Mention the name Vespa and most middle ages men would start thinking about their first scooter. The brand name brings fond memories to me too, as it reminds me of the LML Vespa which my brother bought and I used to it ride occasionally, much to his disliking. Vespa was the company which provided the technology to Bajaj to make its all-conquering scooters, which I believe every family has owned at some point in time. The factory, in which Bajaj scooters would be made, was built originally by Vespa to produce the Vespa Sprint but later was acquired by Bajaj and India’s middle class got its two wheels.
The legendary Italian auto maker, Piaggio, the owners of the Vespa brand are back in the scooter business in India and this time they seem to have grand plans. They are not looking to target the masses but those who have an emotional connect with the brand, those who appreciate the history and legacy of Vespa, and most importantly, those who are ready to pay a bit more to own a piece of history. So how does this new offering rom Vespa work in the real world? We got the scooter for two days for testing. Not only did I ride it, I also took feedback from women who have owned and ridden the LML Vespas and Honda Activas. Here’s our two pence on the retro styled scooter.
This is the biggest USP of the product. It is difficult, no, impossible not to notice this scooter, even on a packed road with a few exotic cars thrown into the mix. The looks are derived from the Vespas of yore – classic design cues with liberal dashes of chrome which makes the Activas and Swishes of the world look pedestrian in comparison. As soon as I parked the contraption in the office basement, it grabbed instant eyeballs. I have never seen the staff looking at any other two-wheeler with such curiosity. The fact that the color was bright red acted as an icing on the cake, making the scoot stand out even more in a sea of grey and white machines. Not only will the Vespa shine bright in parking lots, with its selection of metallic and bright colors on offer, it will also get heads tuned on the road and have people asking questions about the price etc. I like the small bits – chrome plated grips, aluminum machined levers and the chrome plated round rear-view mirrors.
Retro elements abound on other parts of the scooter’s surface too. The round chrome nose, the chrome crown on the front fender, the minimalistic tail-lamp with chrome surrounds – big dollops of that shiny substance have been applied on the new Vespa’s surface for that bling-bling appeal. Hell, even the edges of the front apron have a chrome lining. The good thing is, even with so much chrome on its surface, the Vespa LX125 doesn’t look overly loud – it appears tastefully styled balanced. Where you don’t have chrome, you have a single, solid colour. Each and every body panel is painted in a single, solid colour, and there are absolutely no graphics, except the iconic Vespa emblem on the front apron and side panels. Even the cute little rear mud flap is painted in a hi-gloss red colour.
Overall with Piaggio’s clever choice of colours and tasteful detailing bits, the Vespa stands out from the crowd effortlessly. Match your gear with the scoot’s colors and twisted, craning necks would abound wherever you – exactly what happened in our case, with due credit to the PYT who was piloting this cute little machine.
In its latest avatar, Vespa fuses chic retro styling with some modern tech. Not an easy feat, but the LX125 pulls it off in style, literally, and makes a strong statement. Even with its unrelenting focus on retro styling, the Vespa doesn’t seems a misfit for the modern times – in fact it manages to come across as the coolest machine in its category – full marks to Piaggio for making the LX 125 just what it should have been on the styling front.
The engine on the Vespa LX125 is a 3 valve unit with aluminium cylinder head, overhead cam, roller rocker arms, MAP sensing and variable spark timing for better engine efficiency. Air flow is controlled by a dry type, high efficiency intake filter with a special suction tube. Thanks to all that tech concealed beneath that old worldly body, the scooter is claimed to be capable of delivering a fuel efficiency of 60 kmpl. Power and torque are rated at 10bhp and 1KGm respectively. Par with the segment, definitely not class leading though.
The new Vespa lacks high equipment level but the retro looks are combined with modern technology. Be it the monocoque construction steel body, low weight, all-aluminum engine, all plastic panels or 3 spoke alloy wheels – the Vespa scores in clever, modern and lightweight construction. The engine placement is central which eliminates the weight bias, the biggest issue with this category of two wheelers.
Up front you have a single sided trailing arm suspension with Antidive characteristics, while doing duty at the rear is a hydraulic shock absorber. All in all, the Vespa features a fairly decent amount of tech bits and doesn’t feel out of date on the paper or on the road.
Comfort and convenience
Seating is quite comfortable. The seat and handle placement is such that you automatically get into an upright position with your foot firmly planted on the retro styled ribbed floorboard. The scooter has good ground clearance because of which some users may find it taller than their liking. When I had my friend ride it, she had to tip toe sitting in the riding position and had to slide forward for planting the foot firmly on the ground. At almost 5’7”, she is on the taller side for average Indian women. However, since the entire scooter is pretty light weight, it should not be a difficult to balance it with just one foot down allowing for a more sure footed one leg than two tip toed ones.
What I found missing was the side step for the pillion. Maybe it comes as an accessory but it was missing from our test unit. Side step is an essential bit for two reasons – it makes climbing easy and is a must for women who sit sideways – not a common sight in international markets, but an absolute must for the sari clad elderly women in India.
The seats are quite wide, well-cushioned and have a contoured design for good comfort, both for the rider and the pillion. There is a lockable front glove box to pop in groceries, wallet or other small items. You also have a decent under seat storage space which can easily accommodate a half-face helmet – no fretting on a rainy day. You also have an extendible lever beneath the front seat which can be used as a hook to fasten your grocery bags.
The central stand has been designed specially to make mounting easy. Ladies wouldn’t find putting the main stand on much of a hassle, though it scrapes the tar sometimes when you try to lean the thing in hard. The side stand is offered with Auto Return features, but is available only as an accessory and not as a part of the standard equipment.
Ride Quality and Handling
This is another area in which the scooter comes out in flying colors. Ride is cushy and the little nimble scooter takes the normal pot holes and broken roads with aplomb. Unlike most new scooters which come with telescopic front units, the Vespa sports the old world single sided mono-suspension, probably to show off its three spoke front wheel. The rear suspension is a mono unit too with both the suspensions set up for a soft ride.
Solid build quality is evident as you steer the machine on large patches of bad roads. This scooter seems to be built to last. The LX125 soaked the off bumps and speeds breakers without a whimper. I tried going over bad roads without any trouble. It was only at higher speeds – more than 60 kmph that the short suspension travel started giving in to the torture. Nothing wrong with that though, as this scooter is in no way targeted towards off-roading. Riding at medium pace around the roads in Delhi with the odd rough patches is easy.
The scooter is very stable at high speeds in a straight line. I got patches where I was doing 80 kmph and the scooter did not sway from its line. While I was not very impressed with the 150mm front brakes, the 140mm rear drums did a good job of reining the speed in. I wouldn’t have minded a sharper front brake unit, but depressing both the levers together does a reasonable job of bringing the scoot to a halt. The Vespa is very light and nimble to handle.
The scooters feels well balanced and nimble at low speeds. It’s extremely easy to maneuver and soaks in bumps like no other machine in its segment. At higher speeds, all that cushiness affects the tautness while leaned over though. No worries though, the LX125 is made for the urbanscape, and that’s where it’s at its best.
Switchgear and plastics
Switchgear is very basic with light switch on right and dipper switch on left. However the horn position is quiet cumbersome. I had to stretch my thumb to press the button. It is probably designed keeping in mind the European settings where blowing a horn is a one-off affair unlike our country where it becomes a necessity more so often. The switches are rather tough to operate and the quality feel is missing.
The instrument cluster sticks to the retro theme with basic analogue readouts including speedo, trip and fuel gauge. There are simple tell tale lights too. While all that adheres to the good old definition of a classic scooter instrument console, Vespa have not spared the chance to tease us a little with a very small but functional digital clock below the instrument cluster.
While we don’t have any issues with the minimalistic features and basic switchgear, we have our gripes with the quality of the plastics on the switchgear. In fact the switchgear quality on the Vespa is the biggest let down on this scooter in all aspects – quality, placement and operation. We earnestly think that some of the plastic panels and joints were not befitting for a scoot that retails for more than Rs 70K OTR.
As you put the key in, turn on the ignition and push the start button, the Vespa starts grunting lightly. The sound of the engine and exhaust is throatier and more masculine than its counterparts. Release the brake lever, pull the throttle and the response is quick. The Vespa takes about 10 seconds to reach 60km/h from a standstill. The engine feels quite refined and doesn’t oppose being revved hard. It may sound a bit noisy to the bystanders, but doesn’t oppose the rider from wringing the throttle.
The top speed of about 95km/h is impressive, although you wouldn’t be doing speeds those high on this scoot 95% of the time. The LX125 may not be the quickest sprinter, but it has a good amount of spunk with its rated 10bhp of power and 1 Kgm of torque. It builds speed with confidence and reaches a top whack which is one of the highest in its category. Don’t be mistaken by the old world looks – this one is no slowcoach when it comes to performance.
With a relatively big tank of 8 litre capacity, the range on this scoot should be pretty good and better than other scooters of the same engine capacity. Dealer claimed that customers are reporting a mileage of 50 kmpl. In our opinion, the scooter delivered a fuel efficiency figure of a little more than 40kmpl – an impressive figure for the class.
Comments from female riders
Sales people at the dealership told me that about 45% of the current buyers have been men or couples over the age of 60, who have had a connect with the Vespa brand and would like to have one again in their golden years. However, we feel that women can not be ruled out as a potential market base. This is what we heard from the members of the fairer sex whom we offered a quick spin on the machine.
They found the scooter to be very good looking, liked it better than the scooters they have ridden so far and did find it more comfortable. They loved the seating, the upright position. One of our riders had her 3 year old son riding on the footboard with her and he loved it too. Storage space is also very important for women with their bigger wallets and grocery shopping duties. The space beneath the set is adequate for a half face helmet and for some groceries. However, the glove compartment is just enough for mobile and wallet.
The Vespa LX125 is a very good product without doubt. But with an on-road price of almost Rs. 77,000 in Noida it retails at quite a premium compared to other scooters in the segment. If Piaggio are very clear about their strategy of positioning this product as purely a ‘lifestyle’ product, we assume they would not be expecting huge numbers. If that is the case, yes there will be buyers for this product, and this would still be considered a success. There are people out there who pay Rs. 1 Lakh for a pair of shoes just because it has brand appeal. So there might be buyers who might be attracted to buy this product for the very same purpose.
With a limited sales target in mind, the Vespa seems to be bang on the money – save for the plastic quality on certain parts. However, if the company plans to grab a decent share in the 110-150 cc scooter market, they might have to look at the pricing again. If this product is not meant to do the numbers for Piaggio, and if the Italian brand is keen on selling its scoots in good numbers then they better have a ‘volumes’ product ready soon enough, for this one’s not going to do great numbers for sure.
If you are looking for style, spunk and a bit of history rolled into one neat (and expensive) package, go for this cool llong Vespa. However if you are just looking for a set of wheels for function you might have to think more than twice. The penetration of the workshops is low and the product is substantially more expensive than it should be.Even with those constraints, there are good chances that you fall to this Vespa’s seduction. You may be damned for your lack of reason, but you’re sure to be appreciated for your taste. And that, we’d reckon wouldn’t be such a bad position to be in.