Yamaha XMAX 300 (2017) first ride, review and winter update

Paul Taylor
By Paul Taylor
platinum_paul ex-BikeSocial Production Editor turned freelancer. Worked in bike industry for 15 years, gets fatter and slower every year. Unhealthy obsession with Honda C90s, top boxes and small bikes.
2017 Yamaha XMAX 300

First published 20 April 2017

If the last year has proven anything, then it is that us islanders have different desires to our European cousins.

And so it is with transport. Let’s be honest, we’re a nation of car lovers and seem reluctant to abandon the comfort of our steering wheels for the jam ridden pain of a daily commute. When we do, it would appear that we’d rather place ourselves in the overpriced hell of (insert name of rail franchise here) – but there is a better way, and our Euro friends know exactly what it is. Make a visit to Barcelona, Paris or Milan and that solution is buzzing all around you on the streets. It’s something that is sitting in motorcycle dealerships up and down the country as you read this.

 

 

2017 Yamaha XMAX 300

This is why Yamaha has invited us to the Italian city of Florence to try out the new-for-2017 XMAX 300. The XMAX 300 replaces the XMAX 250 in Yamaha’s range, and although the outgoing version is a relatively rare sight on British roads, the Florentine streets are positively awash with scoots of that ilk. What’s more, the great majority of models sold are from quality brands like Honda, Piaggio and Yamaha. I don’t think I saw a single cheap Chinese model among the thousands of scoots we saw in our day riding in and around Florence.

Yamaha has sold over 150,000 examples of the outgoing model since its introduction in 2005, with 11,000 sold in Europe last year alone. It’s a big business, the medium sized twist and go scooter sector, and while it may lack the kerb appeal of a new R1 or MT, this is an important model for the company globally.

The previous 250, which dated back to 2013, was due for an update this year, due to the introduction of the stricter Euro 4 regulations, but rather than simply make a raft of changes to make it comply with the latest laws, Yamaha took a blank sheet of paper and created an all-new model for 2017.

Yamaha’s research showed that the majority of XMAX 250 buyers were blokes over the age of 45. They also saw 300cc scoots from the likes of Honda and Kawasaki making inroads in the sales charts – hence the decision to give its new steed a larger motor.

The new four-valve, single overhead camshaft design has a bore and stroke of 70 x 75.9mm, giving a capacity of 292cc. Power is just under 28bhp at 7250rpm, up by over 7bhp from the 250, with torque increased by 8Nm – clocking in at 29Nm at 5750rpm.

Accompanying the new engine is an equally new chassis. The new frame is 3kg lighter and developed to minimise vibration. Despite the aluminium effect ‘boomerang’ along the side (a Yamaha scooter design feature) there’s a steel backbone frame hiding behind the all-enclosing plastic bodywork. Fuelled up and ready to go, the XMAX 300 weighs in at 179kg.

With a wide saddle and 795mm seat height, mounting the XMAX 300 isn’t as easy as it is on some other machines as it can be on some competitor bikes, especially when combined with the high frame tunnel and narrow space between the front of the seat and the bottom of the dashboard, but once on board it’s a very pleasant place to be.

2017 Yamaha XMAX 300

Recognising that most riders are also car drivers, there’s a deliberate four-wheeled feel to the XMAX 300’s instrumentation, with large analogue dials for both the speedo and rev counter. In between is a fairly comprehensive LED panel with fuel gauge, temperature readout and a host of scroll through functions including odometer, trip counter, fuel consumption and outside air temperature.

Modern car drivers will also feel at home with the keyless ignition system, which unlocks and starts the bike provided the remote control dongle is in close proximity. The central dial is simply turned to either start the engine, or unlock the various orifices, such as the seat, fuel cap and glove box.

There are two small glove boxes either side of the ignition dial. The one on the left is lockable and features a 12v charging outlet. It’s the usual cigarette type one that can be used to power a sat-nav (Yamaha will do you a holder for your device as an accessory) or charge a phone. The underseat storage space is cavernous. Yamaha claim 45 litres of space (18% more than the 250) which is the equivalent of two crash helmets and you can easily get a laptop bag and a few days shopping under there. Accessories also include various top boxes, the largest of which adds another 50 litres.

2017 Yamaha XMAX 300

Ergonomics are aided by the fact that the screen and handlebar positions are adjustable. These can’t be done on the fly, but it’s a two minute job (with the allen key from the tool kit) to raise or lower the screen by 50mm. The bars can be moved 20mm closer to the rider and although it’s a bit of a faff, it’s a one off job and still a piece of cake.

On the road, it’s very comfortable. We spent a full day riding in the stylish saddle, way more than the average commute, and even by the end of the day there was no discomfort at all. An accessory ‘comfort’ seat is also available but we didn’t get a chance to try it out. The rear shocks are also five way adjustable, giving riders a chance to tweak the set up for their own preferences and circumstances, such as carrying a passenger.

Yamaha has fitted motorcycle style telescopic forks to the XMAX 300, with Dunlop ScootSmart-shod wheels, 15” at the front and 14” at the rear. These give great stability and a plush, motorcycle style ride on the open road. This does come at the expense of a little agility in the city, but it’s still plenty easy enough to thread through the traffic, as we found out first hand as we attacked Florence’s early morning rush hour.

That commuting chaos also provided an opportunity to try out the new ABS and traction control systems, and both came through with flying colours. Both proved to be very unobtrusive in their intervention, even when deliberately provoked through some hamfisted riding.

Being critical, the front brake could do with a little more power but it’s certainly ok. Used, as it’s supposed to be, in conjunction with the rear brake it feels nicely balanced and adequate for riders of all experience.

Talking of experience, the XMAX 300 fits in between the XMAX 125 and XMAX 400 in the Yamaha scooter range. Many prospective customers are likely to be guys currently commuting on a 125, but looking for something a bit bigger to get ahead of the traffic in 40 and 50mph zones. The 400 remains in the range but it’s hard to make a compelling case for it against the 300, which is cheaper, lighter, better specified and only slightly less powerful.

The 300 has more than enough go on the open road. It’ll out accelerate most things away from the lights and can easily sit above the motorway speed limit. Escaping the city, we headed up and down the stunning mountain roads of the Chianti region and the XMAX was an absolute pleasure. There’s more than enough grunt to pass slower cars and the handling on the mountainous switchbacks was surprisingly sweet and composed. Despite some exuberant riding, the 300 delivered over 70mpg in our day’s riding. With a 13 litre tank, you’ll be filling up every 180 or so miles.

What didn’t I like? Well it’s as much a matter of personal taste as anything else, but I wasn’t massively turned on by the dowdy colour options (matt grey, matt bronze or gloss white) but I expect that Yamaha knows it’s potential customers better than I do. Other than that, the look is both classy and modern, with lots of contemporary Yamaha design cues and premium touches like the LED lights front and rear. I also thought the screen and rear view mirrors worked very well indeed.

Getting on was a bit of a hassle for a shorty like me, due to the size and shape of the chassis tunnel. Taller riders probably won’t even give it a second thought, and although it wouldn’t put me off buying an XMAX 300, it’d doubtless bother me each and every time I tried to mount or dismount my steed (especially when layered up in winter gear).

Being greedy, I’d like a second charging point under the seat, to allow me to charge larger devices on the go, and I’d like to be able to scroll through and have a speed readout on the central LCD display too. The new 292cc single cylinder engine is clean running and meets the latest round of Euro 4 emissions regulations, but I wouldn’t be averse to having some kind of stop/start system to cut the engine when stationary (for example at traffic lights). That would, in theory, cut fuel usage and emissions even more – which is another compelling reason for turning Brits onto twist and go scooters like the XMAX 300.

And what did I like? Well pretty much everything else really. The XMAX 300 really is a classy steed. Yamaha say that the great majority of XMAX 250 buyers were men over the age of 35. This new bike has the kind of premium quality appeal those urban dwellers expect and it doesn’t disappoint. I enjoyed riding it.

2017 Yamaha XMAX 300

 

Winter Update - March 2019

Twenty months later, and away from the holiday romance of an Italian city launch, can the Yamaha XMAX 300 still impress when pressed into winter commuting duties around the Cambridgeshire fens?

 

2017 Yamaha XMax 300 Winter Update

 

With the sun quickly setting, dragging the temperatures down with it, the last 100 miles on the XMAX had been a world away from the sun-drenched launch that BikeSocial attended in Apr 2017. Yamaha had kindly lent us a bike for the jaunt back from Yamaha HQ for the first service on the now (in)famous Niken.

First impressions were very good - a nice big screen to divert most of the winter blast away from my upper body and head, leg shields to do the same for my legs and feet. The only parts of me still in the direct air flow were my hands. Alas, no heated grips, but these are an option at around £145. The journey back was certainly less torturous on the XMAX than on the back of the Niken, and once we joined the motorway, I had a chance to ease back in the generous seat, stretch my legs and enjoy the ride. It’s a very pleasant place to be, but by the time I made it back to Huntingdon for a fuel stop (100 odd miles on half a tank - not bad), a severe case of backache had set in, caused in no part by a constant slouch I’d adopted to keep below the screen and out of the wind. Time to see how easily adjustable it really is.

As if the baptism of fire of a 100+mile ride from Woking wasn’t enough, the next day's plan was a 170 mile trip to Coventry and back. Temperatures were once again hovering around zero and snow still lay on the ground. Not quite deep, crisp or even, but enough to doubt if this had been a wise choice. I had managed to raise the XMAX's screen the night before - yes, it really is as simple as it was described above - and this had helped enormously with the wind-blast coming over the screen. At 5'6", I am below average height, so I'm unsure who Yamaha were catering for with the lower screen position.

 

1.A typical Fenland Morning. 2. John Milbank considers the benefits of an extra front wheel, while I consider going back to bed.

 

A further 300 miles and two weeks of winter riding saw a range of temperatures from -6ºC to +5ºC, wind, rain and snow and the XMAX had performed nearly faultlessly. Fuel consumption averaged a little above 85mpg, as reflected in my total fuel bill of just under £35 for some 544 miles, or just a little over 6p per mile. On the odd days that the roads were dry, I was able to experience a little more from the Yamaha and was very impressed with the neutral handling, composed ride (even on muddy fen roads) and excellent acceleration from the 300cc single cylinder unit.

ABS and TCS, as standard, provided some confidence that, despite the worsening conditions, the XMAX would behave itself. While lacking initial bite, the brakes provided plenty of feel and were more than enough for the XMAX's light weight. Peterborough's numerous roundabouts proved the ideal playground for the XMAX and blasting from one to the next proved both an enjoyable, and highly efficient, commuting method. The bike had also proven itself as a viable alternative to four-wheeled transport in its luggage hauling abilities. The cavernous under seat storage was easily able to transport a full set of textiles plus a chain and lock and still leave room for gloves and knick knacks.

 

1. Multi-switch does everything - if you can see it. 2&3. Headlights on low and high beam - can you tell which is which?

 

My two gripes with the Yamaha were one minor niggle and one biggie. Firstly, the keyless ignition system. While this was a massive boon at this time of year in terms of the usual "which pocket did I put the key in" internal dialogue, the multi-function switch is unlit, leaving you fumbling around the dash area trying to find the switch then turning it in all direction trying to find the relevant position to open the seat store, or turn off the incessant chirping from the alarm.  While I am sure this issue would resolve itself over time with continued use and habit formation, my main gripe could not. The headlights.

I get it that the majority of scooter riders ride in well-lit cities or urban routes that are all very well lit, but the single, central, main beam light is utterly useless. The two main headlights provide a good spread of nice clean white light, but the first time I flicked the switch to main beam, the only additional light I even noticed was the blue dash bulb, effectively spoiling what little night vision I had, and making it more difficult to see the now fast approaching fen dyke ahead.

The lights were so bad in fact that I changed my route home from the office to avoid certain unlit stretches of road. While this didn't add hugely to my journey distance or time, it did seem a shame that I had to give in to this deficiency. Maybe some auxiliary lights would help, but equally I guess leaving home a little later in the morning, and the office a little earlier in the evening, to make the most of what little daylight we see in the middle of winter would help. I'll let you decide if that's such a bad thing.

2017 Yamaha XMAX 300 Technical Specification

Engine type

Single cylinder, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, SOHC, 4-valves

Displacement

292cc

Bore x stroke

70.0 mm x 75.9 mm

Compression ratio

10.9 : 1

Maximum power

20.6 kW @ 7,250 rpm

Maximum torque

29.0 Nm @ 5,750 rpm

Lubrication system

Wet sump

Fuel system

Fuel Injection

Ignition system

TCI

Starter system

Electric

Transmission system

V-Belt Automatic

Fuel consumption

N/A

CO2 emission

N/A

Chassis

 

Front suspension system

Telescopic forks

Front travel

110 mm

Rear suspension system

Unit Swing

Rear travel

79 mm

Front brake

Hydraulic single disc, Ø 267 mm

Rear brake

Hydraulic single disc, Ø 245 mm

Front tyre

120/70-15

Rear tyre

140/70-14

Dimensions

 

Overall length

2,185 mm

Overall width

775 mm

Overall height

1,415 mm (adjustable screen 1,465mm)

Seat height

795 mm

Wheelbase

1,540 mm

Minimum ground clearance

135 mm

Wet weight

179 kg

Fuel tank capacity

13 litres

 

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