fuel. This works out to 42 kilometers to the liter for both bikes or 96 miles to the gallon.

We took the expressway (route 36 from Pattaya to Rayong) so much of our driving was at a very fast clip for scooters. We took the bikes up to 105 kilometers per hour several times and often were going between 90 and 100 kilometers per hour. Needless to say had we kept our bikes down to an average speed of 70 kilometers per hour or so our mileage would have been a lot better--well in excess of 100 miles per gallon. There was nothing to choose between the two bikes in absolute performance terms. The Honda PCX seemed just as fast as the Nouvo Elegance and vice versa.  And as already proven gas mileage was identical. The feel of the bikes is different however.  The PCX is carrying 40 pounds more weight. Its tires are substantially wider and the driver's seating position is farther back than it is on the Nouvo where one is almost sitting over the front wheel. This means rearward visibility is far superior on the PCX with its excellent mirrors because the driver has a wider field of view of the road behind him and part of the reason for this is he's sitting much farther behind the mirrors. The PCX rides much better and feels more secure at high speed. The Nouvo Elegance turns more swiftly and its going to be able to snake through city traffic substantially better than the PCX can and part of the reason for this is the mirrors are spread much wider on the PCX also. There is more engine vibration with the Nouvo Elegance than there is with the PCX which has practically no discernible vibration at any speed.

If I were to pick the PCX over the Nouvo Elegance the most decisive reason would be range. It has a 6.2 liter fuel tank to the Elegance's 4.8 liters so this means my friend Per can easily make two round trips to Rayong on his PCX on a single tank of fuel. One could easily cruise all over Thailand on each bike but here the PCX has a big edge because one is not having to worry about looking for gas stations as often and the bike is more comfortable over the long haul while also being able to handle rough road conditions better due to its greater weight larger tires etc. And I do mean you can cruise all over Thailand with these bikes. They have enough power to get the job done because you won't be wanting to run at American interstate highway speeds here. Per just told me one of his friends bought a Harley for 1,000,000 baht but he has problems parking it so he winds up renting much smaller bikes anyway. I'd say not counting our stops in Rayong we got there in about one hour which is about the same amount of time a taxi would have taken.

So here's my take on the performance of these two flagships of the Honda and Yamaha small motorbike category.  Honda advertises 118 miles to the gallon for its latest and greatest scoot.  If true there is no reason for me to recommend anyone ever getting a chain driven Honda Wave or similar machine from Yamaha or Suzuki.  This is terrific fuel economy.   And contrary to what some brain dead know it alls try to tell you on certain internet forums, the automatics are even more reliable than their chain driven stable mates.   About the most I've ever seen go wrong with the current generation of automatics is a flat tire or headlight bulb replacement while most shop time consists of ten minute oil changes.  The know it alls will cry out that the transmissions won't last over the long haul and are expensive to repair.  The truth is I've never seen anyone have a transmission problem yet and as far as I've heard the biggest long term maintenance headache consists of a drive belt replacement.  However, the reality is such belts normally don't need replacement for 30,000 to 40,000 kilometers and then it only costs around 800 baht to buy a new belt.  That's only 20 bucks or so for being able to drive up to 24,000 miles without experiencing broken chains, chain lubricant dripping onto the floor, chains stretching and periodic chain adjustment. 

We were driving fast, very fast for 125 c.c. category scooters.  100 to 105 kilometers per hour represents pretty close to the top limits for such small engines and we were hitting such speeds fairly often in order to pass slow moving trucks on the way to Rayong.  Even so we were getting 98 miles to the gallon.  It's hard to say what kind of mileage we would have gotten if we had kept our speed down to 80 kilometers per hour or less, which much more accurately represents how the average scooter owner drives.  Certainly we would have been getting well in excess of 100 miles to the gallon.  We passed all the small bikes in sight and were not passed by a single motorcycle on either the way to Rayong or back.  Which just goes to show that Thai drivers either don't think their bikes are capable of averaging such relatively high speeds or they don't set their bikes up properly to really be road worthy.  And considering that every single Honda Wave or Yamaha 135 c.c. Spark that I've ever seen on a showroom floor has small tires only 60 mm wide it becomes obvious that Thais simply don't expect to be going very fast on their 125's except for when it comes to hot rodding around on city streets where one practically never goes any faster than 60 kph. 

With both  bikes I felt I had ample acceleration on top easily out to 90 kph or about 55 miles an hour.  To put this in proper perspective back in the 1970's the speed limit on all American highways, even the interstates was never more than 55 miles an hour.  Oftentimes I'd look down and notice my speedometer reading 100 kph so apparently it didn't seem to take very long to get up to 62 miles an hour either.  Bottom line is we were able to get to Rayong in about one hour which is approximately the same time it takes to get there by taxi. 

The PCX is roughly 40 pounds heavier than the Nouvo Elegance and it has much wider tires although its wheels only measure 14 inches diameter to the Elegance's 16's.  The PCX tires appear wide enough to belong on a 650 c.c. motorcycle even though modern day 650's have even wider tires.  So it shouldn't be too surprising to find the PCX to be very stable on the highway all the way up to its top end of around 108 kilometers per hour.  And although it has only a single cylinder engine, there is no discernible vibration at any speed.  The icing on the cake is the bike never feels or sounds as if its working very hard. 

On the expressway to Rayong three is a bike lane on the left side of the road.   I'd say it averages around six feet wide.  We found ourselves using it as much as we could.  We found a sprinkling of sand over the surface of this narrow lane in many places.  Whenever this lane narrowed or we encountered slower moving motorbikes using it we'd move out into the other lanes of traffic.  But whenever we drove on the bike lane we found ourselves driving much faster than everyone else and usually at about the same speeds we'd be hitting the main traffic lanes.  The PCX always felt perfectly composed no matter what traffic lane we hit.  With its much lighter weight and narrower tires the Elegance did not feel as much in control of the road as the larger PCX.  But it didn't feel like we were going on a suicide mission either.

Both bikes are water cooled.   And it didn't feel as if we were going all out on either bike, as if there was a lot of reserve left to tap if we needed it for more power.  So I didn't get the impression that either machine would fail to hold up well if one were to tour all over Thailand for example.

And when you really think about it, if one were so inclined why wouldn't one want to tour all over Thailand on one of these little bikes, especially on the more composed and completely vibration free PCX?  The PCX has a very large comfortable seat and there's a significant amount of storage space underneath it, enough for two helmets.  About halfway down the seat is a padded hump that a lot of people complain about but I found that I could press my buttocks back into it and get an even greater measure of support for my backside.  The automatic transmission means you simply accelerate or decelerate as the driving conditions change so there's a lot less to think about if while one is driving so this means a more relaxed driving experience that becomes even more important over longer distances.  And due to its relatively large fuel tank (the PCX has a 6.2 liter tank versus the Elegance's 4.8) one should be able to get at least 250 kilometers between refills.  The last thing to keep in mind is because of the way people drive here and various unforeseen road hazards it's wise to keep one's speeds down to 10 or 20 miles per hour less than one wants to be driving in U.S. and other Western countries. 

One sits much farther back on the PCX than he does on the Yamaha Elegance where he's almost sitting on top of the Yamaha's front wheel.  This translates into great rearward visibility from the Honda's excellent rear view mirrors, which can mean the difference between life and death.  This seating arrangement also contributes to a less choppy ride than one has on the Elegance.  So once again the PCX is the superior machine on the highway.  However, this also means that the Yamaha Elegance has a  sportier feel to it.  With the driver sitting so close to the front tire, the Elegance is able to respond much quicker to steering inputs from the driver.  It's a bit like comparing a sports car to a comfortable family car.  And although the Yamaha's mirrors are not nearly up to Honda's there is a very narrow space between them. 

Although the PCX is the better bike for highway driving, when it comes to everyday practicality the Yamaha Elegance emerges on top.  There is a hook in front of the driver's knees below the cowling one can use to hang up to three grocery bags on the Elegance.  There is none on the PCX and although one can easily get the dealership to install one the angle below this hook placement does not seem to be vertical enough to allow for the grocery bags to hang as well, resulting in their possibly falling off.  There is a rail behind the Elegance's seat and other hooks near the passenger foot pegs which one can use to tie bungee cords and none on the PCX.  What this means is I am able to easily strap a desktop computer on the seat behind me and take it in for repair with my Nouvo Elegance.  I don't need to get a taxi or car.  When Per tried to strap his friend's suitcase on the seat of his PCX behind him with bungee cords he wound up scratching up his bike.   There's a kick starter on the Nouvo Elegance one can use it the battery fails and none on the PCX.  Lastly with its 16b inch diameter wheels to the PCX's 14 inch wheels the Yamaha Nouvo has better ground clearance and that means I can more easily drive over a curb in order to park closer to several of my favorite bars without grounding out.

I think that this shoot out between the 135 c.c. Yamaha Nouvo Elegance and the Honda PCX has exploded a few myths that have been passed along by certain know nothings who like to spout off their nonsense as gospel.  First of, although fuel injection is great in a lot of situations it's not nearly what it's cracked up to be in a country such as Thailand.  Fuel injection allows for easy winter starting compared to carburetors.  And if one is driving up 11,000 foot mountains where the thin air does a lot of havoc to carburetors, fuel injection provides smooth and fast acceleration at all elevations. But such advantages are completely irrelevant here where it's relatively flat and the climate is never cold.  With its slightly bigger engine, carburetor and relatively low tech approach (135 c.c's versus 125) one might think the Yamaha Elegance will get smoked by the PCX when it comes to fuel economy.  After all, Honda's high tech wizardry even includes a stop start feature that is provided by a technologically advanced starter motor that stops every time the PCX stops at a stoplight and then starts again as soon as the driver starts twisting the throttle.  However being much lighter than the Honda, the Yamaha Nouvo Elegance matches it for fuel economy.  And it does so at a purchase price of only 52000 baht versus 70,000 for the much more expensive PCX.  But neither bike is faster than the other one or at least seemed to be during our shootout.  And each machine represents the top of its class with both being able to tour long distances far better than most people think and much better than smaller bikes such as Yamaha Finos, Mios, Honda Clicks and manual transmission Waves. 

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