Unagi Model One e-scooter review: Style over substance

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Update: The Unagi Model E450 is now succeeded by the new Unagi Model One E500 Electric Scooter. Both devices share many of the same features, but the newer version weighs less and has a better optimum range. It’s also currently available at a huge discount (more than £200 off), though we’re not sure how long this offer is valid for.

First launched as a Kickstarter project in 2018, the Unagi Model One has been dubbed the “Tesla of e-scooters” and it’s easy to see why. Now available in four colours, its made from the same materials used in SpaceX rockets and spacecraft. Apart from that, it’s also lightweight and easy to carry without compromising on sturdiness and durability.

Among other selling points, the Model One has an easy-folding system, a bright front light, always-on rear light and airless rubber tyres that will never puncture. But how is the ride quality and does its high-tech specification justify its steep price?

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Unagi Model One review: What you need to know

All Unagi Model One units stocked by Pure Electric are not only covered by a full one-year warranty (the battery is covered for an additional year and the frame for life) but the website also offers a generous 30-day money-back guarantee if you’re unhappy with your purchase.

The model we tested is the Unagi Model One E450 Dual Motor. This name signifies its total power, since it has 225W motors in both wheels. There’s also a single-motor 250W model, aptly named the Unagi Model One E250, but this isn’t currently available.

READ NEXT: Xiaomi M365 review

With magnesium alloy handlebars, a Japanese carbon fibre steerer tube and a deck made from machined aluminium, the Model One’s build quality puts most rival e-scooters to shame. To make it even more alluring, it also comes in a choice of four colours: Cosmic Blue, Gotham (grey), Sea Salt (white) and Matt Black.

Unfortunately, though, the law remains an obstacle to riding it on roads, pavements and cycle lanes in the UK. Unlike some US and European cities where e-scooters are permitted, riders caught using them anywhere but on private land in the UK can be handed a £300 fixed-penalty notice along with six points on their driving licence. Having said that, this hasn’t deterred many people from using e-scooters as a form of commuter transit.

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Unagi Model One review: Price and competition

At £699, the Unagi Model One is at the upper end of what you might expect to pay for an electric scooter with its range of features. To put things into perspective, our current favourite e-scooter, the Xiaomi M365 Pro is £150 cheaper and has the same top speed (15mph), along with almost double the range (45km vs 25km) from a single charge.

Another rival that’s priced more similarly to the Model One is the Ninebot-Segway ES4, which costs £490 and has a top speed of 19mph and the same 45km range as the Xiaomi M365 Pro.

READ NEXT: Xiaomi M365 Pro review

Crucially, though, the Model One differentiates itself from both models in two significant ways. First, it has a 450W dual-motor arrangement, in comparison to Xiaomi and Ninebot-Segway’s 300W single rear-motor designs. Second, its lightweight materials make the Model One more than 3kg lighter than both its rivals.

If you’re put off by the risk of being handed points on your driving licence for riding an e-scooter, it’s worth highlighting that you can buy a budget folding e-bike such as the B’Twin Tilt 500 Electric for only £650. At 18.6 kgs, it’s much bigger and bulkier than an e-scooter, but you can still bring it with you on a commuter train.

Unagi Model One review: Design and setup

The Unagi Model One arrives assembled for the most part, although its handlebar needs to be attached using four supplied screws and an Allen key. The main thing to remember before doing this is to attach the cable inside the steerer tube to that inside the handlebar. Thanks to the connectors, this is as simple as attaching two pieces of Lego.

Where most e-scooters use a lever to lock them in an unfolded state, the Unagi Model One claims to be the world’s first ‘one-click’ folding scooter. Simply push the slider-button at the bottom of its carbon steerer tube when you want to fold or unfold the scooter and the rest is as simple as lifting or dropping down the handlebars.

This neat design means the handlebar hangs suspended in mid-air over the rear wheel when it’s folded, which looks as though it might not be secure. In reality, though, it stays safely locked when the scooter is being carried and also looks much more elegant than the Xiaomi M365 Pro’s design, where the bell locks the handlebar to the mudguard.

The Unagi’s carbon steerer tube, which narrows towards the middle, also makes carrying the Model One easier than many of its rivals. Other e-scooters are not only often much heavier than 11kg but their wider tubing can make it more difficult to grip, especially if you have to lug it for longer than a few minutes.

Unlike the Xiaomi, which has pneumatic tyres that need to be pumped up, the Unagi Model One has 7.5-inch puncture-proof rubber wheels with air pockets. As such, you don’t need to inflate them before riding – or ever – and you can have the e-scooter set up and ready to ride within 10 minutes.

Once assembled, the Unagi Model One is a sight to behold, regardless of which colour you choose. There are barely any visible wires and the red reflectors on both wheels work to accentuate the scooter’s slick, minimalistic design. The grippy, silicone top layer on the deck, which has the Unagi name emblazoned on it, is another nice touch compared to the plain designs of other e-scooters.

The scooter should come part-charged but it’s still a good idea to charge it up fully before your first ride. To do this, you simply connect the included power supply to the small port hidden beneath a flap beside the scooter’s kickstand – this is neatly tucked into the deck, so only a sliver of it is visible.

The light on the charger turns from green to red when it’s fully charged, but there’s no indication of charging progress on the handlebar display itself. From empty, the scooter’s 3200mAh LG battery takes about five hours to charge. Unagi claims the batteries last for several years even with daily usage, and the Pure Scooter warranty covers it for two years or 500 complete charge cycles.

Like most other e-scooters, you need to kick off with your free foot before you can use the motor to accelerate. To do this, you simply push the throttle paddle on the right handlebar; to slow down you use the paddle on the left handlebar, which activates the scooters e-brakes.

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Unagi Model One review: Features and performance

Above each of the paddles is a button, and these perform a variety of different functions. The one above the left-hand brake paddle, for instance, activates the electric horn if you long-press it. This emits a loud beeping sound, which was usually either mistaken for a car alarm or startled people, depending on how close I was to them at the time of using it.

Pressing the button above the accelerator paddle, on the other hand, performs one of two different functions. Pressing it once displays your current trip and total mileage on the screen.

A double-press lets you switch between three riding modes, indicated at the bottom of the dashboard, “1” signifying Beginner mode, “2” Intermediate and “3” Advanced mode. Each of these modes has a subsequently higher top-speed starting from 9mph to its max top speed of 15mph.

Similarly, the power button also has two different functions. Apart from turning the scooter on and off, it activates dual-motor mode when it’s double-pressed, giving you a total of six different riding options to choose from in total.

It’s good practice to turn on the 47-lumen front light at all times, which serves the dual purpose of brightening your path and alerting others to your presence. This, too, is activated using the main power button. Just press it once to toggle it on and off. The Unagi Model One also has a rear LED, which is always-on by default and also flashes when you press the brake.

While the dashboard’s default units are miles, you can switch to kilometres by pressing and holding the left and right buttons simultaneously for two seconds. Although all these button functions sound like a lot to get your head around, I found they became second-nature after using the scooter for a few days. Clear instructions are also provided in a Quick Start Guide should you need to remind yourself.

The Model One does a decent job of displaying all the relevant information including speed, distance travelled, battery status, light status, motor mode, and riding mode on one compact screen.

One disappointment, however, is that the e-scooter only has a five-bar indicator to show how much juice you have left. I prefer the way the M365 Pro does it, indicating battery remaining as a percentage using the accompanying mobile app. I found it was best to assume each bar would last around 3km when riding on flat surfaces in single-motor mode.

While some e-scooters allow you to access settings and other extras via an accompanying app, the Unagi Model One lacks that feature. Perhaps most significantly, this means you can’t lock your scooter’s motor remotely, so you need to be extra careful if you leave it unattended.

Among the Model One’s most interesting features are its “airless” rubber tyres. Unlike pneumatic tyres, which are filled with air, these are made from solid rubber with holes cut into them so the tyre can provide some form of shock absorption.

The benefit of airless tyres is that they’re completely puncture-proof. However, you do sacrifice a good degree of comfort over pneumatic tyres. While the Model One electric scooter rides superbly on flat, smooth tarmac, when you’re on paving slabs or any surface that’s less than perfectly smooth, you can feel all the lumps and bumps through your hands and feet.

As such, I found myself regularly looking for the best surface when riding instead of just cruising without care. It’s a big limitation, depending on where you intend to ride the e-scooter.

The Unagi Model One also has an electric braking system, as opposed to disc brakes. Though this exhibits superb stopping power, it’s so effective that on several occasions I found it too abrupt, jerking me forward unexpectedly.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to practise using the left braking paddle at low speeds before you advance to riding anywhere near its maximum speed of 15mph.

One way to do this is by picking the appropriate riding mode. Beginner mode is limited to 9mph and this rises to 12mph and 15mph for the Intermediate and Advanced modes respectively. As for the single- and dual-motor options, the former is fine for flat roads, but dual-motor mode delivers much faster acceleration and is better suited to tackling inclines.

As you might expect, the trade-off is that dual-motor mode drains the battery much faster. To achieve the best combination of speed, comfort and battery life I found that using the scooter in Intermediate and with only one motor activated was the best option. Switching to dual-motor mode is easily done when you notice a hill ahead but, otherwise, I found it best to preserve the battery’s already-limited range.

Another feature the Model One lacks that the Xiaomi e-scooter has is cruise control. This means you have to keep the throttle pressed at all times, which can be tiring for your right thumb, especially when riding for long periods.

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Unagi Model One review: Verdict

There’s no doubt the Unagi Model One is a stunner in the looks department and, thanks to its lightweight design, it won’t give you a backache if you carry it for more than a few minutes. However, when you consider the high price, it’s difficult to make a case that it deserves an award.

In particular, its lack of comfort on bumpy roads makes it tricky to recommend over something like the Xiaomi M365 Pro but, if you’re spending almost £700, it’s fair to demand premium features such as cruise control and an accompanying mobile app, too.

There’s plenty to like here, then, but the Unagi isn’t quite the all-round high-tech scooter its design might lead you to believe.



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