2012 Vespa Scooter Test
Born out of a strong necessity for cheap transportation in 1946, Vespa is a name and an icon that is well known all over the globe.Sixty-six years and 17 million vehicles later the brand is stronger than ever, and we test the latest versions of the S and LX models with new three-valve engines in Rome, the home of Vespa.Strolling along the Tiber River with a pretty Roman girl we stop and get a Grattachecca. The old lady running the refreshment kiosk recognizes my accompanying lady friend from when she was a school girl stopping at this very kiosk for the very same I’m getting to soothe my dry throat this hot summer day.Any conversation between Romans runs at a 100 mph, and while they chat I contemplate the days riding onboard the new Vespa LX and S 125s and 150s.Riding in the Eternal City is something I’ve done quite a bit of but today’s my first go at Vespa’s latest scooters in Rome. I choose one of the LX 150 scooters as my first ride and it strikes me immediately just how small it is.Both the LX and the S are tiny and this gives me immense input. In fact these small chassis scooters only weigh in at just over 242 lbs. so my ready to ride 198 lbs. is definitely the boss and not the little Vespa. I ride up to the Janiculum Hill and take in the breathtaking view of Rome on offer.The brown leather seat is very comfortable with space for two. The S also has a comfortable seat with a stylish white leather seam surrounding it. From the riders seat the two new models look different as the LX have a high end newly designed instrument console while the S makes do with two old fashioned analogue clocks with instruments lined under.The LX 125/150 3V also features a large lockable glove compartment while the S 125/150 3V makes do with two open pockets and both have a carrier hook for a bag of shopping. Under the seat there’s room for a jet helmet and a couple of things such as an extra jacket should the weather change or a large handbag if you’re a lady.The LX 125/150 3V Touring have extra chromed luggage racks front and back that will allow for a large bag being stropped to the back and a sleeping bag or similar at the front. With the Touring additions, the LX changes its appearance to something like a custom scooter so style has been taken care of even if you’re of a more practical inclination.I’d highly recommend the 150 version for Touring though as a couple of extra horses and a little more momentum will be welcome with the extra weight expected.The real news of the LX and S 125/150 3V is its all new 3 valve air-cooled four-stroke engines. Hidden under the steel bodied Vespa we find a 124cc or a 155cc engine of 11.6 and 12.9 horsepower respectively. It may not seem much of a difference but riding the two back to back I much preferred the 155cc powered version as it has more torque earlier on in the rev range and therefore responds much quicker when it’s time to leave other traffic behind us around Rome. I was truly impressed by the small and intricate new machine developed at Piaggio’s Pontedera plant in Tuscany.There’s plenty of initial drive and all you need in Rome certainly. On my second tour of Rome of the day we pushed the S 150 3V to its absolute top speed and the instruments showed 70 mph. The 125 doesn’t lag far behind but it does lag behind. The main difference you can feel between the two capacities is the initial drive but I guess you could say that a person weighing 130 lbs. perhaps would probably be able to accelerate just as fast as me on the 150 on the 125.The power to weight ratio determine this and as such you can actually argue that if you are a light weight rider you can have exactly as much fun and drive as I had on the 150 but on the 125. There’s a little saving right there if you agree with my logic.The stability both at speed and over uneven road surfaces is impressive for such a tiny vehicle. The front wheel is an 11 inch and the rear 10 inch, and on them sits Michelin Pilot City tires, which are good for all-round use with enough grooves for a rainy day’s ride. The front tire is a 110/70 and the rear a 120/70. The front suspension is a coil spring and dual action monoshock on a single sided swing arm and an adjustable monoshock at the back (for preload). The S model has red coils and the LX black coils.I found the suspension to work remarkably well and it was full throttle over anything from cobbled streets, small potholes and uneven surfaces. The re-enforced steel body along with the engine and the front swing arm acts as the chassis.There’s nothing plastic about a Vespa and this can be felt when you ride over the many uneven surfaces where a “plastic” scooter would make noises that would make you believe it was about to shake itself into bits. Solid feel from a small chassis scooter in other words and that’s worth quite a lot if you ask me.We continue our journey passing cars left and right until we reach the Colosseum. When in Rome do as the Romans and that’s exactly what I did all day keeping my mobile phone in the left front compartment on the S 125 or 150 and checked my messages and took photos on the run getting some fine shots of the Colosseum which went straight up to Facebook whilst still in the saddle. I can’t recommend this to anyone of course as it’s illegal in most countries and probably also in Rome so stick to a Bluetooth headset instead.Actually riding with a passenger was no problem at all and I chose the S 150 3V for this task. Even with a pillion passenger there is good initial drive and both still travel in comfort.
The S 125/150 is easily distinguished from the LX in that it has a square headlight and chromed mirrors whilst the LX have round items. The LX is also slightly more sophisticated with more chromed parts.Both models have an 2.19-gallon fuel tank and Vespa claims that fuel consumption is of 155 mpg if riding at a constant speed of 30 mph, which is fairly representative for inner city usage. The new service intervals are set at 6200 miles.The pricing in Italy are as follows:
S 125/150 3V: €3,770/3,970
LX 125/150 3V: €3,620/3,820ConclusionRiding a Vespa in Rome is pretty special as you do feel a belonging just by being in the seat of one. In 2011 Vespa sold 115.000 of these little wonders and that alone tells us something. People love the Vespa brand and the vehicles.They are cheap and practical to run, you don’t have to know anything about motorcycles and even though pricey new they tend to keep their second hand value very well. These two Vespa’s are obviously aimed at small to medium sized riders but even I at I guess size large felt comfortable riding them.I prefer the 150 versions of obvious reasons but if you even smell a whiff of hassle upgrading from a 125 license then it’s not worth it, just go for the 125 in that case. Being so small and light they are easy even for those without massive arm strength to get up on the centre stand. Finally the Vespa LX and S 3V models are easygoing, stylish, light and practical inner city scooters and for that purpose they are perfect.Photography: Milagro