The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.8
This revamped version of Britain’s best-selling, A1 licence-compliant super-sports bike isn’t any faster than the old model but Yamaha’s 15bhp single is fun to ride, looks superb and its price hasn’t been increased.
Reasons to buy
- Authentic race-replica styling
- Fun to ride despite 15bhp output
- Economical even when thrashed
At a glance
One of the main reasons for the YZF’s popularity until now is that it looks much like a full-sized sports bike — or even Rossi’s MotoGP M1 if you squint — despite in reality being a 125cc four-stroke single that’s limited to 15bhp. This subtly reshaped Yam is physically quite a big machine for a 125, so I didn’t feel cramped on it despite being well over six feet tall. The redesign has given it an R6 style central duct in the fairing nose, neat cutaways in the top yoke, and new wheels with very slim spokes. Paintwork comes in red, grey or Yamaha’s Race Blu.
Well it’s a sports bike, so there’s no point complaining that the low bars get uncomfortable after a while at slow speeds. If you want a more upright riding position, the new naked MT-125 supplies that with very similar performance and a slightly lower price. The YZF’s moderately leant-forward riding position makes more sense when you get close to its 75mph top speed. Its reasonably tall and thin seat isn’t built for comfort or pillion carrying but suits the race-rep image very well.
If you’re a teenager who’s lucky enough to have a YZF as a step up from the bus or cadging lifts in your parents’ car, it will seem like the most practical device in the world. Obviously there are plenty of bikes that are faster and more comfortable, but the Yam will get you where you need to go, eventually, and will use hardly any expensive fuel in the process, and its fairing will be useful in winter. Fit the Yamaha with a tank bag and some throw over panniers and you could ride it round the world, looking (a bit) like Valentino in the process. What’s not to like?
Performance & braking
Sadly the days of two-stroke, 125cc race-reps that scream to over 90mph are over, so the YZF is nowhere near as quick as it looks. Its sohc, liquid-cooled engine is limited to 15bhp like those of all other A1-class bikes. That means the Yam is good for about 75mph, and it has very little midrange torque so has to be revved furiously and rowed along using the six-speed 'box. All of which is great fun provided you’re in the mood, not least because the single is quite smooth. The front brake is revised, with a four-piston radial calliper biting the single 292mm front disc. I found it adequate but slightly lacking in power compared to the theoretically identical one on the MT-125. ABS will be an option in the near future.
Ride & handling
This YZF shares not only its engine but most of its chassis with the MT-125, and it’s built to a very strict budget that allowed a twin-spar steel frame, and more rigid 41mm upside-down forks, but no suspension adjustment at either end. Geometry was dictated by the naked model, whose wider handlebar gives more leverage, leaving the YZF feeling slightly less agile than I’d expected of a bike that weighs just 140kg wet. It was still plenty of fun to chuck around, though, both on twisty roads in the hills near Barcelona and on a nearby kart-track, where it coped very well. The ride is fairly firm but well controlled, and the narrow Michelin Pilot Street tyres supplied adequate grip.
A 125cc four-stroke should be cheap to run, and the YZF will be if its predecessor is anything to go by. Yamaha says fuel economy is improved over the old model’s already impressive figure, so many owners will get over 100mpg. Consumables such as tyres and brake pads should also last ages, due mainly to the bike’s modest power output. One drawback for riders with more enthusiasm than riding experience is that the full fairing will be damaged in even a minor crash.
This YZF’s engine is new so it’s impossible to comment on its reliability with authority, but the basic design has been around since the model’s debut in 2008 so is well proven. The bike was developed in Europe and is built at Yamaha’s former MBK factory in France.
Warranty & servicing
Like all Yamahas above 50cc capacity, it comes with a two-year, unlimited mileage warranty. Valves need checking at a less than generous 3500 miles, when the air filter is also scheduled to be cleaned (with replacement at the major service every 7000), but for most owners that would essentially mean an annual service.
You don’t expect too many luxuries with a 125cc sports bike, but one of this YZF’s best additions is its new digital instrument panel, which includes such big-bike features as gearshift lights, plus fuel consumption and other info that can be toggled by pressing a button on the handlebar. Yamaha is normally very good at providing accessories, and the YZF is no exception. Extras include a double-bubble screen, crash bungs and Akrapovic silencer, plus more practical parts such as a tank bag, tank pad and even a 12V socket.
If you’re after the classiest, raciest learner-friendly bike around, the YZF is definitely a contender. Its capable and unintimidating performance, quality feel and Yamaha’s MotoGP image make an appealing combination.