The Z125 feels like a powerful small scooter, rather than an underpowered maxi-scooter which some physically large mid-sized scooters feel like.
Fuel injected, 4-valve, 4-stroke engine
Kickstand and centerstand
Ceramic cylinder coating
Nice looking rims
YAMAHA ZUMA 125 / BWS 125 (YW125)
For 2009 Yamaha USA introduced the Zuma 125 as a faster version of their popular Zuma scooter. Since then the Zuma 125 has proven popular with Zuma fans, new scooter buyers and even the Honda Ruckus crowd who have been clamoring for a bigger version of that scooter for years.
The Zuma 125 is badged in Canada and overseas as the BWs 125, internally to Yamaha as the YW125 and casually to enthusiasts as the Z125. The Zuma 125 has been a solid seller every year thanks to its quality, fair price and unique style. Yamaha introduced a heavily updated version of the Zuma 125 for 2016, which remains on sale as of 2020.
The Zuma 125 has been offered in two versions (’09 – ’15 and ’16 – present). The first version (below right) was introduced with bug eye headlights and styling similar to it’s smaller Zuma 50 sibling. This scooter was actually Yamaha’s BWs 125 scooter from the Asian market which they designed new headlights for and introduced in the USA as the Zuma 125 and in Canada still using the BWs 125 name. This first Zuma 125 model went on sale for 2009 and was sold continuously through 2015 except in Canada where from Yamaha skipped the 2012 model year to clear out inventory.
After 7 years, Yamaha revamped the Zuma 125 for 2016 (top and left) with major updates to the style and brakes. This revised version is the BWs R125 scooter Yamaha sells overseas after launching it last summer. The most notable changes came to the front end, with Yamaha moving away from the bug eye headlights. Yamaha started offering their smaller Zuma 50 in a non-bug eye version for 2014 (the Zuma X), so it’s no surprise the big Zuma moved on as well.
This second version uses the same frame and motor, but otherwise is mostly a different machine. Yamaha re-worked nearly all the body panels, added knee room, revamped the suspension, added new digital gauges, a cupholder and a larger fuel tank, all while shaving 6 lbs off the scooter (now 262 lbs).
Other noteworthy changes include moving the fuel tank down into the floor, which frees up more underseat storage (7.7 gallon vs 6.5) and moves the fill location to the left side of the legsheild. Yamaha also upped the front disc brake to a new wavy 245mm rotor (from 220mm) and switched the rear brake from a weak 150mm drum to a proper 200mm disc.
What’s interesting about the Zuma 125 engine is that it’s an unusual blend of new and old tech. The fuel injection and 4-valves are downright cutting edge (in engines this small), but strangely Yamaha opted to skip the liquid cooling and instead keep the temperatures under control with a fan. This is a curious decision because Yamaha has recently added liquid cooling to their two 4-stroke 50cc models. There must be some merit it to the idea though, as Honda has also gone this route with their second generation Metropolitan. There are some advantages to air cooling (simplicity, light weight) but the steady temperatures, close engine tolerances and higher compression ratios that liquid cooling enables are still optimal.
One known issue with the Z125 is the fuel pump in 2009 models, which can cease to function when it gets too hot. Sometimes when you go for a long ride on a hot day, the fuel pump will get too hot and if you shut off the scooter and try to restart it, then the fuel pump won’t operate. When this happens, the scooter doesn’t respond when you press the start button. It doesn’t crank over until you let it cool down for 10 minutes or so. Thankfully it won’t leave you stranded more than 15 minutes and Yamaha has done an official recall so you can easily get it replaced.
Top speed of this scooter is 95km/hr (57-58mph) which is enough for most roads but not really highway material. The YW125 accelerates well to 80km/hr (50mph) and then it wanders higher from there. 55mph is easily achievable in normal conditions, which is noticeable faster than the older 125cc engine Yamaha was using in their Vino 125. For owners who want more speed, lots of performance parts are already available including substantial big bore kits (see links section).
Environmentally, this scooter deserves full marks because it has a catalytic converter to reduce emissions in addition to its fuel sipping engine. Yamaha reports that this scooter gets 38km/l (89mpg) but that’s heavily on the optimistic side because Yamaha assumes you’re holding a steady 25mph (40km/hr). Realistic fuel economy is in the 70-75 mpg range. The YW125 does have a relatively small fuel tank of just 6 litres (1.6 gal) which means even if you can attain the listed 89mpg, you’re still going to be out of gas after 142 miles (230 kms). A tiny gas tank can make going to the gas station a low cost experience, but a larger range would still be nice. Something 50% bigger is closer to the norm for this class. My personal experience with the YW125 is that you can get about 100 miles per tank under normal driving, as little as 70 miles if you do the full tank at full throttle on the highway.
Storage & Convenience
On the first version of the Z125, Yamaha opted to keep the fuel tank small (1.5 gallon) to maximize the underseat storage capacity. Yamaha struck an okay balance, but a better solution was found for the second version which moved the fuel tank into the floorboard. This allowed a larger fuel tank (1.7 gallon) and 20% more underseat storage. In both versions, the underseat storage area is capable of swallowing most full face lids. You won’t get the seat down with an XL bucket underneath in a ’09 – ’15 Zuma 125, but you might be able to close it for 2016. A neat touch is that the seat is spring loaded, so when you pop it open by turning the ignition, the seat lifts open for you.
How about the rest of this scooter? There are a few main qualities to look for a scooter (besides the engine) which are storage, comfort, quality and style. Being a Yamaha, you know the quality is good. Comfort of this scooter is mixed. The seat has enough room to accommodate larger riders, but short legged riders will find it kinda high and the cushioning is stiff for longer trips. During my 10,000 km (6000 miles) cross Canada road trip on a Zuma 125, the seat comfort was tolerable, but not great.
One small gripe with the first version is that Yamaha passed up an easy opportunity to include a glove box. Perhaps it would have interfered with knee room a bit, but it looks like it could have been done. Having both a glove box and underseat storage is great so you have place for your small stuff (ownership, insurance, spare gloves etc) and then a larger compartment for….well, larger stuff. Yamaha does sell a ‘front basket’ (below) for the left side of the inner legshield, but this ‘basket’ is really a plastic cupholder and less usable than a lockable cubby hole would be. Yamaha priced this accessory at a surprising $40 in the USA ($47 in Canada). Yamaha’s other accessories including a windscreen ($130) and rear rack ($110). The hook shown in this photo is not included with North American Zuma 125’s, but if you get resourceful you can source one overseas.
With the second version Yamaha re-designed the legshield. Now the fancy ignition switch with magnetic lock out is moved to the center, a new cup holder is added on the right and the fill hole for the in floor gas tank is located on the left. A close-able cubby would have been better than an open “cup holder” but it’s a step in the right direction.
With the first generation Zuma 125, Yamaha did quite a nice job with the styling. The only arguably poor areas were the headlights and the mirrors, both of which are easily changed. The ‘bug eye’ headlights and mirrors both look out of place because they are overly cheeky compared to the rest of the aggressive scooter. Understandably Yamaha had their hands tied with the headlights because these were one of the main design elements of the smaller BWs/Zuma. Yamaha did a nice job of updating the smaller Zuma style without losing the essence. If you wish, you can replace the cute round mirrors with aftermarket ones and replace the headlights with Asian spec ones. Overseas, this scooter is sold with a different single headlight array (see bottom of page) that is unique and nice. You can convert your BWS/Zuma 125 to this setup for about $200.
The second generation style is more of a mixed bag. The move away from the bug eye lights was the right call, but Yamaha also opted to cover up the rear tube frame that was mostly exposed in the first Zuma 125 and was one of the most unique parts about the scooter. This new cladding causes the big Zuma to look less distinct and more like the sea of plastic clad scooters out there. The new taillight is nice, but the rest of the rear end was better in the first generation. Overall the second generation style takes 2 steps forward but 3 back.
The main competitors to the Z125 are Piaggio’s Typhoon 125, Honda’s PCX 125 / 150 and Kymco’s Super 8 150. Compared to those scooters, the Yamaha ($3390 as of 2016) battles it out with Honda for the titles of most technologically advanced and fuel efficient, while the Kymco easily wins for value ($2399). Stylistically, the closest competitor is the Typhoon 125 which is a very sharp scooter and it also undercuts the Zuma 125 by about $650.
Overall Yamaha has a winner on their hands – if nothing else because they’ve managed to keep this a physically small and fun scooter. The Z125 feels like a powerful small scooter, rather than an underpowered maxi-scooter which some physically large mid-sized scooters feel like. All the key dimensions of the YW125 are within an inch or two of its 50cc sibling, helping this scooter retain sporty handling. This scooter really is the same Zuma of old but with twice the motor and improved new styling. If you can swing the extra grand, the 125cc version of the Zuma is the way to go.