2016 Kawasaki J125: First ride
Kawasaki has just launched the J125, an A1 licence-friendly 125cc scooter with the sporty looks of a city sprinter and the roomy comfort of a maxi-scooter.
The J125 is Kawasaki’s first scooter in the 125cc class in Europe – and only the second in its entire range. The new scooter is effectively a 125cc version of the popular J300 maxi-scooter that the company launched two years ago, and benefits from the design and technology of its big brother. But whilst it maintains the large size of the J300, this new scooter is designed primarily for cities rather than the open roads. Its mission is to become a real alternative to public transport.
The scooter has been well thought through, from the design elements borrowed from Kawasaki’s sports bikes to the various clever scooter-specific solutions. And with the sports heritage and prestige that come with the Kawasaki brand, this is likely to be a tempting option for anyone looking for a sporty, blue-blooded scooter to rule the city streets with.
Kawasaki is famous for its beautiful sports bikes, and the new scooter has a suitably sporty look so it doesn’t look too out of place next to the big boys. The overall design is subtly elegant and features clever details, such as the front and rear indicators being built into the bodywork to give the bike a sleeker look.
The J125 inherits its styling from the J300 and the front of the scoot in particular has a real sporty look about it. The large multi-reflector headlights with their sharp lines that sweep round to the sides wouldn’t look out of place on a sports bike.
A particularly nice design feature is how both front and back indicators have been embedded into the body of the scooter to make the lines look sleek and clean. At the rear, the lights have also been designed in a way that compliments these sporty lines.
Hiding under the elegant exterior is a surprisingly lively 125cc liquid-cooled SOHC four-valve single-cylinder engine. It delivers a claimed peak power of 10.3kW at 9,000rpm and maximum torque of 11.5Nm at 7,000rpm. Bore and stroke measure 54.0mm x 54.5mm. These figures are very close to that of its closest rivals (hello Mr Honda, Mr Yamaha). In fairness, there’s not much more you can squeeze out of a 125cc engine and still keep it economical and meet the emissions regulations.
What I particularly liked about the J125 is that the power delivery is very smooth even when you open or close the throttle fully, thanks to the instant fuel delivery and the butter-smooth Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). It would appear that the partnership with Taiwanese scooter specialist Kymco in designing the scooter has paid off.
Right from the start the scooter felt responsive, and because it’s a fully automatic twist and go machine you can just open the throttle and accelerate hard without having to worry about gears.
The J125 is a fairly heavy scooter at 182 kg, but it feels agile and manageable. Because it accelerates well it was easy to nip in and out of traffic in the city, while out on the open road the J125 still managed to keep up with traffic, achieving a top speed of just below 70mph. For a city scooter that’s not bad at all, but for a long commute on A-roads you might want a bigger machine.
Our test ride covered just over 60 miles and there was never a moment of discomfort all day. There is plenty of room on the scoot for even a larger rider to stretch out. The seat is enormous and perfectly sculpted to offer some support for your lower back.
The footboards are roomy, and you can shuffle your feet about on longer journeys. The riding position overall is very relaxed and the screen (although not adjustable) kept the wind away from me. In all honesty, I would have happily done another 60 miles if we had time.
For a pillion passenger there is a large and comfy seat, foldable foot pegs and a grab rail. It’s a sizeable scooter so it should be fine two-up although we didn’t test it with a pillion.
Both front and rear brakes have single petal discs (front 260mm, back 240mm) with two-piston calipers. All models sold in the UK have Bosch ABS, which works well. The rear brake is perfect for shaving off a little bit of speed when necessary and the front brake has enough power to bring the scooter to a rapid stop if needed.
I managed to activate the front brake ABS a couple of times when braking hard and it performed its duties with perfect ease.
There is a 37mm telescopic fork at the front, and preload adjustable twin shock absorbers at the rear, with five settings to choose from. Kawasaki reckons that the suspension settings were selected to deliver both light sporty handling and a comfortable ride feel on European city streets.
Suspension worked well on the test ride. There is a 37mm telescopic fork at the front, and preload adjustable (five settings) twin shock absorbers at the rear. I started the ride with the standard setting, which was perfect for city riding, and then added a bit of preload (very easy to do by simply twisting the adjusters by hand) for the faster part of our route. This improved the handling on fast corners and made the machine feel firmer and more stable.
The dashboard consists of analogue speedometer and tachometer dials flanking a multi-function LCD panel, which houses the odometer, dual trip meters, service mode, clock, fuel gauge, coolant temperature gauge and engine warning symbol. White digits on a black background for the dials and blue backlighting for the LCD panel add a touch of style.
The tachometer gives the scoot more of a motorcycle feel, even if it’s not strictly speaking necessary on a twist and go machine. Fuel consumption and range would have been nice additions to the digital screen, but not essential.
There are no rider-controlled gadgets (apart from the non-standard TomTom navigator that was bolted onto the test bike), which makes the switchgear simple and easy to use.
The controls for electric start, indicators, hazards, lights and horn are all exactly where you’d expect and it only takes an instant to familiarise yourself with the switches.
Brake levers are adjustable, which is a nice touch and adds a level of comfort, especially on longer journeys. The levers also offer a good level of feedback from the brakes.
As 125cc scooters go, this is a big one, which helps with storage. There is a large underseat storage compartment, which is big enough for a full-face helmet and an A4 document case. An LED light comes on automatically when you lift the seat so you don’t have to rummage around in the dark, and the seat stays open once lifted up.
For smaller items, there’s a glove box, which has a useful 12V accessory outlet to plug your heated clothing, phone charger or sat nav into. There’s also a cargo hook and a rear carrier. And if that’s not enough, GIVI top cases are available as optional extras. You can certainly load this scooter with a lot of stuff.
To sum up
Kawasaki’s aim with the J125 was to create an alternative to public transport in cities and for that purpose this scooter is ideal. If I had a short urban commute I would certainly choose a scooter like this over public transport, and if Kawasaki’s calculations are correct I would even be saving money doing that.
Because the J125 is A1 licence-friendly, it’s likely to be a hit among people who are new to biking and for that audience this is a perfect commuter. The scooter offers the comfort of a much bigger machine while still feeling nimble and easy to control – and I can’t fault the looks either.
There’s enough power to comfortably cruise in the city and even do short distances on the open road, but for faster roads and longer distances, you’re better off going for the J300.
The scooter has been priced competitively at £3,799 for the white or black versions (special edition Metallic Anthracite Black and Candy Blazed Green is an extra £100). When it lands in the UK in late January it’s likely to follow the success of the J300, which according to Kawasaki outsold the Z300. No wonder Kawasaki is looking to expand its scooter range.
125cc four-stroke, liquid-cooled, single cylinder
SOHC, 4 valves
CVT with centrifugal clutch
Tubular diamond, steel
Wheel travel: front
Steering angle (left/right)
40° / 40°
120/80-14 M/C 58S
150/70-13 M/C 64S
37 mm telescopic fork
Twin shocks with 5-way adjustable preload
Dual-piston caliper and a single 260mm petal disc
Dual-piston caliper and a single 240 mm petal disc
10.3kW @ 9,000rpm
11.5Nm @ 7,000rpm
From £3,799 (Metallic Anthracite Black and Metallic Frosted Ice White £3,799. Special edition Metallic Anthracite Black and Candy Blazed Green £3,899)
World launch review: 2016 Kawasaki J125 scooter test
See the J125 on the Kawasaki website.