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First impressions: Piaggio MP3 motor scooter

Consumer Reports News: June 29, 2009 08:08 AM

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Consumer Reports staffers had a chance to sample a few bikes at a recent driving event outside New York. This is part two of three. Also see our first impressions of the Aprillia 850 Mana and Can-Am Spyder.

Piaggio MP3
Like the Can-Am Spyder, the MP3 scooter also has three wheels, with two in front. The big difference is that unlike the Spyder, the MP3 leans in turns like any other Scooter. A button on the right handlebar can lock it upright at low speeds, for parking and standing at a traffic light. There is also a manual parking brake.

The version we drove had the largest engine offered, a fuel-injected 492cc single-cylinder with 40 hp, mated to a continuously variable transmission, as is typical with scooters. It also had a large, protective fairing and windshield.

The MP3 is hefty. It weighs 538 pounds and costs $8,899--more than many midsized motorcycles. Smaller versions, with 244 cc and 399 cc engines are available for $7,199 and $8,699, respectively.

Eric Evarts: The MP3 was the easiest and most relaxed of the three bikes, which is not surprising for a scooter. What did surprise me was the power from the big 500 cc model. The unique three-wheeled suspension was almost unnoticeable once I was on the bike. The only strange thing was trying to weave through potholes and not knowing exactly where the front wheels were. Piaggio claims the extra wheel gives the MP3 much better braking than most scooters, which seems plausible. The big fairing made riding fast more comfortable than on the other bikes. But for almost $9,000, I’d rather make a nice down payment on a Honda Fit.

Gabe Shenhar: What an engineering marvel! Just to behold that articulation of the two front wheels is a joy to the engineer in me. Riding it is a fuss-free, comfortable affair. It is fairly agile, although doesn’t encourage sporty driving. The ability to crawl or wait at a light without a foot on the ground is great for beginners, as well as for those who can afford the convenience. I only missed not seeing the front wheels and knowing exactly where I put them on the road, such as when trying to avoid a patch of oil on the road.

Jim Travers: The Piaggio MP3 is an interesting concept. Like the CanAm Spyder, it is a three-wheeler, with two wheels up front. But unlike the Spyder, the two wheels are close together, and a sophisticated suspension lets you lean in turns like a conventional motorcycle. This is good. But when stopped, you can lock the suspension so the bike holds itself up. That’s a convenience, I guess, and might work sort of like training wheels for a new rider. But two wheels will always weigh more than one, and the MP3 felt front-heavy to me. Extra weight plus added cost doesn’t add up to fun for me.

Also see our first impression of the Brammo electric motorcycles coming to Best Buy.

Read our scooter and motorcycle buying advice and ratings; watch our video scooter buyer's guide; and check our more motorcycle blogs.

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