With a similar chassis, resurrected name and transplanted engine you could be forgiven for thinking there’s nothing too special about the latest Vespa to arrive from Italy but you’d be wrong, it’s actually a fantastic learner legal scooter.
The new Vespa Sprint is quite a nippy little machine and will make a fantastic city or urban scooter. Easing out on to the bustling cobbled roads of Rome on board the latest addition to the Vespa range I can’t help but smile to myself. I’ve owned a Vespa of one kind or another since 1986 and the marque is still as important to me as it ever was. Riding one in the capital city at its launch is a privilege. The Italians are quite rightly proud of their heritage and it seemed like the whole of Rome had come to a standstill just for us… it actually turned out that Obama was in town and the hovering helicopter was actually delivering the President to the Popes front lawn. I’m sure we’d have got a Papal blessing from the Vatican though. Do Italians love scooters? Is the Pope catholic? Owning a Vespa is more than just a choice of transport; it’s a lifestyle choice, almost a religion in its own right.
If you’ve seen or ridden the other models in the ‘Smallframe’ Vespa family, the LX, (replaced by the Primavera for 2014), or the Sprints predecessor, the ‘S’ you’ll find nothing remarkable about the new model, after all they share the same fuel injected 3-valve air cooled engine. But with every new model comes further enhancements, like improvements to the fuel economy, a 30% increase over the S to a claimed 47km/l (133mpg!) and a claimed tank range of 300km’s from the eight litre tank. Service intervals have also been lengthened to 10,000km’s, a great cost and time saving attribute for a 125cc scooter. It also makes it a practical machine to own and use day to day. Whilst we’re talking of practicalities the chassis has been lengthened to give more space between the seat and headstock, at 5’10” I still had almost a foot of space between my knees and the glovebox. So don’t be put off by the ‘Smallframe’ label. Having said that though the seat height is lower at just 790mm and the narrow runner boards means it’s very accessible for shorter riders. This model has also had the battery moved beneath the central frame tube to lower the centre of gravity and allow the helmet bay beneath the seat to be redesigned, this gives over two extra litres of storage space and more importantly means you can comfortably stow a full faced helmet beneath the seat.
As with all Vespas the Sprint is built from pressed steel, rather than plastic so it will last well and can be repaired. The state of the art manufacturing process is arc welded by robots for precision. The chassis design means torsional rigidity is up by 36% for better handling characteristics. On the road this scooter is more agile than a Russian gymnast, so I’d say it works well. That bodywork is topped off with a selection of three colours for the UK, the paintwork is deep and well finished in red, yellow and blue, shadows accentuate the curves of the panels perfectly and it’s not by accident, Piaggio build these things into the design.
The 3-valve engine is air cooled and produces 10.5bhp, not a huge amount of power but it makes use of that power very well and is plenty nippy enough for most users. Getting away first from the traffic lights is a doddle, so don’t let size or power worry you too much. Rome is a city where traffic comes at you in all directions, thankfully although it looks chaotic car drivers are well aware of everything around them – unlike back home. You still need your wits about you though and to be honest there’s not another machine I’d rather ride around a city, at home or abroad. The Sprint is light, responsive and handles very well. The Sava tyres work well enough and the brakes (disc front, drum rear) on our test machine offered phenomenal stopping power, when the Sprint arrives in our dealers in May it will also be equipped with ABS as standard so should be even safer.
There are dozens of scooter manufacturers around, some good some bad but with a Vespa you’re making a choice based on almost 70 years of scooter building experience. The Italians build with passion, their owners arrive in style and there is a noticeable difference between a machine built from the heart and the lesser brands, which are built simply to be sold without soul. The Sprint is a beautiful looking scooter but it’s also well executed and very practical.