‘MARKET MATURITY’ HAS been the buzz-word at the VESPA department of the Piaggio office over the past few weeks. Translated into layman lingo, what VESPA are talking about is that the Indian scooter customer has evolved to a point where a scooter purchase isn’t just a matter of convenience and practicality but also a lifestyle choice. Indeed, one look at scooter commercials across the country and it is evident that VESPA are on to something, but while the rest of the players continue to shuffle among the 110-125-cc options, the Italians have dialed things up a notch and introduced a pair of 150-cc offerings in the form of the VESPA VXL and SXL. And before you ask, they are not two different scooters but two trim levels of the same scooter.
VESPA’s brass-knuckled punch comes in the form of its retro yet funky looking design. When it comes to design, the Italians have it covered and phenomenally so. The higher-end SXL variant comes with more chrome treatment on the body parts, a perimeter and bumper guard, accessories such as the helmet and a cool looking windscreen as standard equipment. There are minor differences between the two trims. For example, the VXL offers a roundish headlamp while the SXL features a bold rectangular reflector unit. Towards the rear, the VXL features a sturdy and functional grab handle while the SXL comes with a strip of fabric running across the middle of the seat for a pillion to hold on to.
Hidden beneath the seats is a convenient 15-litre storage bin. Although alloy wheels are common to both the scooters, VXL gets chrome treatment whereas the SXL uses blacked-out wheels. These are wrapped in 110- and 120-section, front and rear Maxis tyres all the way from Vietnam. The footboard is common and is strongly reminiscent of old-school VESPAs with parallel serrations running across the length. Although images on the company’s website show pillion foot-rests, the test scooters did not offer any. Another common feature is the combination instrument cluster which offers an analogue readout of the speedometer and digital readouts of the fuel-gauge, odometer and trip meter.
Once astride the VESPA, the riding position is comfortable and the handlebar at level with my midriff, which is pretty convenient. However, a lower position would have been far more appreciated. The contoured seats are separated by a small step and are on the harder side. As I thumb the starter, the engine comes to life with a throaty rasp. The 150-cc engine, like the 125-cc one, employs a three-valve aluminum cylinder-head and is fed by a CV carburetor. This puts out peak power of 11.6 PS at 7,000 RPM and peak torque of 11.5 Nm at 5,500 RPM. These figures make it the most powerful single-cylinder scooter on offer in the country. That’s not to say that you’ll be setting the streets ablaze with the VESPA. The grunt is not as much as we would have liked. At best, the 150-cc feels like a really powerful 125 but definitely not what is expected of a 150-cc unit. Power delivery is linear and acceleration is progressive. However, noise levels increase in lockstep with the speed.
The VESPA uses the traditional single sided front suspension and a dual-effect rear shock-absorber. While the handling is decisive and telepathic, the ride quality is at the stiffer end of the spectrum. Charge ahead with some excess speed through a rough patch and the VESPA will punish you with a sore rear.
Both scooters employ a 200-mm ventilated disc brake with a single-piston calliper at the front and a 140-mm drum brake at the rear. Shedding speed is a tricky ordeal on the VESPA. Although the 200-mm disc offers sufficient bite, it lacks progression and requires more than a handful from the right lever. Given the limited scope of the restricted environment of this evaluation, we couldn’t really explore the VESPA’s capabilities to the fullest.
The basic VXL 150 is priced at Rs 86,000 (OTR, Pune) and the addition of features costs a premium of Rs 91,000 for the SXL, which makes it the most expensive scooter in the segment. Following this, one can also expect a limited-edition variant of the VESPA in the form of the Elegant next month. The Elegant will be on offer in pearl white with crimson split-seats and metallic brown with beige seats.
Whether the uber-cool style quotient will justify the high price-point, and whether the VESPA will break boundaries of a utilitarian scooter and cross over into the realm of a lifestyle product remains a question of market maturity. So far as we are concerned, however, the new 150-cc VESPA isn’t a bad scooter and is certainly high on style. Unfortunately for the Italian marquee, however, there are others who offer far more practicality and a decent amount of style as well for a lot less money. And that is the chink in the VESPA’s Italian armour.