Reducing emissions has never been more important or relevant than it is right now and with combustion engine cars already slowly being phased out of production, it seems an inevitability that two-wheel vehicles will follow suit.
The race is on to perfect alternative methods of powering our transport and electric motorcycles and scooters are improving constantly. That brings us to NIU's latest offering, a CBT-friendly electric scooter – the MQi GT.
Standard vs Extended
This scooter comes in two varieties, the Standard Range (SR) and the Extended Range (ER). They are essentially the same scooter but with a few key differences and I will go over those now before moving on to the road test section. Both versions use the same chassis and components, as well as the same 3kw BOSCH electric engine but what sets them apart is the batteries, with the SR using 31ah EVE batteries and the ER using 42ah Panasonic batteries.
So what does this actually mean? Well, the ER version has a slightly longer 55-mile range compared to the SR's 45 miles. The ER also has a higher top speed, is able to reach 40mph while the SR version tops out at 30mph. The difference in speed means that the SR is able to be ridden by 16-year-olds on a CBT as a 50cc equivalent, where the ER is for 17+.
Perhaps the other key difference is the price. Both of these scooters are eligible for the 20% OLEV UK grant with the SR ending up at around £2,700 and the ER at £3,500. I think those are some pretty competitive prices for electric bikes, especially when you consider the extremely low maintenance costs involved. No petrol costs and no oils, in the long term you may actually save money as well as the environment!
The NIU MQi GT SR
That's a lot of letters but this is the scooter we got to test out the Standard Range edition. Again, both scooters are the same apart from the key issues I mentioned above so most of my opinions here will cover both models.
I was pleasantly surprised in a lot of ways with this scooter. The overall build quality seems excellent, everything was sturdy, and nothing looked cheap or flimsy. Obviously, it is a relatively new company so we don't know exactly what the long-term reliability will be but user reviews from other NIU models are generally positive on that score as well.
The visual design is clean and pleasing to the eye. The SR version comes in white, grey or black, but the ER throws in a couple of additional paint schemes with red and blue options too. All the lights are LED with a nice large round headlight that has great visibility and some very cool underslung indicators at the front that comes down from the bars.
The seat height is 816mm which is relatively high for a scooter, especially one available to 16 year olds. I am 5 feet 10 inches and couldn't quite get both feet flat on it, so if you are a shorter rider, it may be a little awkward.
The scooter is as light as a feather however, even with both batteries installed it only weighs 113 kilos, so moving it around is effortless. For me, there was plenty of legroom, as well as a very comfy seat. The MQi GT has some cool little wings on the side that serve as spacious footrests too. Combined with how easy this 'twist and go' is to ride, fatigue is a non-factor.
Super lightweight performance
Let's get into some of the performance aspects of the MQi GT. Firstly the brakes: we have a 220mm hydraulic disc on the front and a 180mm on the rear. This NIU uses a linked electronic braking system which is pretty common when not using ABS and means that squeezing one brake will automatically apply both. The brakes on the MQi were nice and responsive, a simple squeeze gives immediate results and gets you slowed down in no time. In fact, I would say these brakes are a standout and can compete with the best in the category!
When it comes to the suspension, I couldn't really find any info on it. I can see looking at it we have some kind of dual shock on the rear, but the website doesn't list any of the tech specs for it. All I can say is that it felt absolutely fine. We were travelling at low speeds in mostly urban environments, which is clearly what this scooter is designed for but even when I ventured out into the countryside, it absorbed the back road bumps pretty smoothly too.
As I said before, this scooter is clearly intended as an urban machine. Even the chassis is very slim and streamline, obviously designed with the potential for filtering through traffic in mind. You could definitely squeeze into gaps most bikes wouldn't fit into. When I did ride out onto the back roads it was a bit of a stretch to get there on the SR version. Going 30mph in a 40 zone is a struggle but the ER version, with its 40mph top speed, would have performed much better here, so that is something to think about if you are sizing up which of these MQi models is for you.
When it comes to agility, that is one of this scooter's biggest strengths. Thin, compact and super lightweight, the MQi GT is very easy to control and has a lovely sharp turning circle that corners like a dream.
Technology is key
There is plenty of modern technology here as you might expect from a cutting-edge electric scooter. There is a keyless ignition; you can stick the key inside but turning it will only activate the steering lock or open the under-seat storage compartment, but we will get to that in a bit. There is also cruise control, which is pretty unusual, especially in the 50cc comparable SR version. Although to be honest, I never felt the need to use it.
There is smartphone connectivity with the NIU app that offers various diagnostic features as well as a locator and anti-theft alerts. The LED dash is nice and large with all the info about your trip, speed and battery levels really easy to see at a glance, which is just how I like it.
The MQi also has self-cancelling indicators which is a nice touch, but I found that they didn't always work. When the indicator is running, it lets out a subtle beeping sound and due to the silent nature of the scooter, it is pretty easy to hear it anyway.
Choose your mode
The MQi GT has 3 rider modes as standard: ‘E-save’, ‘Dynamic’ and ‘Sport’. The ‘E-save’ does what it says on the tin, limiting the max speed to 18 mph to help stretch the mile range as far as possible. The ‘Dynamic’ mode is where I spent the first half of my time on this ride and allows you up to 29mph with potentially the best mix of performance and energy efficiency. The final ride mode, ‘Sport’, works a bit differently depending on which version of the GT you have. In the Standard Range (SR) model it increases the top speed from 29mph up to... 30mph. Not exactly a huge leap. On the Extended Range (ER) version, however, ‘Sport’ mode gives you access to its full 40mph top speed.
What I will say about the ‘Sport’ mode on the SR is that even though it only gave me an extra 1mph, the acceleration to get there was noticeably faster. In fact, the acceleration is pretty good all over, but the ‘Sport’ mode did give it some extra zip. It may have a low top speed, but it can get there in about 3 seconds. As long as you are in slower-moving traffic, the MQi GT can keep up no problem. I also discovered that riding in ‘Sport’ on the SR version didn't seem to put any extra drain on the battery, so after spending the rest of the ride in ‘Sport’ with the throttle pulled back fully, I was still well on track to meet the 45-mile range without any problems.
As a final note on the ride modes, there is a little button that you can simply push to change on the fly while riding. So at any point in a traffic jam or particularly slow-moving area, you could just ping it into ‘E-save’ and go back up to ‘Dynamic’ or ‘Sport’ as soon as you come out of it.
My only real concerns here apply to all-electric models and not just specific to this scooter. One thing I always struggle to get used to is how quiet they are. Aside from just missing the revving of an engine when I twist the throttle, having a loud engine can help make sure other drivers know you are there, and you are coming through. On an electric bike, we have to rely on unobservant drivers actually seeing us.
The other issue is the range. At 45 miles, the MQi SR isn't going on any long journeys, and you will need to constantly keep an eye on that battery meter to make sure you can make it home. However to be fair, charging stations are popping up all over the UK now, and the latest batteries in this scooter are very fast to charge up, so things are definitely improving on that score.
The other standard-issue here is the lack of storage space. The under-seat compartment houses the batteries so there is about enough room for a pair of gloves inside. There is a hook on the front you can hang a bag on but if you need anything more, you might want to think about getting a top box. Fortunately, you can get these fairly cheaply, but the total amount of storage will always be lower. If you are looking for further storage space, take a read of our motorcycle and scooter luggage guide.
Under the seat we have a pair of EVE 31ah batteries, they can be charged individually in 4 hours or as a pair together in 4.5. To charge together they do need to be inside the scooter, but you can take them out and charge them individually too. Again, this little scooter is obviously designed for urban activity and that is what it excels at. Short journeys through town are effortless and fun and if you needed the full 45 mile range to get to work you could always charge them up while you are there, ready for the trip home.
The Extended Range version ups this to 55 miles and combined with the faster top speed of 40mph, makes it quite a bit more versatile than the SR I had to play with. If you are 17 or over, I think it would be worth the extra £700 to get the version that can handle more demanding journeys (although it is clearly still an urban commuter). The Panasonic batteries in the ER do take a bit longer to charge at 6 hours, however, the estimated electricity cost to fully charge them is just 55p. So, after the initial investment (£3,500 for the ER), comparing this to running a scooter with a traditional engine, it is still a very economical option.
Summing it up
Overall I enjoyed this little scooter. It is tremendously easy to ride, smooth and agile with responsive brakes. The top speed on the SR is very low but it is on most 50cc models. I could see this making a great first scooter for youngsters, but older riders will want to spend the extra cash on the ER version. It has the same pros and cons as most electric bikes, although the initial cost is getting lower now. If you aren't yet sold on electric bikes this might not do it, if you are then this is a good little option and a very capable town scooter.
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