The Cobra 100 from the Kwang Yang Motor Co of Taiwan is similar to their top selling scooter in South Africa, the “Top Boy”, with revamped livery and sporting a much more venomous title.

This runabout from the Kwang Yang Motor Co of Taiwan is similar to their top selling scooter in South Africa, the “Top Boy”, with revamped livery and sporting a much more venomous title. It has the added moniker of “Exclusive”. The colour scheme is snazzy with colour impregnated plastic in bright blue with silver panels and mock carbon fibre trim bits adding up to a very impressive visual stance.

To summarise the sequence of events to hop aboard and get moving, one first unlocks the steering, then opens the seat with the same key, takes one’s helmet out of the large storage compartment, puts in whatever luggage or shopping, close the seat, put the key into the ignition, get aboard, take the scooter off its side or main stand (both are fitted), pull the left hand lever which operates the back brake in, thumb the electric starter button and open the throttle and away you go. There are no gears, thanks to the CVT (continuously variable transmission) and while some of these transmissions can make an annoying monotone drone, on this bike the sound is not unpleasant.

Instrumentation is comprehensive, with a rev counter, a speedometer, and a fuel gauge plus an odometer and warning lights for indicators, high beam and low two-stroke oil level. The rev counter is red lined at 8 000 r/min, which looks zooty but, of course, is meaningless since the continuously variable transmission (CVT) determines the limit.

On full throttle, the revs rise to just under 6 000 and more or less stay there while the speedometer needle rises surprisingly rapidly up to an indicated 100 km per hour. While the rev counter’s red line may be out of reach, the speedometer is the opposite, the red segment starting at 80 km per hour easily overrun. With head down, and in the absence of a strong wind, it is possible to explore the maximum capabilities of this little machine.

We achieved an indicated 105 km per hour with the rev counter was touching 7 000 r/min. The engine seemed capable of maintaining this speed for as long as the road conditions allowed and enables one to keep up with traffic, except on fast motorways.

Probably the most annoying problem for any two wheeler is vibration, which can turn any trip into a thoroughly unpleasant experience. Single cylinder machines and parallel twins are especially prone to some form of vibrations, depending on the design of the reciprocating components. Due perhaps to the small size of the piston coupled with suitable engine mountings, the Kymco was totally free of vibration, either in the handle grips, in the mirrors or at one’s backside. This means that long trips can be undertaken in comfort (provided that there are filling stations along the way).

The handling was stable at speeds of up to 80 km per hour but cornering above this speed resulted in a weaving motion, which, while not dangerous, was sufficient notification that this bike was not meant for high-speed manoeuvers.

The seat height measured at about 800 mm, which is on the high side and may scare off potential customers and result in lost sales. Anyone shorter than 1,8 m will have to use tip-toes whilst stationary to remain stable. The seat is large enough for a pillion and foldaway pegs are provided plus a small luggage rack behind the seat, which can be used as a grab handle. A back-up kick-start lever is fitted to the left hand side engine case in case the battery goes flat.

Acceleration is sufficient to keep ahead of 90 per cent of the four-wheeled fraternity and the Cobra takes about 16 seconds to reach 80 km per hour. It is quite a pleasure to come up to a robot, amble to the front of the queue of cars and vans, then with a flick of the wrist, accelerate away and leave them in a wisp of smoke while they do the usual ritual (in Cape Town, anyway) of first waking up, then realizing that the lights have turned green, followed by a complex thought pattern as to whether they need to engage the clutch, which gear is the best for pulling away, etc – by which time the lights have turned to amber, everyone is going red in the face and the little scooter has disappeared into the distance.

A 50 km trip at night ended up being a wet weather test with constant driving rain throughout the journey. This was fortunate since it gave us an opportunity to check the level of shelter against rainstorms and the result was a pleasant surprise. With a rain suit for upper body protection, the leg shield to keep one’s legs and feet dry and with plastic finger guards to defect wind and rain from the hands, the journey was quite comfortable with hands and bum only starting to get wet towards the end of the 50 minute trip. The twin headlights look the business and provide reasonable illumination but could still be beefed up for non-lit streets.

The one aspect to be wary of is fuel consumption, especially with a fuel gauge (similar to many car fuel gauges), which sat on the full mark for 50 km and then dropped rapidly to nudge reserve after the next 50 km. With a smallish 5,5 l tank capacity (including 1,5 l reserve), plus the fact that two strokes are not as fuel efficient as four stroke engines, one needs to keep an eye on that gauge and the odometer. For trips longer than 100 km it may pay to keep a bottle of petrol stashed under the seat for emergencies.

Talking of stashing stuff under the seat, one of the major advantages of a scooter (over a motorcycle) is in stowage space. With the Cobra, two storage compartments are provided. The larger one, situated under the lockable seat, can house a full face helmet or a decent bit of shopping, while the other, below the handlebars, also lockable, is big enough for gloves, a light rain jacket or similarly small items. Also provided is a steel helmet hook that locks when the seat is closed.

As far as basic maintenance is concerned, the Kei-Hin carburettor is easily accessible while the air filter element is of the oil bath type, and can be washed out and re-treated with oil. The spark plug should be changed every 5000 km and is accessible via a removable panel below the seat structure, while the gearbox takes 120 ml of SAE 90 oil and recommended change intervals are after the first 300 km followed by further changes every 5000 km.

Great style, weather protection, good acceleration and stopping attributes, storage space and traffic beating manoeuverability, this is one of the best ways to commute without wasting time or building up road rage – and all for the price of R17 999.