Cape Town - If the Gomoto Mantis II is anything to go by, establishment scootermakers had better start looking over their shoulders. Forget about the original Mantis we reviewed in 2006, which was an unremarkable 150cc effort with mediocre performance, fragmented styling and some rough edges.
The rounded, generic bodywork that made it difficult to tell one brand from another without reading the badge has given way to crisp, sharp-edged panels in the Italian "piega" (fold) style but with distinctive touches around the oil cooler in the top of the leg shield, the underbody panels and the very neat LED tail light that make the Son of Mantis very much its own scooter.
Twin projector headlights, a very stylish LCD instrument panel - which I'm told is made in Taiwan for this model - and a cast-alloy rear carrier with integral passenger grab handles complete the package.
There's storage under the seat for a full-face helmet and a small but lockable compartment inside the leg shield for keys and garage-door transponders. Quality of fit and finish is a cut above what we've had to accept from China in the past; the Mantis II is perhaps the first Chinese scooter in which I would take real pride of ownership.
But the proof of the bike, as always, is in the riding. The Mantis II has an all-new, 169cc air/oil-cooled SOHC single for which Gomoto claims 12.6kW at 7000rpm and an impressive-sounding but unlikely 17.8Nm at 5000.
The veracity of these performance claims was further confused on the test Mantis by the presence of a badge that said "Bosson Performance Exhausts" on the sexy aluminium tailpipe. Yes, Cyril, the Mantis is the first scooter I've been offered for review with an aftermarket sports can as a factory option!
It adds R500 to the R14 499 sticker price and, believe me, you'll think it's worth every cent the first time you thumb the start button. Gomoto assures me it's street legal but it speaks to the world with all the authority of a big-single supermoto machine.
Apart from the Grin Factor - which is huge - it announces your presence in no uncertain terms to the box pilots* who seem to be telling the absolute truth when they say: "Sorry, I didn't see you!"
Crack it wide open from a standing start and the revs go straight up to the torque peak 5000rpm with an exuberant "Bl-a-at" from the tailpipe and stay there while the rest of the CVT drive train catches up and the digital speedometer scrolls rapidly up to about 80km/h.
The acceleration then tails off, as always with single-speeders, as engine speed builds up to just under 7000rpm with 104km/h showing on the astonishingly accurate speedo - the GPS reading on our best run was 102!
PETAL BRAKE DISCS
Despite the full-tilt sound track the engine seems reassuringly understressed, maintaining an 80km/h cruise up Cape Town's steeper freeways and refusing to over-rev on the way down. It also returned a respectable 4.22 litres/100km despite being ridden practically everywhere flat out.
Gomoto's literature mentions a petal brake disc on each wheel but the test bike had a conventional platter on the front which nevertheless worked well. The specification sheet also details "mechanical anti-lock brakes" - actually just a pressure relief valve on the front circuit - which I couldn't find. Maybe it's hidden under the body panels.
SLICE THROUGH TRAFFIC
As usual on scooter the rear brake is more powerful than the front but either used with intent will do the job briskly in traffic and used together they'll stop it like running into wet cement.
A generous 1372mm wheelbase and 13" rims give the Mantis plenty of room behind the legshields for longer, Western legs and commendable stability, especially on longer bends where it's most welcome.
Like most scooters, however, it still turns in like a terrier after a rat and slices through rush-hour traffic with serious intent, helped not a little by an overall width (across the handlebars!) of only 711mm.
Ah yes, the handlebars; one of the few places where Gomoto has let the side down is in the switchgear, which is plasticky and a little vague in operation. It worked fine during the week we had the Mantis but didn't have the solid, quality feel of the rest of the bike.
The Gomoto Mantis II, especially with the aftermarket pipe, makes its presence felt without being obnoxious; its sharp styling and neat finish, however, earn it the summation: Commuter with Class.
Price (as tested): R14 999.
Test bike from: Gomoto SA.
Bore x stroke: 57.4 x 57.8mm.
Compression ratio: 9.2:1.
Valvegear: SOHC with two overhead valves per cylinder.
Power (claimed): 7kW at 6500rpm.
Torque (claimed): 11Nm at 5000rpm
Induction:24mm KT slide carburettor with automatic choke.
Starting: Electric and kick.
Clutch: Centrifugal automatic.
Transmission: Constantly variable belt drive.
Front: Conventional cartridge forks.
Rear: Dual hydraulic shock absorbers adjustable for preload.
Front: 216mm disc with twin-piston floating calliper.
Rear: Petal disc with single-piston floating calliper.
Front: 130/60 - 13 tubeless.
Rear: 130/60 - 13 tubeless.
Seat height: 890mm.
Dry weight: 115kg.
9 litres, 4.22 litres/100km (measured).
One year or 5000km mechanical warranty, three months unlimited distance electrical warranty.
R12 999 - Vuka ML150
R15 600 - Loncin LX150 T-5
R18 995 - Kymco People S200
Bike from: Gomoto SA
* Car drivers: A car is, after all, a tin box with a wheel at each corner.