The 2012 Yamaha Nouvo SX with YMJET-FI (fuel injection)

by Jack Corbett

Nouvo SX 

While waiting for Yamaha to release a 150 c.c. fuel injected Nouvo we will soon get a downsized 125 c.c. version.  Will it measure up?

Meanwhile Honda's upped the ante with a new 150 cc. version of its popular PCX.  Has Yamaha fallen behind? Has it given up?  It's true that the 135 c.c. Nouvo Elegance is a terrific machine for this part of the world.  But the PCX with its great color selections, curvaceous body and smoothness of operation offers a compelling alternative, especially for us falang who are notably larger than the average Southeast Asian.  Kawasaki's recently introduced the 250 c.c. baby Ninja and the 650 Ern for something like 250,000 baht while Honda's fought back with an 80,000 baht new model CBR 150 and a terrific 250 for a little over 100,000 in its 250 CBR.  But it seems as if Yamaha has stood still here in Thailand.  The Elegance has now been around for over 4 years with not a single change other than the paint.  So what's up with Yamaha?

To anyone considering the Nouvo SX whether as his first bike or a replacement for his existing Nouvo MX or Elegance primary importance must be place on just how well it stacks up against the competition.  In my case, that competition would be the 135 c.c. Elegance I already own.  In the case of one of my friends that competition would be still what will soon be the old model Nouvo Elegance with its 135 c.c. liquid cooled engine and carburetor.  For the ex neighbor who bought from me my first Nouvo, an air cooled MX the competition would still be the 135 c.c. Elegance since some dealers are still stocking them.  For still others the competition would be a new 150 c.c. Honda PCX at over 80,000 baht versus 55,000 to 60,000 for a new Yamaha SX or anyone of a number of other bikes in the 125 c.c.  displacement category.  This would include the likes of a Honda Click  or a Scoopy or a 125 c.c. Suzuki Hayate.

Taking these bikes in turn, I will just say that the new automatics are far superior to any manual transmission bikes for most people, particularly we Westerners.  They are easier to drive, more enjoyable to get around on, and if anything they are even more reliable.  So consider this case closed unless you are the argumentative type who enjoys taking the opposite viewpoint out of sheer contrariness. 

And that brings us up to the Honda Clicks, Scoopy's and even the new Yamaha stable mates such as the TTX and the Fiore not to mention all those Mios and Finos.  All of them have a single shock absorber for one thing and that shock is off to one side which puts it in an off balanced position.  Now that might be good enough for some people but it's not good enough for me.  There is a right way of doing things and a wrong way and to my way of thinking placing a single shock absorber off kilter like that is simply an attempt at cost cutting by cutting quality in a manner that is not noticed by the average owner.  But in those rare moments when I put my girlfriend behind me and a 290 pound guy as well, I want two shocks beneath me.

These bikes with a single off balanced shocks are second tier machinery that are not up to Honda's or Yamaha's best efforts.  Which now brings us to the Suzuki Hayate, which is no doubt a pretty good machine.  However, Suzuki has a much smaller dealership network than either Honda or Yamaha so that pretty much eliminates it from my considering it.  I also view it pretty much as a Yamaha Nouvo copy and not quite the real thing.  Just study it closely right up next to a Nouvo and you will immediately see what I mean. 

The second tier machines are deficient compared to either one of Honda or Yamaha's flagship models in that they often lack storage space.  Usually they won't produce quite as much horsepower, they are more lightly built, they have inadequate tire size and they often lack such amenities as automatic choke.  In my book they are fine for people who don't know any better.

The Honda PCX which used to be a 125 c.c. but which just grew up to be a 150 is definitely strong competition for any Yamaha Nouvo.  But its cost is now 80,000 baht and upwards.  It is substantially heavier and it's not going to be a easy to park or to slice and dice one's bike through heavy traffic.  It is a smooth very comfortable bike, however and it's awfully good in highway conditions.  Its rear view mirrors are terrific and although many will disagree with me I find it to be a very good looking bike.  For a heads up comparison test I invite all of you to read my Nouvo Elegance versus Honda PCX shootout and then to make up your own minds.  Both have their advantages and there is no clear cut winner or loser.  It's all up to you over what you prefer.

We now come to the huge issue over whether this new 125 fuel injected Nouvo measures up to its predecessor, the 135 c.c. Elegance.  One would think that 135 cc's is better than 125?  And according to the specs of both bikes (see the spreadsheet comparisons on the primary page where a number of bikes are being compared), the new Yamaha comes out on the short end of the stick compared to the Elegance.  The newer bike has roughly three fourths of a horsepower less than the old model.   That's not good.  Even worse to my way of thinking the newest latest and greatest Nouvo has just 4.3 liters fuel capacity than the 4.8 liters of the old model.  I was hoping that Yamaha would actually increase its gasoline tank size to make it more comparable to the PCX which in its 125 c.c. incarnation offered a full 6.2 liters. 

Let's look at both of these defects in the new SX under a magnifying glass in order to see if they really are defects after all.  I will consult one of my own articles for a bit of my source material on this one.  In 2009 I rated the Nouvo Elegance as the best all around small motorbike one could buy.  In this article I used a 11.2 horsepower figure for the 135 c.c. Elegance and an 8.9 horsepower figure for the 115 c.c. Nouvo MX    That is an increase of  2.3 horsepower for the liquid cooled Elegance over its predecessor, an amount that's good for a 25 % increase.  Now that's awfully good, especially when you consider that the larger 135 c.c. Elegance will actually get better fuel economy than its smaller predecessor.  By contrast the new fuel injected SX is only giving up 7 % horsepower to the 135 c.c. Elegance.  So although one notices a great power difference between the Nouvo MX and the Nouvo Elegance, one is not going to notice the power difference nearly as much between the Elegance and its fuel injected replacement. 

However, it is oftentimes not so much as horsepower differences that make one vehicle seem to be much more powerful than another, it's oftentimes differences of torque that make one machine seem to be quicker than another.  In this case the new Nouvo Sx produces 10.47 Nm of torque to the Yamaha Elegance's 10.6 Nm.  That's just a one percent difference in torque.  Moreover, the Elegance has to rev up to 6500 rpms to get its peak torque of 10.6 whereas the SX arrives at its peak torque figure at 6000 revs.  So the bottom line is this---I seriously doubt that many owners are going to notice any actual seat of the pants differences between the new fuel injected Nouvo SX and the Nouvo Elegance that is replacing. 

What worries me a little more is how much driving range is the SX giving up to the Elegance due to its smaller fuel tank capacity?  It is really difficult to quantify this because first of all we don't even have an actual existing SX to compare it to an Elegance.  Furthermore we don't even have a realistic comparative gauge to measure the gas mileage of a Nouvo Elegance since Yamaha has not to my knowledge released any claims or figures.  Yamaha does in fact claim some actual numbers for its TTX and Fiore models both of which boast Yamaha's new YMjet-FI fuel injected technology.  They are 51 kilometers to the liter for the Fiore and 55.6 for the TTX. 

This is where we must apply a little logic, extrapolation and educated guesswork.    So if we were to liken an increase in engine displacement to a larger person compared to a smaller person we might be able to reason that it's going to take more food to keep the heavier person going compared to the smaller person and that the increased amount of food intake will be roughly equal to its increased comparative body weight.  All things being equal of course, which isn't always the case.  Nevertheless it's the best we can do.   Since the 124 c.c. engine displaces 8.8 percent more cubic centimeters than the 114 c.c. engine we might not be very far off by claiming that it's going to take 8.8 percent more gasoline to feed it.  So if we were to assume the Nouvo SX will use 8.8 % more gasoline than the TTX it's going to get 50.8 kilometers to the liter.  If we were to apply this same 8.8 percent to the 51 kilometers per liter of the Fiore the Nouvo SX would be more likely to get 46.5 kilometers to the liter.  If we were to average these two numbers out we would come up with a projected 48.6 kilometers to the liter. 

Let's now see what we can come up with for the larger 135 Yamaha Nouvo Elegance.  When I ran my Elegance against Per's PCX in our fuel economy comparative tests to Rayong and back, I actually got 42 kilometers to the liter.  That's with a carburetor versus the PCX's fuel injection and other gee whiz technology such as the idling stop start feature which turned in the exact same fuel economy numbers.  However, we would often drive our bikes at more than 90 kph and sometimes we'd get up to 105 kph. That's pretty hard driving for such small displacement vehicles.  Moreover, Per had already confessed to me that normally when he does the run up to Rayong and back that he never exceeds 90 kph.  In my article I suggested that with a more reasonable applcation of the throttle both bikes would easily go over 100 miles per gallon.   I seriously doubt that when Yamaha claims 51 kilometers to the liter for its Fiore or 55.75 for its TTX that its revving its bikes up to over 100 kph.   So what I've done is I've arbitrarily selected a 103.5 miles to the gallon figure for the Elegance which comes out to 44 kilometers to the liter for just a 5 % increase of the 42 kilometers I actually got while we rang our bikes up to higher speeds than normal. 

I really don't think that if one bike achieves 48 kilometers to the liter to just 44 for another bike that this is going to make a very big dent in my wallet of the wallet of any of my friends.  What is far more important to me is the question of range.  So if we multiply 48.5 kilometers to the liter times 4.3 liters for the new Yamaha SX we are going to arrive at a maximum range figure of 206.4 kilometers including the reserve and that's 128.3 miles.  However, the Nouvo Elegance will get just 131 miles to the bottom of its tank using these numbers.

So what are we to make of all this?  First, I think my numbers are about as reasonable as any that we are likely to come up with---until someone does some really thorough testing and I really don't think that's going to happen, at least not in this century.  Secondly, when it comes to the power differences between the new Yamaha Nouvo SX and the higher displacement 135 c.c. Elegance I seriously doubt if anyone is going to feel one bit of difference between the two bike.    For one thing the torque differences are practically non-existent.  And as for differences in range, from my numbers there's just three miles difference that separates the two.  I doubt if very many people will notice the difference.  Nevertheless, it would have been nice for Yamaha to have offered a larger fuel tank than the 4.8 liters in the Elegance and I think this could have been very easily achieved.  Instead, Yamaha chose to go the opposite way which I consider to be the wrong way.  Bottom line, however, is I don't think Yamaha had Jack Corbett very much in mind when it designed its new lineup of YMjet-FI fuel injected bikes.  I believe it went all out for fuel economy in order to capture a larger slice of the Asian market.  For me and my Western friends whether one bike gets 10 or 20 % greater fuel economy over another makes no difference whatsoever.  With its new TTX that reputedly will get 55.75 kilometers to the liter I believe that Yamaha hopes to swing a lot of Thai and other Asian  buyers who would otherwise get a Honda Wave or other manual transmission bike to swing over to the new automatics which truly are a superior breed of machine I believe.  Gasoline prices are bound to keep heading up and for the average Asian who is making an average of just 200 to 300 baht's wages in a day, a difference of 10 to 20 % better fuel economy is going to make a huge difference.  As for the new Nouvo SX, hardly anyone is going to be able to tell the difference between its performance and an Elegance's and it will certainly get better fuel economy thus costing less to operate.  And it's going to come with all kinds of seductive new features such as LED  taillights, a halogen light out in front and some pretty cool electronic wizardry built into its instrument panel that will help one keep track of one's fuel economy.  And, to top it off, from the pictures and videos I've seen so far it seems to be better styled. 

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