Yamaha Scorpio impresses with basic appeal

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The workaday instruments are well placed and there's a minimum of idiot lights

It may not impress at first sight, but the appeal of the Yamaha Scorpio runs deep. Jacqui Madelin explains why.

Having recently ridden a fair few Yamahas, I got to thinking about why and what we ride.

If your bike is solely a toy, or a reflection of your personality and sense of style, you'll be quite specific about your requirements. If it's a tool to get from A to B, you'll be less choosy.

Being a learner, or a shortie who wants something smaller, doesn't mean you have to go sensible. Yamaha's XVS250 V-Star proves that, with its grown-up looks, two-tone chrome-embellished finish and its $10,295 price tag. But cruisers are kind of predictable: safe-handling underpowered Harley clones designed to be easy to ride.

Perhaps they're more sensible than they look, which is not the case with Yamaha's Scorpio.

Not that you'd tell after a casual glance. Even the guys I collected it from didn't rate it much, though none had actually ridden it. It delivers conventional motorcycle lines, rather loud graphics and a single-cylinder engine with a kick-start lever, as well as electric start.

That belt and braces approach more than hints at this bike's basic character. But basic doesn't have to mean boring, and I had a lot of fun on this $3999 bike, enough to annihilate the XVS in the bang-for-buck stakes.

It's not that the engine's a ball of fire. The 223cc four-stroke single is apparently built for commuting, pulling just fine from lights and around town. It will cruise at 100kmh, too, though clearly it's not the ideal Dunedin-to-Christchurch mount.

That upright riding position (and a seat height that at 770mm is 100mm taller than the cruiser's) means you get a good view of surrounding traffic.
But what made it shine was that it handles surprisingly well. It's not so much that the telescopic fork, rear swingarm arrangement is especially good; clearly Yamaha hasn't spent up large on the suspenders.

Nevertheless this Scorpio has real-bike dynamics, a forgiving suspension, and handlebars that are ideal for flinging her into a corner, or correcting slides on slick roads. Which meant I could wind the throttle to the stop and hurl her through the swervery with the sort of abandon not possible with a big-bore sports bike on the gnarly back roads I frequent.

An R1 might be a track weapon, but it's not at home on a tightly twisting bumpy B-road - where the Scorpio would be as much in its element as it is around town.

Of course if your bike is inextricably tangled with your ego, you wouldn't consider this one however cheap it is to buy and run, whatever its hidden delights. For let's face it, even its mother wouldn't call it handsome.

But it shrugged off my tricky back roads, laughed in the face of potholes and just got on with the job.

That get-on-with-the job persona is reflected throughout. Just look at those workaday instruments. Well-placed, with speedo, trip, tacho - it says the red-line is 9500, but it's not at its best up there - and the minimum of idiot lights. There are no extras, only the stuff you need. A sturdy grab handle. Well-placed, large mirrors. Neatly-finished pillion pegs, and a comfy seat not too sharply shelved, so this Scorpio should suit a wider range of sizes than you might expect.

Seems a shame that sensible and practical doesn't look flashy; that the fun you can have riding this thing isn't reflected in the looks. But then you can't have it all and a budget-friendly price too. You might have to be happy with knowing the bike delivers more than its looks promise.

Think of it as the Dave Dobbyn of motorcycles. It's not big, strong, or conventionally good-looking, but it's full of life: spend some time in its company and you can't help but learn to like it.

Yamaha Scorpio impresses with basic appeal
At a Glance



For: Cheap and cheerful; conventional bike geometry so comfy it handles rural roads and city with equal aplomb.

Against: Looks won't impress anyone; won't be comfy long-distance.

Verdict: Ignore the Scorpio's boy/girl-next-door looks and you've got an affordable commuter that handles like a real bike, which means it's more fun to ride than most commuters. More bang for your buck than many better-looking learner-friendly bikes, the Scorpio's hidden talents make it the Dave Dobbyn of the commuter pack.


Price: $3999

Engine: 223cc air-cooled four-stroke single-cylinder.

Transmission: Five-speed, chain drive.

Suspension, brakes: Telescopic forks front, swingarm rear; single disc front, drum rear brakes.

Wheels, tyres: Spoked wheels with 80/100-18 front and 100/90-18 rear.

Size: 2020mm long, 1295mm wheelbase, 770mm seat height, 124kg dry weight, 12-litre fuel tank.

Not much at this price: scooters are a different breed, cruisers like Suzuki's GN125 don't deliver real-bike dynamics; everything else costs almost twice as much new.

RATING (4/5)