by David Harrington
The search for the perfect scooter is both frustrating and sublimely enjoyable. To begin with, “perfect” is inadequate – “perfect” what? City scooter? Country road scooter? Commuter? Sure, I have an image of perfect scooters in just about any category I can think of. Sometimes “perfect” is just a snapshot in time. Any scooter that I get back from Kevin Kocur without damage is a perfect scooter at that moment. How about a “perfect” do-everything scooter? It would have to have speed/comfort/stability capabilities at highway speeds and also be light and nimble for around town. It would have to have ergonomics that met the needs of a wide range of physical sizes. It would have to be reliable, well supported, and economical to operate. Such a machine sounds almost too good to be true. Kind of like a scooter coming back from Kevin with both mirrors intact.
For nearly ten years I’ve been reviewing scooters (been riding them and other powered two-wheeled conveyances for nearly 40 years) and I’ve established a few criteria that lend themselves to making it into that do-everything category. I like 250cc – 400cc powerplants, bigger wheels (10-inch and 12-inch scooter wheels just don’t do it for me on the highway), native storage, wind/water protection, light weight (relative), etc. Of course value for the dollar also comes into play. Since 2005, the winner in the do-everything scooter category has been a KYMCO People. First the People 250, then the People ‘S’ 250, then the People 300GTi. Back in the day, Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly tried to break a KYMCO People 250 with a 24-hour torture test. The scooter not only survived, it came through with flying colors. Now, the torch may well have passed from KYMCO to…. Piaggio?
Piaggio scooters have never been on the top of my list. I don’t trust their commitment to the North American market (Piaggio abandoned us in the mid 1980s), the parts supply has been questionable and I’ve found build and component quality to be suspect. I have found miss-matched fasteners, misaligned body panels and low quality plastic components on past models.
Now Piaggio brings us the BV350 and makes me start kneading dough for a nice “my words” pie. The great guys at Scooterville in Minneapolis even let me help uncrate and prep the scooters I review. To me, this is the best place to start looking for quality or the lack thereof. The BV350 surprised me with high quality body panels that fit together perfectly and well-engineered components. The tolerance on seams is tight and uniform. Aside from an oddly positioned turn signal cancel, the switches are robust and work well. I didn’t experience any cross-threading of fasteners or broken mounting tabs. The flat silver finish on the body panels is uniform and nicely done. Even the “interior” plastics (glove box, floor board, etc.) fit beautifully and appear well made. The windscreen of previous iterations of the BV were laughable – both in protection and installation engineering. Everything went together well and functioned perfectly.
As suggested, the Piaggio BV350 is a very well designed and equipped scooter. Powered by a 330cc liquid-cooled and fuel-injected single cylinder engine, it motivates the rear wheel through a CVT automatic transmission. Brakes are disc front and rear and are linked – the starboard lever operates the front brake only and the port lever operates both the front and rear brakes. The front tire is a 110/70 – 16” and the rear tire is a 150/70 – 14”. The rear suspension is by dual shocks that are adjustable to accommodate different loads and riding styles. The dash and controls are well laid out with one minor exception: the turn signal switch is at an odd angle and isn’t as easy to “cancel” as most. The dash is easy to read and presents a good combination of analog and digital displays. On the port side control, just to the right of the horn switch, is a seat latch release button – very handy.
Acceleration off the line is good, though not earth-shattering. Roll-on and mid-range acceleration should be reviewed by the FDA as a drug. For a scooter, 33 horses and torque to match in under 400 pounds means giggling-fun acceleration. Offering quick acceleration along with ABS and traction control translates into great handling. The BV350 takes a line quickly, holds it with no drama, and reels itself back in again without issue.
Using my GPS/Ride Computer to gather numbers, I noticed the speedometer was biased toward kilometers with miles displayed in smaller numbers on the inner part of the display. The odometer/tripmeter displayed kilometers. The speedometer indicates 10% faster than actual speed. An indicated, 30 mph is actually 27 mph and an indicated 70 mph is actually 63 mph. The fastest GPS verified speed I saw was 86 mph. In about 65 miles of highway riding and 50 miles of city riding, my fuel economy was 62 mpg. Not great, but not bad either. This was a brand new scooter that was not yet broken in. I expect that both top speed and fuel economy would improve after engine break-in (and with a smaller rider, at 220 pounds I’m more of a load than your average scooter pilot).
Storage is as good if not better than any other scooter in the class. The large glove box is accessed by pressing in on the ignition switch assembly. There are several cubbies/shelves including one at the base of the inside of the glove box door. There is a power accessory outlet in the back of the starboard side cubby. Under the seat, there is enough space for a helmet and jacket. The BV350 comes with a nice rear luggage platform that is begging for a topcase. In my mind, a key aspect of making a really good do-everything scooter is to have a group of features that are well designed and serve their intended purpose. They need to enhance your riding experience. The features and components need to combine into something more than the sum of their parts. The Piaggio BV350 hits the mark.
The ergonomics on the BV350 are just about perfect, too. Seat comfort, hand position, foot position, everything is just … perfect. Coming off of my KYMCO People GTi, the
first difference I noticed was the seat. Piaggio/Vespa just seems to have this aspect of scooters figured out better than anybody else. I recently rode my GTi 1,200 miles in three days and I’m trying to figure out what to do to the stock seat to make such trips tolerable. I’m pretty sure the same ride on the BV350 would yield no complaints about the seat. During my few days with the BV350, I had other riders try it out ranging from 5’ 6” and 160 lbs. to 6’ 3” and 240 lbs. They all said the scooter’s ergonomics were excellent. The BV350 comes with a short windscreen that contributes to the comfortable highway capabilities of this scooter. It keeps most wind-blast off the torso. Riding with a full-face helmet, I could feel the wind on my head but no buffeting. A taller rider may get a little turbulence on the upper part of the helmet.
I was much more impressed with the Piaggio BV350 than I expected to be. Going through the specifications, I expected it to be fast but was unprepared for how well designed and executed it was. In dead stock form, it’s one of the most comfortable scooters I’ve ridden. The performance and handling are addicting. I could have endless fun on the BV350 both around town and on the road. As long as the apparent build quality is proven out over time and Piaggio continues to provide parts and support in the U.S., the BV350 will take its place as the King of do-everything scooters.
Dave Harrington owns and operates the website JustGottaScoot.com