Most commuters are simply looking for something cheap, cheerful and reliable to get them to work and back. If you’re buying new that usually means something of oriental origin. In recent years more and more Far Eastern manufacturers have battled for market share, especially in the budget sector. Many of the dodgy brands (and fly by night traders) have disappeared (thankfully) but last year no fewer than 96 brands of Chinese powered two wheeler were registered in the UK. Unsurprisingly there are still some really bad quality Chinese machines out there but there are also some very good ones. If you shop wisely you can still get a tidy looking, perfectly useful 125 for as little as £1500, complete with dealer back up and warranty. Which brings us nicely on to this Zontes Panther 125.
Zontes are distributed in the UK through Clements Moto, the same people who are behind the respected Baotian range of scooters. I’ve ridden quite a few Baotian scooters but this was the first Zontes bike I’ve sampled. You often get a preconceived idea of a bike before seeing it in the flesh and I was expecting some cheap looking bike, after all it costs just £1500 to buy so wasn’t likely to look too pretty up close. Or was it? In actual fact it’s very well finished and although the styling is simple it is quite pretty, which means it’ll not embarrass you if somebody on a more expensive bike pulls alongside. To be honest I was very pleasantly surprised by the whole look and feel of the bike.
The Panther has a nice comfortable riding position with a low seat height, so it’s perfect for novice riders and it starts easily on the button. The new engine was a little bit tight to begin with (as all new bikes are) but it loosened up nicely throughout the day. The Panther has disc brakes, front and rear, which is good news because most budget bikes in this price range just get a simple drum rear brake. The Panther also has twin piggyback rear shocks, they’re adjustable too so that’s another good selling point but they worked well enough on the standard settings. Wheels are 18” front, 17” rear and are fitted with CST rubber, a common budget brand; they grip well enough in the dry but we didn’t get chance to sample them in the wet. Other details include a chrome heat shield on the exhaust and a back up kickstart just in case you need it. There’s also a small but useful rear carrier as standard. Even the colour matched coating on the engine looked like it was painted to last and helped to give the bike a quality looking finish. Instrument wise the Panther has smart looking analogue clocks with a chrome surround. The clocks are easy to read and showed just a tad over 70mph whilst we had it, there’s also a trip meter and rev counter, plus a fuel gauge and gear position indicator (which could do with being a bit brighter). Fuel consumption was good at 80.14mpg; the bike was ridden flat out for most of the day though so could easily be improved.
All in all the Zontes Panther is well priced, well built and rides as good as anything in this price range. I’d say it’s £1500 well spent.