2014 Piaggio MP3 500 Review (ABS/ASR)
Everybody knows the French are a quirky bunch of people, and nearly 70,000 of them have already bought a Piaggio MP3. The scooter’s front end looks like an angry Ninja Mutant Turtle, or, if you stretch it, like a big scary frog.
France and the MP3 are a match made in heaven, and Piaggio invited me to Paris to prove the 2014 MP3’s worth.
Although quirky and different, it has been a huge success for the Piaggio Company with 150K sold since its debut at the end of 2006. With nearly half of those sales in France, Paris was the only natural place for it to have its second-generation launch.
Next to the Embassy of the United States is where I found myself on the very large and comfortable seat of the MP3 500 Sport. Matt black like one of the embassy guards’ hand arms, but not half as lethal, the MP3 means business. The passenger seat is equally comfortable with the same size lower back support. Big bad motor scooter comes to mind but riding it is like being sat on a Rottweiler that thinks it’s a Golden Retriever.
Whether you choose a black-leather jacket or a diplomatic-grey suit, you’ll look equally smart aboard the black MP3 500 Sport. It’s a creature that suits all and none and everybody on the fringes.
The Piaggio MP3 is a do-it-all vehicle with enough motor to go as far as you like just as easy as popping down to the shops for a couple of pints of milk or red wine. Under the seat is a massive 50-liter storage compartment that’ll take two full-faced helmets or three days worth shopping for a single American. The compartment is even lit for night time bandits looking for their sawn of shotgun and balaclava. You may not even have to saw off that barrel because the Mp3’s new seat is really long.
Riding over the cobalt streets Napoleons’ men laid a couple of hundred years ago, the MP3 makes much sense. These streets aren’t exactly grippy on a dry day, so that extra wheel at the front is great – particularly at full lean. The front suspensions work independently of each other, and you have twice the rubber touching the tarmac compared to a conventional scooter or a motorcycle. This alone provides a lot of extra confidence even for a “proper biker” like me.
Never mind the extra wheel at the front, Piaggio has now added both ABS and traction control to its flagship GT scooter. The ECU compares the rear wheel speed to each front wheel independent of each other, meaning that if you brake and hit a banana peel with one of the front wheels this is where the ABS will work while braking at maximum power on the other wheel.
As for the ASR (traction control), this naturally only work in one place – and the rear wheel. The ASR reduces torque if the wheel hits oil or water while accelerating. ABS and ASR makes the Piaggio MP3 500 the single safest vehicle of them all in the scootering world or in motorcycling if you like.
Safer than a hetero racehorse jockey, I enjoy every second of riding time in Paris. We circulate that 10,000-ton tower the creator of the statue of liberty put together in his spare time 125 years ago. The new dashboard features a large central digital readout surrounded by two analogue clocks. The Business version features a more classy car – like design with brown details. It’s all pleasing to the eye and easy to operate. A not so pretty white cable connects the iPhone to the vehicle with the PMP (Piaggio Media Platform) giving a vast amount of additional technical detail.
There are several ways to stop the Piaggio MP3 500, including the conventional rear and front brake levers. The MP3 can be ridden with a car license in European countries as it is classed as a trike and features a brake pedal and parking brake. The brake pedal combines both the front and rear brake discs and gives superb stopping power each time.
It’s more obvious than usual that the front brakes are more powerful due to the doubling of rubber and brake disc featuring ABS and front weight bias. I almost feel we’re in superbike-on-slicks braking performance area so this is top notch. New are the 258mm-front brake discs.
Stopped at the red lights I switch on the roll lock and put the hand brake on and take a nap until the car horn behind me wakes me up. Most of the time I’m in awe of the engineering and high tech solutions the MP3 represents. If you don’t use the parking brake you just have to roll the throttle to get started straight away when the lights go green. The smooth automatic transmission shoots you forward faster than most cars despite the sort of meagre 40-horsepower performance.
The large single-cylinder four-stroke has been improved for a better torque response at low rpm and better fuel economy. I’m using it in ECO mode which reduces consumption by 10 percent at given parameters provided by Piaggio.
There are some vibrations at idle but the MP3 moves along with great smoothness as soon as we are rolling. The new muffler provides “better” sound while being even quieter than before. The automatic transmission is great and gives instant acceleration for moving around the city and also long legs towards the top end for motorways.
Rider and pillion passenger can enjoy countless miles together on this three legged frog unicorn. If you’re looking for the pillion pegs these are now retractable for a sleeker design solo up. I can envision Piaggio giving the MP3 an even fresher and more powerful engine in the future, but it’s more than enjoyable as it is.
The handling is similar to a motorcycle. The front is definitely heavier, but the MP3 falls into the corners beautifully at speed and the limit is really easy to find. Mostly because it’s so safe to find it!
The quirkiness for both bikers and car drivers will be in that sensation when you open the throttle and the roll lock disengages because the Mp3 then transforms from a stiff old stationary thing and into a living breathing vehicle.
The sensation can be describes as having a magical car that suddenly starts leaning when you touch the steering wheel. Once you get used to it (takes three seconds trust me) it’s one of the great perks about the big Piaggio.
2014 Piaggio MP3 500 Conclusion
Any insecurities in motorcycle riding, like not trusting the front wheel on a wet road, simply vanish when riding the MP3. If you’re after a lazy forgiving ride but feel claustrophobic in a car then the MP3 is all the freedom you need and the greatest possible compromise between the safety of a car and the freedom of a bike.
I’d even recommend the MP3 to motorcycle commuters because it adds the safety that takes away the stress on a damp morning. Sell the car and keep the motorcycle for joy riding and use an MP3 for commuting. If you have to have a car then do as the French and use the MP3 as the second car. If you’re the proud owner of a teenager but forbidding the use of a two wheeler then you could buy them a MP3 Yourban 125. You’ll still be a cool parent. Don’t ever say that Tor Sagen doesn’t give good advice. Ciao.
2014 Piaggio MP3 500 Positives/Negatives:
+ Safest vehicle in the scooter/motorcycle world due to introduction of ABS/ASR
+ Superb comfort
+ Engine improvements
+ Underseat storage
– Curb weight
– Price excludes people that need this vehicle badly
Photos by Milagro