When Yamaha launched the Yamaha NMAX five years ago, little did they know that they had a winner in their hand. It wasn’t an overnight success, though. It took several months before Filipino riders started to warm up to the new kid on the block. After all, PhP 118,000 for a Japanese scooter is practically unheard of back in 2015 when the average price of a Japanese scooter rarely exceeded PhP90,000. In fact, there was no Japanese 150cc scooter to speak of back then. The biggest displacement on offer from any major Japanese manufacturer was a 125cc. It wasn’t until 2017 when Honda came out with a 150cc competitor in the form of the Click 150i. But it came out a little bit too late to the party. By then the country was already swept in Yamaha NMAX fever. It became so popular that there was a long waiting time and some dealers even resorted to hoarding units and refusing to sell in cash. Not long after its release the NMAX sets the benchmark by which other 150cc are measured.
Needless to say the 2020 Yamaha NMAX, colloquially called the NMAX v.2 by NMAX enthusiasts, has very big shoes to fill. Thankfully the things we loved about the previous NMAX, such as the potent liquid-cooled, fuel-injected single cylinder Blucore motor with VVA (Variable Valve Actuation), two-channel ABS, roomy accommodations, and nimble handling, was carried over to the new version while improving upon some key areas, and these are with regards to comfort and convenience, security, visibility, fuel efficiency and range.
Comfort and Convenience
It may not be readily apparent at first glance but the 2020 NMAX received subtle styling updates. Some edges are now more rounder than before while some surfaces are more flat. This gives the new NMAX a fresh look while staying faithful to the original design. The stepped-up seat is also a bit wider and the handlebar was pushed back a little for a more upright, maxi-scooter-like riding position. The seat hinge is also spring loaded so the seat rises slowly when unlocked. The underseat compartment also grew marginally to 23.3 liters and could fit XL size full face helmets. Seat height remains at 765 mm.
The new NMAX also benefited from a couple of large compartments behind the legshield, one of which has a waterproof lid. A standard 12v power outlet is conveniently located on the left side compartment. The round ‘cyclops’ multifunction LCD instrument display is replaced by a larger semi-rectangular LCD screen that displays speed, odometer, trip meter, bar type fuel gauge, digital clock, battery voltage, fuel economy data, and periodic maintenance reminders. The rider can scroll through the display using a new trigger type switch located on the left-hand switch gear.
The 2020 NMAX now comes with a new Smart Key System similar to the XMAX. When detected within a certain radius of the bike, the key transponder will enable the rider to start the motor using the main switch knob and the starter button. The NMAX will alert the rider with a series of audible beeps when it detects that the rider left the switch knob to the ‘ON’ position after leaving the bike. The new NMAX will also refuse to start/restart without the presence of the key transponder. The key transponder also has an answer-back function for quick location of your NMAX in a crowded parking garage.
Yamaha engineers found several ways to enhance the fuel efficiency of the 2020 NMAX, one of which is incorporating a Smart Motor Generator (SMG) to the Blue Core motor. The SMG doubles as a starter motor which eliminates the need for a separate conventional starter. The SMG has a lighter and more compact design and also brings quieter engine starts. The introduction of the Smart Motor Generator also allows the 2020 NMAX to have the Stop/Start System.
This system automatically shuts off the motor when you stop for more than 3 seconds, and automatically starts the motor when you twist the throttle. A new cylinder head and compact combustion chamber also achieve a higher compression ratio that boosts combustion efficiency. Engine coolant pathways are also optimised for better heat dissipation and long-term reliability. The fuel tank capacity increased by 500 mL to 7.1 Liters (from 6.6 liters) for better range.
If there’s one shortcoming the previous NMAX had then it’s the insufficient LED headlight, particularly the high beam. That’s why most NMAX owners put additional LED lights for better nighttime visibility. So for 2020 Yamaha engineers redesigned the headlight with six LED bulbs; 4 LED bulbs on top row for low beam and 2 LED bulbs below for high beam. The tail light also got a new three dimensional design that resembled that of the XMAX. The front and rear turn indicators are repositioned and now have a hazard function.
A common complaint for the previous NMAX was the stiff suspension. No wonder most first generation NMAX that you will see on the road are equipped with aftermarket rear shock absorbers. Before the 2020 NMAX made its local debut we thought the new NMAX will come with a better quality gas pressurised rear shock absorbers like the Thai variant. So we were quite disappointed that the Philippine NMAX only comes with a pair of standard shock absorbers similar to the previous NMAX. Thankfully the spring rates are softer on the new NMAX because it exhibited a more compliant ride than the first NMAX.
While power gains are minimal, the new NMAX feels livelier and more eager to accelerate than before. The CVT is also very responsive to throttle inputs and maintaining a constant speed is easy even with elevation changes. During our ride in Infanta, Quezon we were surprised with the NMAX extra nimbleness. There was no mention of a revised front end geometry anywhere on Yamaha’s website but we feel the rake and trail of the new NMAX is shorter and thus has a sportier handling. The front and rear hydraulic disc brakes with two-channel abs work independently from one another and have a soft initial bite with a progressive feel on the levers. Wheel size remains at 13-inches front and rear.
If you own a first NMAX we say keep it for a few more years. Chances are you’re already finished or nearly finished with your monthly payments to the dealer if you bought it via bank or dealer financing. You see, there’s no better feeling in the world than riding a motorcycle registered under your name and with no monthly financial obligations to worry about. Just periodic maintenance and annual registration. Especially now that we’re in a pandemic where everything is uncertain.
The new NMAX may have new and better features, but their on-road performance is mostly the same. But if you don’t own an NMAX yet and are thinking of buying one then by all means do it. Buy the ABS version if you don’t mind shelling out a little bit more because the extra safety margin it offers is priceless. Think of ABS like a gun; It’s better to have it then not use it than to need it and not have it. ABS versions also command a higher resale value than non-ABS models. But regardless of what variant you get, the new NMAX is guaranteed to provide you many years of riding satisfaction and pride of ownership.
Engine: 4-Stroke, liquid-Cooled, SOHC, 1 Cylinder, 4-Valve, Fuel Injection
Max Power: 15.19 hp @ 8000 rpm
Max Torque: 10.25 lb-ft @ 6500 rpm
Seat Height: 765 mm
Tire Front: 110/70-13
Tire Rear: 130/70-13
Brakes, Front/Rear: Disc, Disc 2-Channel ABS
Fuel Capacity: 7.1 liters
Curb weight: 131 Kg. abs (129 Kg. non-abs)
Price: PhP134,500 abs (PhP119,900 non-abs)
+: Nimble handling, bigger fuel tank, better headlight, Smart Key System, Stop/Start System
-: Budget rear shock absorbers
C! Rating: 9.5/10