New Bike Guide

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Tech Specs

F15 Firefox

Single cylinder 2-stroke 49cc liquid cooled, catalyst exhaust (Euro 2), electric and kick-start, reed-valve induction. Automatic V-belt transmission with centrifugal clutch.

Tubular steel frame, twin front forks and swingarm rear suspension. 200mm front disc and 190mm rear disc, both with single piston calipers.

120/70 x 12 front tyre
130/70 x 12 rear tyre

Length: 1780mm
Wheelbase: 1268mm
Seat height: 820mm
Dry weight: 96kg
Fuel capacity: 7lit

Price: £1,849

Malaguti F15 Firefox

Road test by Dick Henneman

click for larger imageIf you're 16 and need wheels, then there's no doubt that style is a big issue in what you're going to buy. The law may say that you can only do 30mph, but there's a big difference in doing 30mph in a "cool" fashion and doing it on something that will simply get you from A to B. In today's style-conscious society, appearance counts for a lot and perhaps nowhere is that more true than in the 50cc scooter market. But in spite of initiatives to ease urban congestion, and in particular the Inner London Charging Scheme, the majority of small scooters are still purchased by or for teenagers and for them, if it doesn't like right. then no matter how good the engineering or the technology, they're not going to buy it.

click for larger imageThe technology of the 50cc scooter is pretty much a tried and tested thing, and the legal restrictions here on power mean that performance comparisons between different manufacturers and models is a fairly meaningless exercise. But when Malaguti first introduced the F15 Firefox back in 1996, it was an immediate hit with the fashionable Italian youth. With its sharp looks and lively but not overstated colour schemes, it quickly became the urban tool of choice for the discerning, and thousands filled the streets of Italian towns and cities. In the UK, those in the know also picked up on the Firefox, but it was never a big seller because of distribution issues. That was a shame because it really is a very good scooter.

click for larger imageThe telescopic front forks and the single-sided rear swingarm give a firm, smooth ride, and in spite of the small wheels the Firefox copes well with the irregularities of urban road surfaces. Even good-sized potholes don't seem to worry it too much, and the majority of "speed bumps" can be taken flat-out without having to back off the throttle and lose that all-important forward momentum. Part of this could be down to the design of the rear swingarm. Now a significant proportion of a scooter's weight is in the rear swingarm/engine assembly and this aften results in either a very firm or a very wallowy ride depending on damping and spring settings used by the manufacturer. On the Firefox, Malaguti have mounted the engine horizontally at the front of the swingarm, and while this doesn't decrease the mass, it does act as a counterbalance to the rear wheel movement which means that slightly lower spring and damping rates can be used.

Scooters are renowned for their maneouverability in traffic, much to the discomfort of motorists, and the Firefox really excels in weaving through the traffic and getting to the front of the queue. The crisp engine pickup and the smooth centrifugal clutch were an excellent supplement to the suspension and handling in this environment, and with the Firefox traffic jams became a fun event, rather than a pain in the backside.

click for larger imageFrom the front the Firefox appears to be a little bit wider than the opposition, but on the move this is no impediment to its traffic-busting properties. In fact you might argue that it makes the scooter more visible, and therefore could reduce the chance of a "Sorry mate - I didn't see you" incident. The projector-style headlamps certainly help here, and are more than adequate for night riding at the scooter's maximum speed of 33mph, and would probably be just as good when the engine is de-restricted. This should allow you to reach a heady speed of about 45mph. The disc brakes front and rear work well, and have a firm and progressive action that only needs a light pressure on both levers to bring the scooter to a quick and controlled stop.

click for larger imageThe big mirrors are also very effective, although they look a bit out of scale to the rest of the bike; in fact they wouldn't be out of place on a litre superbike, but they certainly add to the road prescence of the Firefox. However, the "piece de resistance" on the Firefox must be its LCD instrument panel. This shows speed in miles per hours, engine revs, battery voltage, total and trip miles covered, the time, and it even has a lap timer so that you can find out how long it takes you to get to the chippy and back! Two outer dials house warning lights for low fuel and oil levels, high coolant temperature, indicators and main beam. On the inside of the front fairing there's useful bag hook for carrying takeaways and cans of cola, and a small lockable panel that conceals the fuse panel and the coolant header tank and has enough space left over for a few small oddments. Unlock the seat and tip it forward to get to the fuel and 2-stroke oil filler caps, and there's also enough space here to store a full-face helmet (or a very large portion of extra fries).

click for larger image


The overall build quality of the Firefox is excellent; all the body panels have a solid feel and fit well, and there were no squeaks or rattles from the scooter, however bad the road surface. The paint finish is rich and deep, and although the model that was tested had only covered 14 miles, and there had been no real chance for any corrosion of fasteners and the like to occur, there was every indication that the Firefox would survive a number of British winters without too much damage. The rear hugger and the long mudflap will also help to keep the worse of the road muck at bay, and there's a useful steel security hoop welded to the right-hand side of the chassis that can be used to chain the scooter to a large immovable object.

So if you're style-conscious and in the market for some 50cc twist 'n' go wheels, the F15 Firefox is definitely worth a second look, especially as all UK Malagutis now come with a 2-year warranty.


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