Unagi’s Model One : The premium folding electric scooter reviewed

by Jennifer Lee in Review and Scooter on March 29, 2020

A developing market, many of today's folding electric scooters are still unrefined, utilitarian transporters, lacking style with a finish that is only acceptable. Aimed at style conscious consumers, this new scooter is pitched as a premium product and is offered at a considerable cost. Unagi promises the Model One delivers refined performance, that it is not a case of style over substance, we take a ride and find out.

Unagi’s model one at a glance

  • Advanced, lightweight, folding electric scooter
  • Carbon fibre and Aluminium frame
  • Dual 250w brushless motors
  • 280Wh lithium ion battery providing a 15.5mile range
  • Regenerative braking plus emergency fender brake
  • Headlights, brake lights and side reflectors
  • IP54 rated with front and rear mudguards
  • Puncture-proof, maintenance free 7.5in tyres
  • 110cm tall, 96cm long and weighing just 12kg

A fantastic mix of design and engineering

Without exception, this is the best-looking electric scooter we have seen to date. The slender deck profile and narrowing prism stem bless the scooter with a svelte silhouette, somehow communicating its lightweight aspirations before you even touch it. It has a true delicacy to its form, that incredibly slender stem made possible thanks to its carbon fibre construction. Only the headset has any real bulk and this is quick to taper away, the lines of the silicone grip visually lengthening that slender deck, narrowing into the rear wheel.

Unagi Model One Scooter Review detail front
Unagi Model One Scooter Review detail rear

The dedication to surface refinement is admirable. There are no indentations in the handlebar grips and the shallow, delicate pin-striping of the footplate grip is only interrupted by an understated embossing of the manufacturers logo. Shunning the parts-bin sharing strategies of their opponents, everything on Unagi’s scooter is bespoke in its design; from the dashboard inlay, folding mechanism catch and kick-stand, to the shape of the reflectors. It may sound trite, but the Model One truly is a work of art.

Unboxing and powering up the Model One

Shipped in a brown cardboard carton, the glossy retail box inside measures 108x44x19cm. Aiming for a premium unboxing experience, Unagi have included the accessories in a smartphone-style slip-box, secured beneath the folded stem. Inside this printed box is the beautifully finished handlebar, four hex screws, a 3mm hex driver, a power lead, the power adapter and a quick start guide (also available online).

Unagi Model One Scooter Review Unboxing box
Unagi Model One Scooter Review Unboxing box inlay
Unagi Model One Scooter Review Unboxing box inlay contents

Like many others, the electric scooter arrives 90% assembled, requiring you to unfold it and fit the expertly crafted handlebars. Follow the instructions to depress the hinge button, release the stem, connect the plug inside to the handlebars, insert the handlebars into the stem and bolt it in place with the included hardware and tools. Once constructed, there is no companion app installation or fiddly signup/activation procedures with the scooter, it is ready to run right out of the box.

Unagi Model One Scooter Review Unboxed
Unagi Model One Scooter Review installing handlebars front
Unagi Model One Scooter Review installing handlebars rear

Arriving with a storage charge, it is always best to fully charge the scooter before your first ride. On the left hand side of the deck, towards the rear wheel, is a rubber port cover. Flip this open and insert the square charge plug into the yellow socket. The scooter charges in a little under 5 hours from flat, the small LED on the charging brick changing from red to green when complete. Relatively compact in size and utilising the common ‘figure 8’ plug, the charger can easily be carried in a handbag or backpack.

Unagi Model One Scooter Review charge port
Unagi Model One Scooter Review charge port installed
Unagi Model One Scooter Review charger

Bespoke dashboard and display

Every touch point on the scooter is refined but the beautiful handlebars, (milled from a single piece of lightweight magnesium alloy) are exquisite. Painted to match the rest of the frame, the cockpit has a glossy T-shaped insert beneath which the floating display resides. From top to bottom, this minimalist, bright-white LED dashboard indicates if the headlight is active, the current speed, dual/single motor status, odometer, remaining battery capacity and riding mode. The panel is bright in output and clear enough to read on a bright day. Inset below the display, featureless and potentially easy to miss, is the circular power button.

Unagi Model One Scooter Review handlebars work of art

Split across the rear edge of the bars are a pair of buttons and paddles that operate the scooter. Situated where your thumbs naturally fall, the left hand paddle operates the brake whilst the right is the accelerator. The left hand button above triggers the horn, whilst the right cycles the odometer between trip and total distance at a press, or cycles between riding modes with a double tap. The odometer/speedo defaults to imperial but can be switched to metric by holding both the horn and riding mode buttons in for two seconds.

Unagi Model One Scooter Review handlebar paddles
Unagi-Model-One-Scooter-Review-dashboard
Unagi Model One Scooter Review handlebar button

All four of these inputs are soft to the touch, the paddles offering enough throw for fine control of the scooter. The whole piece is terminated at each end by smooth grey silicone grips. Whilst lacking a traditional texture, the soft-to-the-touch material offers fantastic grip even when wet.

A fantastic finish

The superior quality and refined tactile experience the scooter radiates cannot be exaggerated; Unagi’s model one has a finish usually reserved for luxury cars. Available in one of four colours, the painted and laminated frame has a beautiful, silky appearance that contrasts against the bright silver of the forks/hinge and satin black/gloss ring of the wheel hubs. From the soft silicone of the grips, charge port cover and deck to the smooth sculpted stem, almost all the touch points exude opulence, only the hard plastic latch release detracting from the experience.

Unagi Model One Scooter Review handlebar hands on

The surfacing is so refined, devoid of the ugly welds and countless exposed-screw-heads found on the competition. Only two wires are on display around the hinge (arguably unavoidable due to the folding nature of the device) and Unagi’s decision to do away with a mechanical brake allows them to internally route all other cables allowing for uncluttered surfaces across the scooter.

Renouncing the rough grip tape and hard textured rubber of the competitors, the machined aluminium deck features a ribbed silicone insert embossed with the company logo. Both the fenders are tough aluminium, the hinged rear unit topped with a silicone pad offering grip when emergency braking.

Unagi Model One Scooter Review rear fender
Unagi Model One Scooter Review deck detail
Unagi Model One Scooter Review front wheel detail

It is only underneath where you begin to appreciate the engineering employed to create such a stiff but lightweight scooter. The onus was on retaining strength whilst minimising mass. Thick aluminium ribs reinforce the front of the deck, the medal fenders are of a mesh construction, even the tyres have been vaned to reduce their weight and improve ride comfort.

Unagi Model One Scooter Review rear fender brake metal
Unagi Model One Scooter Review detail hinge folded
Unagi Model One Scooter Review under deck

Class-leading folding mechanism

Deploying the scooter is a foolproof operation that requires no real instruction thanks to the arrow depiction upon the single button on the side of the headset. To unfold, slide it down its channel to unlock, before raising the handlebars. Re-folding is simply the reverse, depressing that sliding switch and swinging the bars down.

Unagi Model One Scooter Review folding one
Unagi Model One Scooter Review folding two
Unagi Model One Scooter Review folding three
Unagi Model One Scooter Review folding four

Gone are the screw clamps, locking collets and quick release levers found on other scooters. The stainless steel hinged system folds and locks in place in one motion with a ‘haptic’ click. Sat on a sprung shaft, the release button will automatically return the lock out the stem whether folded or upright. This is the first folding mechanism that is truly intuitive in use, other manufacturers take note!

Unagi Model One Scooter Review detail hinge closed
Unagi Model One Scooter Review detail hinge opened
Unagi Model One Scooter Review detail hinge detail

Weighing a touch over 12kg as tested, when folded the unit can be carried in a variety of positions. The most natural position, gripping half way up the triangular stem, takes advantage of the balanced fore/aft weight distribution. When hauling the scooter for an extended period (or in tight spaces such as train carriages) it can be carried close to your body, the headset sat on your shoulder.

Unagi Model One Scooter Review folding carry
Unagi Model One Scooter Review folding carry over shoulder

Impressive dual-motor performance

To power up the scooter, press and hold the power button at the bottom of the display panel until the dashboard lights up. Like most of our electric scooters it requires a ‘push to start’, kicking it along to a couple of km/h before the motors will take over with a press of the throttle paddle.

Unagi Model One Scooter Review riding kicking off
Unagi Model One Scooter Review riding kicking off accelerating

This E500 dual motor model features two 250w (each 500w peak) brushless electric motors, one fitted inside of each wheel. Double-tapping the power button will switch between single and dual motor mode, the latter indicated by a circular icon on the bottom left of the display. Those motors can supply a maximum of 32nm of torque, enough to tackle hills up to 15 degrees and powerful enough to drive riders up to 125kg in weight along the flat.

Three riding modes are included, the current mode indicated by the large number at the base of the display. Mode one is suitable for beginners (or Eco riding) with a gentle acceleration curve and a top speed of 9mph. Mode two is ideal for daily riding with a balanced throttle and top speed of a little over 12mph. Lastly the third mode, referred to as ‘sport’ mode in the manual, provides the most aggressive acceleration, topping out at around 17mph. Reportedly the scooter top speed can be uncapped, pushing it to 19mph, following a combination of lever and power button presses.

Unagi Model One Scooter Review riding right rear angle
Unagi Model One Scooter Review riding right left front
Unagi Model One Scooter Review riding right side on
Unagi Model One Scooter Review riding left side on

Switching between these modes is a simple case of double tapping the button ahead of the throttle lever. Even in sport mode, the power is delivered in a refined and linear fashion, not the aggressive hit of InMotion’s L8F, ideal for riding in a city. Sadly the scooter lacks the ‘cruise control’ mode of its competitors.

Safe and confidence inspiring

More impressive than the powerful acceleration, is how quickly the Model One can stop. The scooter’s powerful regenerative braking is the best we have experienced and could potentially convert the die-hard mechanical brake fans in the office. Much like InMotion’s setup, the initial ‘bite’ can take some getting used to, but with both the wheels slowing you down, the performance of the anti-lock system is very impressive; even at high speeds. In an emergency riders can stomp the hinged rear fender into the rear wheel to shorten stopping distances. Interestingly the motors will govern your speed when travelling downhill, stopping the scooter from ‘running away’ from you, a great safety feature.

Unagi Model One Scooter Review headlight on
Unagi Model One Scooter Review rear light on

With front and rear mudguards and an IP54 rating, the scooter can be used on wet terrain, but avoid any puddles that would submerge even just the bottom edge of the hub motors. Despite the minimal rib depth, the silicone footplate is impressively grippy, even when ridden with harder-soled dress style shoes.

Unagi Model One Scooter Review deploy kickstand one
Unagi Model One Scooter Review deploy kickstand three
Unagi Model One Scooter Review deploy kickstand two

Doing away with the traditional bell, the Model one has an electronic horn, a sharp, rather unpleasant electronic note, that blares out of a speaker beneath the handlebars bars. On the left side of the scooter is a sprung kick stand. Deploy-able with your toe, this aluminium bar has the same beautiful detailing of the rest of the scooter and holds the scooter up (albeit at quite an angle) when unfolded on hard ground.

A responsive, sporty ride

It is upon the first ride where it becomes clear that this scooter isn’t a case of style over substance. The Model One feels robust with little slack in its headset and a quiet, rattle/whine free ride.

Even at speed the scooter feels stable and ‘low down’. This isn’t just due to its low center of gravity but that it runs at just 8cm off of the floor. This isn’t a scooter that you want to be hopping off of kerbs on, especially with the under-deck screws sticking proud of the chassis. The deck top itself declines 10mm over its length, this paired with the slack angle of the head-tube results in a slightly ‘leant back’ riding position.

Unagi Model One Scooter Review riding leant back

The chassis dimensions are compact, with a 41cm wide handlebar around 110cm from the ground and a narrow, relatively short footplate that will require one foot perpendicular to the other. They decision was likely made to minimise the footprint when carried or stowed, but it can be cramped to ride for those over 6ft3 with larger feet, who may find the scooter a little nervous at speed. More average-sized riders will enjoy the responsive steering and nimble handling provided by those small wheels.

Both the 5inch motors are wrapped in 7inch ‘vaned’ tyres that are both puncture proof and maintenance free, a huge advantage, as anyone who has ever attempted to change an innertube on an electric scooter will tell you! With the wheels hard-mounted to the frame, these are also the only suspension you get and they do a reasonable job at damping cracks in pavement, if not rougher terrain like potholes.The lightly treaded tyres are designed for use on hard paths, concrete or tarmac and are not suitable for off road use. With their squared profile, this isn’t a scooter that you can lean into the corners.

Unagi Model One Scooter Review riding head on close
Unagi Model One Scooter Review riding rear on close

One downside to the lack of companion smartphone app is the lack of accurate battery capacity information. Monitoring the remaining range can only be guesstimated from the 5 segmented battery readout on the display. This can be a concern as inside that slimline deck is a slimline battery pack made up of Sony Lithium ion batteries, totalling just 280 Wh.

Unagi claim that the Model One’s range is 15.5 miles. This best-case scenario likely relies on a lightweight rider riding in single motor mode at reduced speeds in the Eco profile, on a flat road, on a cool, still day. In the real world, with both motors spinning and the fastest rider profile engaged, you are more likely to deplete the battery in a little under 9 miles. Like other models the top speed drops off as the battery runs down.

A ‘smart’ device, after three minutes with no interaction, the scooter will emit a warning beep and power itself down to conserve its battery.

How does it compare to the competition?

Whilst it is twice the price of the ‘go to’ scooter, Xiaomi’s M365, it is certainly ‘twice’ the scooter. The twin motors decimate it in a drag race and despite its twin motors and larger battery it weighs pretty much the same. Placed alongside the Model One, the raw industrial M365 looks like an unfinished prototype. Hopping between the two really hammers home the refined qualities of Unagi’s scooter, to coin one staff member ‘it is the iPhone of scooters’. Of all the compact electric scooters, the L8F is perhaps the closest in terms of riding profile, but the Model one offers improvements in both performance and comfort.

Unagi Model One Scooter Review compared full scooters

However if we pitch the scooter against more similarly-priced rivals, the gap narrows. Both the Ninebot Max G30 and Xiaomi M365 Pro promise (and deliver) nearly twice the effective range, a sizable 40 and 28miles respectively, the latter with a weight penalty of just 2kg more! With their longer and wider decks they are also more comfortable to ride those longer distances upon, especially the G30 with its taller + wider handlebars and cruise control feature. Whilst their larger, air filled tyres require regular maintenance, they reward riders with a more relaxed, comfortable ride even at top speed.

Unagi Model One Scooter Review compared motor wheels
Unagi Model One Scooter Review compared deck size
Unagi Model One Scooter Review compared handlebar height

It’s anemic battery could have been forgiven had Unagi opted to bundle a fast, portable charger instead of the sluggish 5-hour adapter included. A companion smartphone app would also have alleviated some of the range anxiety by offering a better insight into the state of charge, along with the potential for future firmware revisions. Overall the Model One is not a scooter for putting serious miles on, but it is the perfect fashion accessory for short stints in the city.

Should I buy the Model One?

‘iPhone’ or ‘Tesla’ of scooters, whichever comparison you like to make, the Model One really is an impressive scooter. Its compact size and sleek, dare-we-say sexy styling make it a scooter that suits riders of all sexes.

Unagi Model One Scooter Review posed stood over
Unagi Model One Scooter Review sat alongside

If the majority of your journeys are less than 5 miles each way, through glass and littered filled city urban environments, the limited range will likely not concern you. We believe the convenience of its maintenance-free usage will be particularly attractive for many returning consumers, likely to find the costly price tag the only sticking point.

Unagi Model One Scooter Review unfolded on path

As more and more people purchase scooters, this is going to be the stand-out model that many will want to be seen on. A cut above the grey, utilitarian models that scooter share companies litter the streets with, Unagi’s refined scooter will be something that you safely store indoors and even find yourself cleaning.

Where can I buy an Unagi Model One scooter?

Available in cosmic blue, scarlet fire red, sea salt white and matte black (as pictured) the E500 dual-motor scooter will be available shortly here at Scooters Direct. Browse our articles for more scooter reviews or see our scooter comparison microsite if you are struggling to make a decision.

If you have any questions regarding Unagi’s Model One, or have noticed and errors in this article, please leave a comment below.

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