The styling is typically Asian. The JetMax has a long sloping front which is dominated by two large headlights either side of a chrome grill. Australia will get a short screen as seen on our test unit, which tends to do the Emperor some extra justice. The touches of chrome look smart and over time the styling actually grew on all of us. From the rear it looks a little awkward, a small round backside with an integrated set of LED lights, not helped by the huge passenger grab handles.
Though not up to the performance levels of four-valve models even in 15kW guise, the 125R’s Chinese-made SOHC two-valve engine producing 11.8bhp at 8500rpm, and 7.89lb-ft of torque at 7000rpm, is willing and completely smooth. Thanks to its gear-driven balance shaft there are no vibes whatsoever, even when fluttering the 10,200rpm rev limiter. This makes the new CFMoto easy to ride for any length of time, and the fact that its riding position didn’t feel cramped for a 5’11” rider like myself means that it’s a valid product for Western markets, not just Asian ones.
Though easy and forgiving at low speeds in urban use, the engine has a fair appetite for revs, with the large red shifter light on the good-looking dash flashing at 8000rpm in every gear. It cruises happily at an indicated 62mph (100kph) with the big analogue tacho reading 8500rpm. I saw 74mph (119kph) on the digital speedo tucked well in going slightly downhill, and the Caiman engine didn’t feel in the least bit laboured. That low-set Euro 3 exhaust – which even without a catalyst fitted is to my mind easily the most unlovely item on the bike – burbles away lustily, but is very quiet, so there’s lots of scope for an aftermarket system.
It’s a very dynamic-looking bike – the aggressive-looking headlamp cowl, the headlamp itself, the cast aluminium footrest hangers, and the good-looking cast wheels which are certain to end up on heaps of other bikes, thanks to their quality appearance. The whole package exudes substance – much more than you’d expect from a bike of this price – and coupled with desirable looks will appeal to teen dreamers who’ll be its likely target customers.
It feels more substantial than you’d expect from a 125cc runaround, yet it’s light-steering without being nervous. I could chuck the 125R on its side into turns and still get the grip I hoped for. That good-looking frame handles well, albeit with adequate, rather than exceptional front suspension that isn’t particularly compliant over rough surfaces, though the rear cantilever monoshock gives better ride quality than I expected. Call it a score-draw.