Vespa LX150 scooter review: A Fair-weather friend

Consumer Reports News: August 01, 2008 01:39 PM

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About a month ago we promised to get our hands on some scooters for evaluation. We’ve just added a couple of Vespas to our test fleet, a 50cc LX50 and a 150cc LX150. The LX50 model cost us $3,299, the LX150 $4,399. After some buzzing around (“Vespa” means wasp in Italian) in the immediate vicinity, it became clear that most of us prefer the 150. Though the 50cc model doesn’t require a motorcycle license, it’s limited to only 30 mph and feels sluggish. In order to ride legally and confidently on highways, you’d need a 250cc scooter.

The other day I ferried the LX150 home on a trailer so I could ride it in more urban and suburban settings than the rural roads around our test track. I immediately felt very trendy. Spurred on by record high gas prices, the Vespa has become a fashion statement in my neck of the woods in Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Mind you, I’m not a two-wheeler novice: I used to own a Triumph motorcycle. It took a bit of a mindset adjustment to ride the Vespa, but I’m happy to announce that my ego remained intact. Luckily, everything else also remained intact despite a few nerve-racking moments in rush-hour traffic and a sudden booming thunderstorm. Riding in the rain is very stressful and fatiguing due to the reduced grip, impaired visibility, and the already  oblivious motorists around you.

The 150, with just 12 hp on tap, had no problem keeping up with traffic in the range of 15 and 45 mph. There’s enough oomph for clearing an intersection without feeling overly vulnerable, and for quick spurts to escape from a potentially hazardous situation. Climbing mild grades is also quite effortless, at least when riding solo. The CVT automatic works well and the muted engine noise is unobjectionable. The manufacturer claims 72 mpg “under lab conditions.” We haven’t been able to confirm that yet, but stay tuned.

We’ve reached a top speed of about 65 mph on a long straight, but the scooter’s natural habitat is the neighborhood, not the interstate. The brakes, activated by two levers on the handlebar, work well and are easy to modulate.

From a motorcyclist’s perspective, you’d think that with the Vespa’s small wheels and the floor board, it might scrape the pavement in corners. Actually, there’s ample clearance, and the Vespa feels quite agile and responsive. With just a gentle lean, you round any corner. Low-speed maneuvering in tight quarters is very easy. The ride is firm yet compliant, and very well controlled when traversing dips, swells, and undulations. Notably, there is very little vibration felt through the seat, handlebar, and floor.

The beige suede seat on our LX150 looks sharp and got several compliments from bystanders. Plus, it dispels rain drops easily. Unfortunately, birds like it, too. I loved the ability to store my full-face helmet under the seat. However, I missed not having a side-kick for quick stops, even though the center stand was easy enough to use. I could see that it might be awkward for the uninitiated.

Overall, the Vespa LX150 is a fun little urban runabout that’s very easy to drive. It can serve as a wind-in-your-face ride to the beach or as a frugal commuter to the train station. There is a certain freedom element to driving the Vespa, as long as you keep in mind that it is a limited-use vehicle and a fair-weather friend.

Read our full report and tests of scooters and motorcycles

Gabe Shenhar

For more motorcycles and scooters coverage, read our blog entries:
Tips on buying and driving a motorcycle or scooter
Downsizing to two wheels - Motorcycle interest revs up
Motorists move to scooters and motorcycles to save
Motorcycle death rates doubled; supersport bikes the most dangerous

Also, join in the Motorcycles & scooters forum discussion. 

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