Though they produce motorcycles, ATVs, and automobiles in other regions, Sym’s UK operation focuses on scooters.
And like the other Taiwanese brand we covered, Kymco, Sym is better thought of as a value company rather than a budget one.
They’re one of the most popular domestic manufacturers in their home country, and the brand is well-known throughout Asia.
Expect to pay somewhere between the high price of a new scooter from the big three and the dazzlingly low cost of a generic Chinese factory bike.
The range of scooters offered in the UK is mostly practical commuting machines with a few maxi scooters thrown in. And the components and finish of Sym’s machines are a little ahead of many East Asian competitors.
They’ve become popular enough in the UK that we thought it’d be worth taking a look.
Sym History – Who Are They?
Sym motorcycle company was founded in 1954 in Hsinchu County, Taiwan, as Sanyang Motor Co. Sayang was initially a collaboration with Honda Japan to expand their manufacturing operation overseas.
This early relationship with such an industry leader lends credibility to the Sym brand. This is something often lacking in such import brands. Sym manufactured Honda motorcycles, scooters, and cars until 2002 when the contract ended.
Sym’s current contract sees them manufacturing cars and mini-trucks under the Hyundai badge throughout Asia.
This is another validation of the quality of their operation. Hyundai is no small company and chooses partners carefully.
Sym is free to produce its own motorcycles, ATVs, and scooters. Sadly, only scooters are available in the UK.
The Sym Range
Sym Fiddle 50cc
A 50cc with character is hard to come by. With lines and curves from the golden era of Italian scooters, the Fiddle is a stylish way to get around from age 16.
The heritage-inspired fairing, deep metallic colours, and stylishly placed vents give this machine a classy look that’s too often absent in smaller scooters.
With a comfortable seat, a decent amount of under-seat storage, and a simple-but-effective digital dash, this machine has everything you need to get started.
It’s by no means the liveliest feeling 50cc we’ve ever looked at, with its 3.2hp. But the seating position and low weight make it a fun little scooter.
Sym Fiddle 125
The 125 version of the Fiddle uses the same classic outline as its smaller cousin. Here, the larger displacement and fuel-injected engine give better performance while the larger tank increases range.
The fuel economy is also good, making this an attractive commuter with low running costs.
Other changes to the latest model include full LED lighting and a lower flatter seat. The latter contributes to this being a pretty fun machine to ride.
At 9.5hp, it’s no powerhouse. But it accelerates well thanks to its low weight and feels good to corner on.
The looks are the real winner here.
Far too many scooters aim for this type of classic look and get it wrong. There’s not much originality in the Fiddle’s aesthetic, but it’s borrowed some of the best features of Piaggio’s history.
Sym Jet 125 (air-cooled and liquid-cooled)
With a very maxi-style fairing and two models available, the Jet is a solid choice for urban riding. The air-cooled model sacrifices a tiny amount of performance and comes in a little cheaper, while the liquid-cooled model has some extra power and versatility.
Both use a practical, combined braking system, have ample storage, and offer excellent weather protection.
The 14-inch wheels combined with its low 770mm seat mean the Jet handles well – especially in urban environments. It feels nimble but remains stiff and dependable at higher speeds. Larger wheels mean this feels good on the motorway too.
The liquid-cooled model is probably the one to buy. At only 200GBP more than the air-cooled model, it’s hard to justify purchasing the slower, less performance-oriented one.
Previous iterations of this one had smaller, sportier fairing. This gave them a more traditional, less maxi aspect. We prefer what they’ve done here in terms of commuting. The extra plastic and windscreen do a great job keeping the worst of the weather off you.
Joymax Z 125
The Joymax Z has been a considerable success for Sym internationally. With its large windscreen, modern styling, agile handling, and next-level riding experience, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. It goes for armchair comfort levels by using a two-level seat and wide handlebars.
This ergonomic seat allows for many miles of comfort for riders and passengers. This is a sticking point with a lot of scooters. So much of the weight is on your rear end compared to motorcycles. The Joymax handles this well, distributing the weight more evenly than other scooters we’ve tried.
A respectable max power rating of 14.1hp means you can get some poke from this machine. It hits its maximum of 61mph reasonably quickly.
Thankfully, it also stops quickly thanks to its front and rear disc ABS brakes. The maxi styling and large fairing mightn’t be for everyone, but there’s no denying that this is an attractive option at the price.
Joymax Z 300
This is the larger version of the Joymax Z. It uses the same bold, futuristic fairing, comfortable seat, and hanging bars but packs a 300cc engine. This gives it a respectable 27hp to play with. At 184kg, the Joymax Z isn’t exactly lightweight, but its power makes it feel pretty nimble.
The 80mph top speed means this is a motorway capable machine. These kinds of maxi-scooters are built to offer car-like comfort levels and are made as a car alternative for highways in Asia. Weather protection from the generous fairing is therefore top-notch.
The 300cc version of the Joymax Z makes a lot of sense for someone who commutes via motorway or who wants to do some weekend touring. With plenty of storage, lots of power, and next-level comfort, this is a very tour-capable scooter.
Sym Orbit 125
The Orbit is a smaller, lighter, racier take on a commuting scooter.
If the maxi stylings of the Joymax Z and the Jet aren’t doing it for you, this might be more your speed.
Taking its cues from more typical urban machines, the Orbit is as user-friendly and low-maintenance as you could hope for. It also uses the same engine and transmission system as the Jet series.
One performance feature here that’s worth pointing out is the anti-lift engine hanger system (ALEH). On a typical scooter, acceleration causes the machine’s front end to lift. This results in instability and unpredictable handling. Sym uses a proprietary engine mounting system that allows the relative position of the engine and chassis to stay the same during acceleration.
The fuel-injected engine is smooth, reliable, and fuel-efficient – getting close to 100mpg. A combined braking system will help you slow down safely in emergencies, and the front and rear shocks are perfect for paved city streets.
Overall, this is the most utilitarian of Sym’s UK range and is a no-frills, value scooter.
Sym Symphony 125
The Symphony owes some of its design to Honda’s classic Wave. This scooter and other similar machines needed moderate capabilities in the mud and city streets. Consequently, they developed a geared scooter with large 18″ wheels.
With the Symphony, the gears have been dropped but the larger wheel diameter retained. This isn’t by any means an off-roader, but with its bigger wheel and wheel clearance, it’s more capable in patchy conditions than an average scooter.
Anyone who’s rented a scooter in Thailand and other south-east Asian nations will be familiar with this type of riding experience (at least in terms of the bike!).
The combination of those larger wheels, a relatively high seat (792mm), and an upright riding position mean you’re visible to traffic and aware of your surroundings.
Add in the generous under-seat storage, front storage compartment, USB charging port, and a 7.5-litre tank, and you’ve got a first-rate commuter.