First ride: Yamaha TMAX review

The maxi scooter with an attitude problem

CAN a maxi scooter have a bad attitude? If any can, it’s Yamaha’s TMAX.

It lays an arguable claim to creating the maxi scooter class back in 2001. We already had the Suzuki Burgman 400 but ‘maxi-scooter’ wasn’t really a thing. The original T-Max XP500 was the first scooter to get so big we needed new language for it. At least that’s how I remember it.

Since then a stable of even bigger maxi-scooters has emerged and matured, like the Burgman 650 and BMW’s C600 range, while the T-Max has become the TMAX 530 and ploughed the furrow of being slightly smaller but sporty and aggressive. It even shouts its name at you, in capital letters. It's the one that makes you want go around the same roundabout until something grounds.

For 2015 it’s got even sportier, with a round of updates. The aluminium frame and 530cc parallel-twin engine are unchanged but the suspension and brakes are revised, with new 43mm upside-down forks and radial-mounted front brake calipers.

It’s also had a restyling, with a reshaped front cowl and mudguard and new mirrors on longer stems. It’s gained an LED headlight, a 12-volt power socket and, for reasons unclear, a keyless ignition. Give me heated grips any day.

The absence of a power socket on the old version was notable in comparison to its rivals, but it’s important to know where to stop with the gadgets. If anything, the TMAX can get away with offering fewer conveniences because of the way you feel while riding it. From the punchy throttle response to the aggressive-looking dash, it all feels a little more performance-oriented, so you feel less like you're on your way to the care home.

Maxi scooters all tend to feel a little vague compared to motorcycles. If any bucks the trend it’s probably Honda’s Integra, which is actually a motorcycle in disguise. The TMAX is light for a maxi scooter, at 219kg fully fuelled (or 222kg with ABS), but the low-slung weight still seems to rob you of some feel for the Dunlop Sportmax tyres.

Where the TMAX excels is in its composure. Plough throttle-open down potholed B-roads and it stays totally predictable, even comfortable, but never wallowy or bouncy. You’d never know the abuse those new forks were taking until you saw the 15-inch front wheel being slammed up and down in our onboard footage (which will come shortly).

Suzuki’s Burgman 650 can feel wobbly in wide-radius, fast bends. I never felt a hint of that on the TMAX.

The TMAX has 15-inch wheels where the Burgman has a 15" front and 14" rear. That means less space under the seat on the Yamaha.  

Many maxi scooters can store two full-face helmets under the seat, including the Burgman 650, BMW C650 GT and the BMW C600 Sport, the latter with a clever expandable compartment. The TMAX will take one full-face helmet, easily, but no more. The only way to store a second lid is to use the cable-type helmet lock to secure it outside the closed seat.

Where some maxi scooters have electric screens, the TMAX’s can only be adjusted using tools. And it has just one lockable glove box, big enough probably for some waterproof trousers.  

It seems to make up for any practical shortcomings in attitude and fun. Typically of automatic CVT transmissions, it doesn’t give you everything you might ask for from a standstill. Pin the throttle fully open and it will reach about 20mph before suddenly unleashing its full potential.

The throttle response is good when it’s already open a bit and then you whack it open more. This is where it delivers its best burst of acceleration, and it’s difficult to resist playing with it. At 46.5hp, it’s not as powerful as the 600cc-plus maxi scooters. BMW’s C600 Sport and C650GT make 60hp.

But the TMAX does have punch. It gets from 0-60mph in about six-and-a-half seconds, making a sound like a very big hoover. Plus it weighs 30kg less than the C600 Sport and 58kg less than the Burgman 650. The lower power also means the TMAX slips under the limit for A2 licence holders.

On the motorway it offers comfort comparable to any maxi scooter, and that’s high praise. Cruising at an indicated 80mph, the revs hover around 5,000, with the red line at 8,000. There’s barely a vibe through the bars and none through the seat or footboards. You’d hardly know it was running, until you twisted the throttle.

On its lowest setting, the screen is at about chin-level for an average-height rider. The seat is wide and firm.

There’s space on the footboards to stretch your legs and move back on the seat, but I found doing so put me a little far from the bars. They’re lower than typical of scooter bars, so much so that very tall people can’t even ride a TMAX because their knees get in the way. If you’re over 6’5”, you definitely need a test ride before buying. For smaller people like me, the low bars contribute to the purposeful feel.

In town it makes sport of getting through queuing traffic. It’s got a wide steering angle and it’s fun weaving through stationary cars but you have to keep an eye on that fat exhaust as you turn.

The mirrors are on longer stalks and higher according to Yamaha. They pass over those of most cars but clash perfectly with those of black cabs, which is annoying when you’re trying to squeeze between two. The Burgman 650 has mirrors which fold at the push of a button. People may scoff but they make the Burgman far better at filtering than it has any right to be.

The twin front brake discs and new calipers have ample power for hauling the TMAX to a quick halt when pedestrians inevitably step out. If you’re expecting ‘radial-mounted’ to mean sports bike levels of bite you may be disappointed but they are entirely capable of the job they are charged with.

Once familiar with it, the keyless ignition seems quite fun, if not exactly indispensable. With the key in your pocket, you just press buttons to start the engine, switch it off, engage the steering lock or open the seat. It’s good for a Hollywood-style exit. Approach the bike with your gloves on, press a button and go. No awkward dicking about with keys. I’d still prefer heated grips though.

According to the meter on the dash, average fuel consumption was 46.3mpg, after riding on A-roads, motorways and in town. Even by CVT standards, it’s not amazing. It points to an absolute maximum range of about 150 miles from the 15-litre tank. When I calculated the economy between fuel stops, using receipts and mileage, I got a more respectable result of 50.7mpg.

The TMAX costs £8,699 plus on-the-road charges or £9,099 with ABS. The Burgman 650 is £8,799 plus OTR, with ABS. The BMW C650GT, also with ABS, starts at £9,795 on-the-road and the C600 Sport at £9,495. Honda’s 745cc Integra is the cheapest, at £7,799 on the road. 

You can get more luxurious maxi scooters for about the same money as the TMAX. You can get faster and more powerful scooters for about the same money. But I’m not sure you can get one offering the TMAX’s combination of punchy performance, decent handling, low weight, and luxury.  

If you’re feeling really badass, there’s also the new ‘TMAX Iron Max’ edition, with extra attitude courtesy of gold-coloured forks and calipers, matt black wheels, aluminium footplates and more. But then you’ll pay £9,399 with ABS, almost as much as the price of a C600 Sport, which, to be fair, has some attitude of its own.

Model tested: Yamaha TMAX 530

Price: £8,699, £9,099 with ABS (TMAX Iron Max £8,999, £9,399 with ABS)

Power: 46.5hp

Torque: 38.5bft

Wet weight (fully fuelled): 219kg (222kg with ABS)

Fuel capacity: 15 litres

Fuel economy (calculated from receipts): 46.3mpg

Seat height: 790mm

Colours: silver, white, grey (TMAX Iron Max in ‘liquid darkness’ only)

Available: now

Watch our video review of the 2015 Yamaha TMAX

Read our top 10 maxi scooters review

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