SAN FRANCISCO--When Yamaha gathered members of the media this week to road-test its 2012 Yamaha Zuma 50F, the motorcycle maker's reps unveiled PowerPoint presentations and let reporters tool around city landmarks to get a feel for the vehicle.
But, in this day of $4-per-gallon gas, all Yamaha might have to display to get buyers' attention is the vehicle's listed mileage: 132 mpg. With its 1.5-gallon tank tucked away beneath the rider's feet, that's 200-plus miles between $7 fill-ups in an age when filling a larger vehicle can cost north of $75. With numbers like that zipping about, more people might consider buying and riding scooters--especially if they're "green minded" and want to lay off the fossil fuels.
Yamaha chose San Francisco for the Zuma 50F demos because it's tailor-made for that environment. Small, fuel efficient, easy to park, and fast enough to keep up with clogged urban traffic, the 50cc engine was powerful enough to get even me--a certified lummox--up all but one of the city's Steve McQueen-christened hills. While the Zuma 50F got me down the brick-lined twists of crooked Lombard Street, it couldn't quite get me back up Telegraph Hill a short toss from Coit Tower. Me and my oafish frame had to hop off and jog it a few feet to the crest before hopping back on again. That was the only strike against the scooter's power, and it's not as if a majority of its buyers will be my size. … Read more