The Looking Glass Magazine

 

Yamaha 125 Nouvo SX vs 135 Nouvo Elegance Shootout

by Jack Corbett

Yamaha Nouvo SX and Nouvo Elegance

To find out which one was better we drove both motorbikes126 kilometers for 3 hours  from Pattaya to Ban Chan, Thailand which is on the route to Rayong.  Since I have been unable to find any meaningful heads up comparisons between the two motorbikes, I rented a brand new Yamaha Nouvo 125 c.c. SX for two days to pit against my own Yamaha Nouvo Elegance 135 in a direct comparison test pitting one bike against the other to determine which offered better fuel economy, acceleration,  smoothness, engine vibration, handling and overall excellence at handling a variety of driving conditions.  

The Motorbikes

Yamaha NouvosYamaha Nouvos

Yamaha NouvosYamaha NouvosYamaha NouvosYamaha Nouvos

Yamaha NouvosYamaha NouvosYamaha NouvosYamaha Nouvos

Yamaha NouvosYamaha NouvosYamaha Nouvos

Representing last year's model is my own 135 c.c. Yamaha Nouvo Elegance which is now nearly 4 years old but still has just under 11000 kilometers on its odometer.  The bike is rated at 11.2 horsepower.   Torque according to Wikipedia is rated at 10.6N-m (1.08kgf-m) /6,500rpm.   It is water cooled but it is carbureted rather than fuel injected. 

Stock tires on all Nouvos including the Elegance 135 and this year's Nouvo 125 SX are 70/80 16's on the front and 80/90 16's on the back.   However I have recently upgraded my tires to 80/90 and 90/100 Michelin Pilot Sports tires which are higher quality than stock while being roughly 15 % wider on both the front and rear.

I rented the 125 Nouvo SX just up the street from a German shop.   Although paying more than the usual, I know the German owners well so I was sure that anything I rented there would be almost new and very well maintained.  The rental I got had just 2200 kilometers on its clock so what I ended up with was my own very well maintained Elegance against an almost new SX.  I figured that if either bike was not well maintained our tests would have zero credibility and from what I've seen of a lot of rentals, they simply fall far short of what they should be due to sloppy maintenance. 

The Nouvo SX sacrifices 10 cc's to the Elegance's 135 c.c. cylinder which limits its horsepower to 10.5 and torque to 10.47 Nm / 6.000 rpm.  That's 6 % fewer ponies but just 1 % less torque for the 125.  The weight and dimensions of the two bikes are identical at around 230 pounds.   

The Drivers

Pier, a ninety kilo Norwegian was my accomplice, not only for the comparative tests between these two Yamaha Nouvo's, but in my first shootout when we compared his Honda PCX to my Nouvo Elegance in a round trip to Rayong.  But seeing that I weigh 76 kilos, if I were to drive the 125 SX and he were to drive my 135 c.c. Elegance to Ban Chan and back, or vice versa, the 125 SX would have the advantage due to the SX having to haul 14 fewer kilos around.  Obviously, the only fair way to test the two machines against each other was to have Pier drive the Elegance one way while I drove the SX, then on the way back, we'd switch bikes with my driving my Elegance on the way home.  I also should mention that we drove both motorbikes to the same gas station where we filled up together after making sure the attendant filled both gas tanks to the brim as we held the two bikes up perpendicular to eliminate all errors due to one bike leaning more than the other.  Upon getting home we'd fill both bikes up to the brim again and simply divide the number of kilometers traveled by the number of liters it took to fill the tanks. 

The Test Loop.  

After going roughly 6 kilometers of very moderate city traffic we arrived on Sukhumvit Road where we were able to maintain average speeds of 50 to 70 kilometers per hour with several waits idling our engines at traffic lights at major intersections.  After half an hour we were able to hit substantially higher average speeds of 60 to 80 kilometers per hour on the highway, once in awhile getting up to 90.  However, we were driving appreciably slower than we did while doing the Nouvo Elegance--PX shootout to Rayong that we did last year when we were driving 90 kph much of the time while getting up to 105 kph several times.  This time we rode through Ban Chan to the beach where we had lunch before heading back to Naklua.  On the way home we got off Sukhumvit at Jomtien where we were forced to detour through a mile or two of road construction as we navigated down a muddy dirt path to the main Jomtien Beach Road.   From this point on we found ourselves in city traffic until we reached the gas station just North of Big C in Pattaya. 

Before returning the Nouvo SX to the rental shop I did a city test loop where I logged another 27 .2 kilometers  through some very heavy city traffic. 

 Road Test

After filling up the two bikes at the Naklua gas station near Soi 12 on Naklua Road, we drove a couple of kilometers up to the lights where we turned down the street leading to Sukhumvit Road.  We decided not to take the main highway to Rayong as we had done when we pitted Pier's 125 c.c. PCX against my Nouvo Elegance agreeing instead to take Sukhumvit all the way out to Sattahip where we'd stop to have lunch.  From this point on I let Pier be the leader while I played the role of follower simply because Pier does a lot more driving on his motorbike than I do.  I started on the Nouvo SX with the intention of having Pier drive the rental on the way back with Pier on my 135 c.c. Elegance.

Although the traffic seems to move at a scary pace on Sukhumvit Road, our average speed was around 50 kph which is equivalent to 30 miles an hour.  It is important to realize that driving a small motorbike in the 125 c.c. class at 30 miles an hour through Pattaya under Thailand driving conditions is in my opinion just about as fast as one can prudently drive a motorbike.  First of all there's a lot more traffic here than there is in Western countries.  Second of all, there is no attempt by the police to make motorists obey the traffic laws whatsoever with the exception of expecting motorcyclists to wear their helmets, but even this is only enforced sporadically and only for the sole purpose of generating revenue for officialdom.   On the street I live on, there's at least one police officer directing traffic everyday as the school lets out.  Most of the school children go home on motorbikes, oftentimes riding three and even four children on a motorbike with very few of them ever wearing helmets.  I also want to mention that in the seven years that I have lived here not once have I ever seen anyone stopped for running a red light, driving the wrong way against the flow of traffic, or for reckless driving.   Because there is no penalty to be paid for breaking the traffic laws, people do whatever they want here, which includes even driving down the few sidewalks that exist here on their motorbikes.  All of this results in the drivers here being some of the most reckless, irresponsible in the world, and if this isn't bad enough there's all those hand carts, Soi dogs and Russians wandering down the streets.  People who think they can rent or buy large motorbikes and drive them like they do in their home countries are simply not thinking clearly. 

While driving down Sukhumvit we encountered a fair amount of traffic and had to stop at several red lights which had to have affected our gas mileage adversely.  But keeping in mind what I just said about 30 mile per hour speeds, I found that the Nouvo SX was handling Sukhumvit just as proficiently as my Nouvo Elegance ever did.  Both bikes have all the power you will ever need for meeting all traffic conditions in this area, at least until one ventures out onto a four or six lane highway.  Their engines and automatic transmissions are tuned to accelerate very quickly up to thirty and it takes just a few seconds longer to get all the way up to fifty miles an hour (equivalent to 80 kph). 

One can definitely feel substantially more torque while accelerating at slow speeds with the larger 135 c.c. Elegance than one does with the Nouvo SX.  There is also significantly more vibration in the hand grips.  But this is not objectionable by any means.  It's just there to let the driver know that the Elegance is very quick in city driving conditions.  By comparison the 125 c.c. SX almost feels as if it's higher geared.  But enough power is there.  One simply has to reel it on with the throttle as the bike continues to build up revs.  I noticed too that the SX was noticeably quieter at all driving speeds than my Nouvo Elegance.   I would find out later on as we increased our driving speeds that the new SX was simply quieter, more vibration free and overall smoother than my Elegance. 

I began to feel that the fact that the rental bike had just 2200 kilometers on its clock to my almost 11,000 on my Elegance might be having something to do with it.  Before refilling our fuel tanks, Pier and I would spend something like 3 hours driving the two bikes, after which he remarked, "I could feel a little numbness in your handle bars, Jack, so I almost wanted to stop and rest my hands a bit."  But speaking for myself, I have never felt that this slight tingling in the handle grips make me want to stop and rest my hands, or at least not for the hour and a half it might have taken me to reach my destination on the several longer outings I've taken my Elegance.  Visions of having my dealership replace my drive belt started to fill my head as I considered the various reasons for why the new SX was surpassing my Elegance in overall smoothness.  From what I could determine from the experiences of other bike owners and what both Honda and Yamaha recommended for drive belt maintenance 25,000 t 30,000 kilometers was about what one could expect for the average life expectancy of a drive belt.  And here I had only 11,000 kilometers on my kilometer for the nearly four years I have owned my bike.  But what the hell, it costs less than 1000 baht or $32.00 to replace a belt and then I might get a little of that initial newness back I had first experienced upon buying my bike

Such thoughts went out of mind upon returning to my condo however.  There I met up with my neighbor, Lenny, who was just coming back on his Nouvo Elegance from some errand or another.   Lenny had passed me on my way to exercise at the Centara Hotel.   Both of us had our girlfriends on the back of our bikes, but I had been driving the rental instead of my own bike.  I noticed that Lenny's bike seemed a little loud coming into the condo parking lot.  Lenny then volunteered how quiet the Nouvo SX was compared to both of our two Yamaha Elegances.  But Lenny had just 5000 kilometers on his Elegance or just 3000 miles which meant that his bike was barely broken in.  I therefore concluded that Yamaha had simply once again improved what was already a great thing by somehow engineering into its Nouvo SX even greater quietness and smoothness than it had achieved with the 135 c.c. Elegance.

Truth is, the Elegance is not a loud bike.  Nor does it lack in smoothness.   It's just that the new Nouvo 125 SX is so refined and so perfect that it makes the Elegance look a little rough by comparison.  As far as the lack of vibration on the highway, part of this can be explained by its smaller displacement of just 125 cc's compared to the 135 of the Elegance. This means about 8 percent less rotating mass of its piston.  Still, the overall quietness of the SX seems significantly greater than that. 

But is there to be a price to be paid for all that overall smoothness along with Yamaha's decision to downsize what I considered to be a terrific engine?  We soon found ourselves on a four lane highway where we were able to open up our bikes more.  If found myself driving 80 kph much of the time with an occasional burst up to 90 kph.  But never did I get anywhere close to 100 kph whereas Pier and I had often been exceeding that when we had driven his PCX and I had taken my Elegance to Rayong over a year earlier.  The SX seemed just about as quick to 80 as my Elegance.  If there was any difference, that difference would be meaningless as both bikes seemed equally proficient.

On much larger bikes which typically weigh in the neighborhood of 400 pounds to the 230 pound Nouvo's and their much larger tires 60 miles per hour seems pretty slow.   But on a 230 pound bike with its much skinnier tires, 60 miles an hour is pretty fast.  At such speeds I would have expected my Elegance to feel a lot more comfortable than the Nouvo SX which was riding on its stock tires whereas my Michelin Pilot's had to be clearly superior, particularly since they were appreciably wider.  But to be truthful I really couldn't say that I could feel that they felt all that much more stable.  But there were some stretches while traveling over bumps that my Elegance showed off the superiority of its tires.  Suffice it to say that while on the highway Pier and I found very few Thais driving their Honda Waves, Mios, and Finos keeping up with us.  I believe it's all on account of the small tires such bikes use which causes them to be completely outclassed by a Yamaha Nouvo or Honda PCX. 

Truthfully, a man really can find happiness on a 125, and if one considers it logically, a lot more happiness than one can find on much larger bikes.  One can easily tour Thailand with one, but this requires a few words of explanation.   On two lane roads they are a blast to drive and fast enough.  I've toured around Krabi on a CBR 150 Honda, a 125 Honda PCX, and even a Honda Air Blade and thoroughly enjoyed myself on all three while not wanting anything larger.  No, they won't do it on American superhighways where one is often driving 70 to 80 miles an hour.  But this is Thailand where driving such speeds amounts to a suicide mission.   Twice, I've had motorists pass my car on the shoulder of the road coming back from Rayong even though I was driving over 100 kph, and had I not gotten my Honda Civic several feet over both motorists would have sideswiped my car.  I've seen a lot of examples of miserable driving in the U.S., but not once have I ever experienced this degree of complete lunacy.  I have owned a number of much larger motorbikes in the U.S. starting with a 350 Honda from which I moved up to a 450.  A few years later I got a 500 Honda dual purpose XL which I traded a couple years later for a 650 R-65 BMW.  My last street bike was a BWM 1000 c.c. KRS, a four cylinder that developed 90 horsepower and which never felt in its element until one got it up to at least 80 miles an hour.  Although it could do even faster, I once had it up to over 130 miles an hour over a bumpy two lane road.  So fear of larger bikes and higher speeds than these 125 c.c. class bikes can go is the least of my concerns.  I'm just scared shitless of all the idiots driving around me, and the fact that the police do absolutely nothing to enforce the existing traffic laws.  No matter how good a driver one is or how responsive his bike is, it's impossible to deal with the handcart that suddenly appears in one's traffic lane or the Thai guy who suddenly pulls in front of you, stops his bike, and starts to tie his shoes at the speeds such larger bikes are capable of. 

For that matter, even such 125 c.c. class bikes can go a lot faster than their light weight bodies are capable of dealing with.  Now that I've upgraded to the larger Michelin Pilot sporty tires, I'd have to rate my Nouvo Elegance as the equal to the Honda PCX in the tire department.  The Honda has fat tires that seem to be as large as much larger middleweight motorcycles of the past such as my Honda 350 and 450 used to have.  Because the Honda PCX weighs roughly 50 pounds more than my Yamaha Elegance even though my new tires are a match for the PCX at highway speeds, the extra weight gives the Honda PCX more stability than my Elegance at high cruising speeds.  But the 280 pound PCX is not nearly as stable on the highway as my 350 pound Honda CB 350.  For that matter my old 350's replacement, the Honda 450, weighing it at 400 pounds was noticeably superior at express hi way speeds.  The 125's were designed to slice and dice heavy city traffic and to handle exceptionally well at urban traffic speeds while delivering phenomenal fuel economy.  In city traffic the larger bikes are simply outclassed especially when the traffic is piled up bumper to bumper and all I need is a two and a half feet gap and to squirt through the cars in front of me.   There is no way I can do that on a much larger bike which means from point A to point B the smaller bikes are much faster than practically anything else.  Around here, over 99 % of my driving is in the city.

Fuel economy

Anyone who claims that these automatics suck a lot of gas compared to their manual transmission counterparts simply doesn't know what he is talking about.  On the roads to Ban Chan and back Pier and I both used 2.32 liters of fuel to go 124 kilometers.  That's 53 kilometers per liter which is 126 miles to the gallon.  The trip computer on the Yamaha Nouvo SX put our fuel economy at 45.8 kilometers per liter.  However, this reading cannot be accurate.  Just keep in mind that Pier and I fueled both bikes at the same pump while holding each bike in an absolutely vertical position to eliminate any possibility of error from differing lean angles.  We did the same when we finally refueled.  Other than repeating the same route several times, nothing could be more accurate.

Compared to many reports I've been hearing from others, these optimistic numbers would seem to be unrealistic.  But there it is--we got the same identical results on two different bikes.  However, when I later did the city driving loop from my Naklua condo to Threppasit Road with a couple little side trips in between, I logged just 27 kilometers while using 9/10ths of one liter of fuel for an average of 30 kilometers per liter which comes out to roughly 71 miles to the gallon.   However these were very rough city miles, as rough as one can get, which included a number of stops at red lights including one that must have lasted over ten minutes when the bike was idling and using fuel without going anywhere.

This city mileage was even less than the 75 miles to gallon I had averaged over at least several tankful's with my Nouvo Elegance, and I had often driven my Elegance with my girlfriend riding behind me.  However I must stress again that those 27 kilometers were under just about the worse conditions possible.  Meanwhile the Yamaha SX's trip board computer showed a wildly optimistic 45.8 kilometers per liter, once again proving the total unreliability of the apparatus for accurately checking the SX's fuel mileage.  

Lessons to be learned from all this are 1.  A driver can get nearly twice as many kilometers out of each liter driving moderately on the highway than he can in city traffic.  2.  Do not trust the Yamaha SX's veracity for fuel mileage, 3.  There has been no advantage whatsoever to the Nouvo SX's fuel injection system or its lower engine displacement in fuel economy over the Elegance's larger 135 c.c. engine which utilizes the old technology of a carburetor.  and 4.  The larger 135 Nouvo Elegance seems to offer no meaningful seat of the pants advantages for either superior acceleration or higher cruising speeds.

However several days after completing our shootout, I was riding up the large hill overlooking Bali Hai Pier with my girlfriend on the back.   I could really feel the torque of that 135 c.c. engine working for me.  I doubt if the smaller 125 c.c. engine of the SX would have given me the seat of the pants feel of so much torque.  Another advantage of the 135 c.c. Elegance over the 125 c.c. Nouvo SX is its larger fuel tank which at 4.8 liters to 4.3 provides an additional half a liter of capacity, which is good for an additional 60 kilometers of highway cruising. 

One thing I did learn from test driving the Nouvo SX was that much better mirrors are now available for the Yamaha Nouvo Elegance as well as the new SX.  The German rental shop just a few doors down the street from my condo, not only has custom seats for the Honda PCX, it also had after market rear view mirrors on several of its Yamaha rentals.  When I first looked at the two Nouvo SX's this shop had available, I noticed that one bike had the aftermarket mirrors which were a dead ringer for the stock mirrors on the Honda PCX while the other bike had Yamaha stock mirrors I already had no my Elegance.  I insisted on the rental with the after market mirrors.   These mirrors are clearly superior to Yamaha's stock mirrors, so much so that while doing our shootout I asked Pier if the Nouvo Sx's mirrors were the same as he had on his PCX.  "They are," he told me.  The day after returning the SX to the shop, I bought a pair of identical mirrors for my Elegance for around 450 baht.  They offer a wider field of view than the stock mirrors, and they do not require adjustment every time I go from riding solo to having my girlfriend behind me on the bike due to the change in the weight distribution on the bike.  These mirrors are worth their weight in gold and a bargain at the odd 450 baht I paid for them.

Conclusion

In spite of some possible advantages in hill climbing ability that might be evidenced by the subjective feel of the Elegance's greater torque, there is no real advantage to the larger engine size of the 135 c.c. Elegance over its replacement, the 125 c.c. Yamaha Nouvo SX.  Both machines are equally road worthy whether in the city or out on the highway.  If anything the smaller new offering is even better under nearly all road conditions due to its having less vibration in the hand grips and its greater quietness.  On the other hand, one should not knock carbureted engines.   Whereas the new Yamaha SX has the latest and greatest fuel injection technology, the larger displacement 135 Elegance matches it for fuel economy on the highway.  And from the one city test loop I put the SX through, the Elegance also seems a match for it in city fuel economy.  (small wonder then that Yamaha held onto the Elegance's carburetor technology for so long).   This means the 135 c.c. Elegance with its larger 4.8 liter fuel tank is going to get a little longer range than the SX with its smaller 4.3 liter tank.  However, one must put this in perspective.  It only took 2.32 liters of fuel on both bikes to manage the 124 kilometer test loop so both bikes had ample reserves of fuel left even if their fuel gauges might have said otherwise.  Once again in the new 125 c.c. SX Yamaha's engineering prowess showed itself.  As I have said in an earlier article, the 135 c.c. Nouvo Elegance had trumped its predecessor the 115 c.c. MX in a number of ways besides its much greater horsepower and superior water cooling system.  For instance its seat had been moved forward 2 inches closer to the front tire while being raised another inch or two.   Most people would never have noticed this, but what it did was to make the Nouvo Elegance a more responsive quicker handling bike compared to the MX while still possessing all the smooth riding characteristics of its longer wheel base.  By the same token, even though it's lost 10 cc's in engine displacement the new SX is significantly quieter than the Elegance's 135 and it is almost completely free of vibration.  It also seems just a bit smoother in its transmission and throttle response.  And it's not that the Elegance is rough in either department.   It's just that the SX is so close to perfection.  Most people wouldn't notice all the subtle little improvements Yamaha keeps making in its top small automatic.  In my mind this is by far the best small scooter out there, regardless of manufacturer with the possible exception of the Honda PCX, which will be the subject of my next review--a road-test of the new Honda 150 c.c. PCX against last year's 125 model. 

 

To anyone who'd like to comment on this article, especially those who own  a Yamaha SX,  Nouvo Elegance or similar bike is cordially invited to participate in the Jack Corbett Blog.  You might also be interested in a newer article with stop watched times of the Honda Click 125i, the Nouvo SX, and the Nouvo Elegance 135 from 0-50 kph and 0-80 kph.  Also included are city fuel mileage results for all three bikes. 

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