By David Harrington
“La dolce vita” (Italian for “the sweet life” or perhaps “the good life”) was the marketing cry of Piaggio’s Vespa scooters back in their heyday. Here we are, about 60 years beyond that time, and a new Vespa model has reaffirmed that good basic transportation can still transcend into the sweet life.
Scooterville generously made a 2015 Vespa Primavera 150 available to me. I mounted a GPS unit and, heading for the gas station to top off the fuel tank, immediately found the bike to be 14% optimistic. An indicated 30 mph was actually 26 mph and an indicated 50 mph was actually 43 mph. The odometer was fairly accurate, 11 miles on the GPS was 11 miles on the odometer.
From the start, though, I’ll say the Vespa Primavera operated flawlessly during my review. Just turn the key, wait for the fuel pump to charge, grab a brake lever, and press the starter button on the right-hand control and the scooter is ready to go. A smooth idle was just a minute or two away after a cold start and immediate on warm starts. The fuel-injected, three-valve 155cc is mated to a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) that seems perfectly set up to take advantage of engine output. Acceleration from a stop is brisk and there are no flat spots up to about 50 mph, when the forward surge slows until top speed is attained.
The top speed I saw on a level road was 60 mph Fuel economy was 90mpg in about 100 miles of mixed use. After break in and assuming mostly city speeds I THINK that 100mpg would be a possibility. Frankly, I consider the 90mpg to be quite good considering the performance capabilities of the Primavera.
Vespa scooters have been around since just after the Second World War, and several features of their design like the monocoque chassis and the swingarm front end have continued since the beginning of the Vespa line. Unlike every other scooter in current production, the Vespa has a sort of uni-body chassis of steel. Every other scooter has a metal sub-frame and attached plastic body panels. The Vespa steel body also serves as the frame, and as such offers a more rigid platform. The front suspension is a single sided trailing link. New for 2015, the lower shock mount on the Primavera is now hinged. This allows the front suspension to maintain correct geometry with no lateral flexing. In combination with the monocoque steel chassis the enhanced front suspension contributes to a smooth and stable ride and cures the wandering feeling older Vespa were known for.
While the Primavera’s handling is markedly improved from previous Vespa, braking is adequate. The front disc rear drum combination is easy to modulate and only a tiny bit of fade is noticeable after a lot of repeated hard stops. The Primavera is an easy scooter to ride briskly. The eleven inch tires, front and rear, contribute to quick response to steering inputs while being a bit more stable than the more common ten inchers found on other scooters.
The Primavera continues Vespa’s tradition of excellent ergonomics. The seat, floorboards and hand controls are spaced and positioned to allow comfortable riding for a wide range of rider sizes.
Piaggio has stepped away from the round speedometer instrument cluster and reverted back to the “fan” or “clamshell” shape. The dash is clean, simple and easy to read at a glance … in kilometers-per-hour. Miles are indicated in smaller numerals below the kilometers. Directly below the speedo is a multi-function display with pods of indicator lights on either side. The hand controls are standard with the exception of a “mode” button on the right-hand side for the aforementioned multi-function display. Also, the previous Vespa “rocker” turn signal switch is gone in favor of a standard push-to-cancel style that is easier to operate than the old rocker.
There are three positions on the ignition switch: the “off” position, the “run” position and a “lock” position. In the “lock” position, the key can be removed, the front wheel is locked to the left and the seat switch is disabled. In addition to the electronic seat latch release to the left of the switch, there is a manual release inside the glove box. To open the glove box, one pushes in on the switch. The glove box has a couple of small compartments on either side of the steering shaft. The bucket under the seat is roomy and managed to swallow my XXL 3/4 helmet … just.
Yet there are a myriad of other storage and hauling options for the Primavera. In stock form, it is equipped with a chrome grab rail for passengers, but that can easily be swapped out for a luggage rack. With a rack mounted, a topcase, basket or milk crate will provide more room to haul your stuff. There is also an optional front folding rack available.
Twin Cities scooterist David Harrington owns and operates JustGottaScoot.com