I’ve literally grown up with the Vespa PX and I’ve owned at least one ever since my 17th Birthday in December 1987, I’d be surprised if my garage is ever without one as well. The PX had been launched a decade before I wobbled home from MSC on my first brand new red T5 on my Birthday (a HP purchase I might add). I’ve bought a fair few new and used PX’s since then and still own this customised PX200 Disc.
Originally launched in 1977 as a 125cc scooter, 150 and 200cc models quickly followed. To date, the PX has sold over three million units around the world and is still a dependable workhorse for many, thanks to its simple mechanics and reliable engine. Modern automatic scooters may have taken the place of this iconic machine to a certain extent but scooter purists still have a soft spot for a geared metal-bodied scooter. The Indian built LML clone sold so well after the PX was shelved (especially in Italy) that the Italians were forced to bring the true Vespa PX back a couple of years ago which was great news for us!
Emissions laws were the excuse used for killing off this iconic machine but Piaggio cleaned things up by fitting a catalytic converter to the exhaust and a recirculation system to cut down on nasty fumes. The modifications sap a little bit of power but as we all know there are loads of aftermarket tuning products and performance exhausts available to bolt on extra power if the owner requires it, simply swap the exhaust to get rid of the cat. The beauty of a simple carburettor fed engine, as opposed to a fuel injected motor is that they’re easy enough for most owners to tinker with at home rather than having to get them plugged in to a dealer’s diagnostics machine just to unearth a simple fault.
Riding my favourite Italian scooter in Rome on the press launch was an invitation I was quite happy to receive. I was glad to see that the new PX (both in 125 and 150cc) had hardly changed from the final production run. Only minor styling details set it apart, like the single colour horncasting (rather than having a chrome grill), re-sculptured seat, new Vespa emblazoned handlebar grips and floor mat – and of course the new exhaust. Other than that things are as they were (better if anything) and that’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned. Piaggio have invested a few Lira (or is it Euros these days?) into improving tooling, so underneath the headset the casting is much better than it was during the final few years of production. The scooter is still built in Pontedera which will probably surprise a few people but the Vespa name is still important to the bosses at Piaggio so it will remain an Italian thoroughbred. After having a good look around the new scooter the only areas I could criticise would be the dull finish on the glovebox door lock and the age old seam on the mudguard which has always been prone to rusting (the seamless mark one T5 mudguard was a much better solution). Other than that I was quite impressed, the inside of the glovebox had even been sprayed and so had the underside of the mudguard. Areas that had started to get neglected before production ended previously.
The new model was initially available in four classic PX colours, Rosso Dragon red (discontinued for 2013), Mediterraneo Sky blue, Montebianco white and Nero Lucido black. New colour for 2013 is Grigio Dolomite grey. Incidentally the paintwork was well finished on our test scooters and first impressions were very favourable.
The PX starts easily on the button, (or kickstart if you’re feeling extra nostalgic!) and settles into a nice steady tickover. Thankfully the Vespa still sounds just as good and distinctive as it always did, it’s the only way for a Vespa PX to sound and an aficionado can identify one from half a mile away. Easing the scooter into the bustling Roman traffic for the first time I notice a very minor flat spot which is probably due to the work needed to meet Euro3 emissions testing but other than that I was pleasantly surprised at just how well the scooter performed. Once on the move the PX 125 picks up speed quite quickly and will do close to 60mph, although we didn’t have enough of a clear road to thrash it for as long as we’d have liked but it certainly didn’t feel as heavily restricted as an LML. The 150cc will out accelerate the 125 and pull away from it steadily but there’s only about three or four mph difference at the top end, which is nothing to worry about.
Rome is a very busy city and the roads are bumpy and covered in slippery cobbles but the PX took them all in its stride and wasn’t flustered at all. The suspension seems better than I remember from the older models, so I had no cause for complaint there and the Michelin S83’s aren’t a bad tyre. The PX comes with a spare wheel as standard; you had to pay extra for it at one time. One thing you can’t really appreciate (and can soon forget if you haven’t ridden one for a while) unless you ride the Vespa through a busy city is just how lightweight and agile the scooter is. You can fit it into the smallest gaps and weave your way through stationary or slow moving traffic with ease, often without needing to dab a foot to the floor. It really is a well-balanced scooter, despite what people might lead you to believe about the engine being offset. If you’d like to buy yourself a part of scootering history (or is it future?) be sure to pay your local Vespa dealer a visit soon. You won’t be disappointed.