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Unagi took one of the best e-scooters on the market and made it better

The Model One Voyager refines the template laid down by the Model One.

Daniel Cooper / Engadget

E-scooter company Unagi, founded by former Beats Music CEO David Hyman, has inserted itself into a corner of pop culture. Its stylish scooters are often found in the hands of celebrities and musicians, setting themselves apart from the generic rental models found on street corners. Now, the company has unveiled the Model One Voyager, a second-generation version of its existing Model One, which the company will either sell to you outright, or rent to you for $55 a month. Given the plaudits afforded to that device, it should come as no surprise that the Voyager opts not to fix what wasn’t broken, but focuses on addressing its predecessor’s (relatively few) flaws.

Long-time Unagi followers may recall the company had been working on the Model Eleven, a wildly ultra-premium scooter to top off its lineup. Priced at $2,440, the Eleven would have offered GPS tracking, turn-by-turn directions and an ADAS collision sensor. Unagi killed the product, saying that the market was turning away from pricey, one-off purchases toward a service model. The majority of its customers presently pay $55 a month to rent a Model One, with the company taking care of the maintenance and insurance. And that switch in focus is likely to produce more models that look to evolve the existing concept, rather than offering something more dramatic.

To avoid all of the cliches, let’s get them all out of the way in a single paragraph and be done with it. The Voyager is a polish, an evolution, a refinement on the existing Model One template, and you’ll struggle to tell them apart looking at them from a distance. It uses the same industrial design, and the same high-end materials, although the neck and fork angles have been tweaked for better stability. It remains one of the best-looking e-scooters on the market today, with a clean, elegant design and color choices which straddle the line between transport and fashion statement.

Instead, the big changes are all on the inside, with a specific focus on addressing issues around range and power that existing Model One renters have grappled with. For instance, while the Model One’s quoted range tops out at a less-than-ideal 12 miles, the Voyager stretches to 25, which should be enough to get you where you need to go and back without anxiety. Now, real-world mileage will be wildly different based on your use (and your weight), but the hope is that the Voyager will eliminate range anxiety for most people.

Close-up of the handlebars and display area on the Model One Voyager.
Close-up of the handlebars and display area on the Model One Voyager. (Daniel Cooper / Engadget)

The second new feature, Distance To Empty, is a system that calculates your remaining range. It’s not hugely sophisticated, since it uses a dynamic look-up table checking your weight, speed profile and hill profile against the existing battery level. But a better-educated guess about how much further you can go is likely to be a better deal than just letting you see the percentage of battery that’s still there and letting you hope for the best.

As well as the attention paid to make sure you’ve got enough power in your Voyager, there’s a lot of focus on getting it back out again. The Model One could produce 26 newton meters of torque, but the Voyager will knock out 32, with both motors offering a combined peak power of 1,000W. Unagi said that you can expect to see a 25 percent improvement in acceleration and deceleration out of the motors, and that you’ll see charging times fall in half compared to the Model One. That’s before we get to the promised improvements in hill climbing, where Unagi said that riders should “prepare to magically clobber hills that seem insurmountable.”

Disclaimer: I’m based in the UK, and it is presently illegal to ride an e-scooter on public roads and pavements. There is a generous exception for a series of government-approved e-scooter trials currently in place, but private scooters are all but banned. For this review, I primarily used private roads and other private spaces, where the laws do not apply, rather than in public. While the target audience for this review is primarily American, our lawyers have reminded us to say that Engadget does not condone breaking the law, and would-be UK users risk having their scooters seized, or facing criminal penalties including points on your driving license and a fine. That said, Unagi does sell the Model One to UK customers for £899, if you’re prepared to bear the risk for yourself.

You won’t need to spend a lot of time inside Voyager’s companion app, which connects to the scooter over Bluetooth. You’ll see your Odometer and Distance to Empty figures, and can toggle between single- and dual-motor modes. (You’ll really mostly stick in dual-motor mode which offers better range and performance unless you’re on a flat surface and don’t need to speed up or slow down too often.) You can also activate the front light and, crucially, lock the scooter’s wheels to make it harder for a nefarious type to steal it.

Close-up of the front wheel and deck of the Unagi Model One Voyager
Close-up of the front wheel and deck of the Unagi Model One Voyager (Daniel Cooper / Engadget)

If there’s one thing Unagi should have, but didn’t, improve upon from the original, it was the ride quality. Specifically, making an effort to help the Voyager smooth out the sometimes less than pristine asphalt on our streets. Voyager comes with the same small, hard rubber tyres as the Model One, without much in the way of suspension or shock absorption. When I can feel every bump and crack in the road, it dents my confidence as to how far I want to ride this thing.

Admittedly, this is a common problem with a lot of e-scooters, but it’s one worth examining if you’re charging two or three times the cost of a run-of-the-mill Xiaomi. Sure, the monthly rent cost covers maintenance, insurance and everything else, but it’s still a premium product. It all depends if you’re living somewhere with flat, well-maintained roads, because none of this will concern you. But if your streets have more than a few cracks in them, be prepared to feel all of them in your knees.

I will say, Unagi shared with me both a confidence in its puncture-proof tyres and a belief that more can be done. A representative said that improvements to both the tyres and deckpad are in the pipeline, although neither will be ready for some time. It’s not yet clear if these tweaks will be available on a future version of the Voyager, or if they’ll be held back for the next new model, the Model Two, pegged to arrive at some point in 2024.

This is perhaps the one demerit I can offer, however, as everything else has seen the details sweated, and for a good cause. There’s the same set of electronic throttle and brake as found on the previous model, the latter of which I found very easy to trust. It’s a personal preference I know, but I’ve often preferred the comfort of a mechanical brake on cheaper e-scooters to give me a sense of security when it comes to stopping. Oh, I can also gripe about the milquetoast horn, which I’m sure wouldn’t send a group of slow-moving pedestrians scattering out of your way, but that really is it.

Overdeck image of the Unagi Model One Voyager with the Unagi burn-in into the plating.
Overdeck image of the Unagi Model One Voyager with the Unagi burn-in into the plating. (Daniel Cooper / Engadget)

If you’re unfamiliar with the Model One, and you’ve been using an e-scooter with a smartphone mount, then the Voyager’s display may feel a bit minimal. There’s an old-school feel to the data on show, with a brightly-backlit speedometer that’s easily visible in strong light. That’s key, since you’ll have to take your eyes off the road to check your speed – although I will admit that I find my gut tells me how much speed I can handle based on the surrounding areas rather than trying to stick to a solid figure.

Below that figure, you’ll find either the odometer or trip computer, based on your preference, and below that, the battery display. At the bottom, you’ll also be able to see which speed profile the scooter is set in, and icons telling you if you’re in single or dual-motor mode. To be honest, I don’t know how much extra data you might need on a scooter display, and I like the neat and tidy way that all of this information has been laid out.

On flat, straight roads and gentle inclines, I found the Voyager to offer rather excellent balance. With some practice, I was able to get my turning circle down to the bare minimum, and it’s easy to ride at slow speeds. It’s even pretty easy to ride when you open up the throttle and try to get close to that top speed, even if I was too chicken to get it to max out. Similarly, the headlights are bright enough, although if I was riding this on roads at night, I’d be tempted to get a head or shirt-worn rear light since the deck-height brake light is a bit low.

The Voyager weighs the better part of 30 pounds, and it’s a significant lump to haul around in your hands. 30 pounds may not sound like a lot, but with the scooter folded down it’s quite an unwieldy thing to carry in your hand. I pulled my back one night and, the following day, tried to carry this to a private road for testing before bailing out and throwing it in the car instead. That solidity may make it prohibitive for you to carry up every flight of stairs in your building, but it also gives you confidence that it won’t fall apart after a few weeks of use.

Image of the rear wheel and tail light for the Unagi Model One Voyager
Image of the rear wheel and tail light for the Unagi Model One Voyager (Daniel Cooper / Engadget)

If you’re already sold on the idea of toting one of these around with you, you’ll now need to look at the figures. The Unagi Model One Voyager costs $1,190 to buy, but the company doesn’t expect many people to buy it outright. Instead, it hopes they will opt to rent their scooter via the Unagi All-Access program which includes service and, for an extra fee, theft insurance.

The basic payment is $69 a month for a no-commitment rental, with theft insurance an extra $5 per month. You can also request a “guaranteed brand new scooter” for an additional $10 monthly premium. As the name implies, this will guarantee that you will get brand-new hardware both when you sign up, and also if you need a replacement. Plus, of course, you’ll need to pony up a one-time sign-up fee of $50. Adding that all up and dividing by twelve means that to have one of these in your life, your monthly outgoing will be $89 a month.

Now, you’ll have to decide if you’ll get that paid back compared to, say, using the local Lime or Bird scooters in your area. The obvious benefit is that you’ll be able to ride your own scooter and you’ll never have to scrub around looking for a working model when you’re out and about. The downside is that it’s a fairly significant outlay each month so you’d better be sure that you will get your money’s worth by using the scooter as your primary mode of transportation.

Meanwhile, if you’re already living inside Unagi’s scooter rental ecosystem and paying for a Model One, then you can upgrade to Voyager by switching your plan to the more expensive option and paying the one-off charge of $50.

If you’ve been looking for a scooter that will hopefully last you a long while, get you to and from wherever you need to go, and look good while doing it, then this is probably a decent bet.