I just spent the cutest month of my life with the 2015 Vespa Primavera. Let me tell you about living that #scooterlife.
Riding a scooter requires a completely different mindset from riding a motorcycle.
The Primavera is actually a new model for Vespa, launched at the 2013 EICMA show as a 2014 model. It replaces the Vespa LX model and brings about some significant changes in how Vespa is moving forward with its product line.
The Vespa Primavera is powered by a 150 cc three-valve, single-cylinder engine, which makes 13 horsepower and 9.5 foot-pounds of torque and gets a reported 118 mpg. While we usually don't put a ton of stock in manufacturer reported mpg numbers, I put gas in the Prima one time during the month I had it.
The Primavera's sheet-metal construction makes it 150 percent stronger than the outgoing LX models, according to Piaggio. The engine mounting system is new and uses an extra positioning arm, as well as a stop with a rubber, double-absorption damper to reduce engine vibrations felt in the grips, floorboards, and seat.
The front suspension is also new, and now features a hinged lower shock mount instead of being bolted directly to the trailing arm. This allows it to keep the correct relationship to the arm even at full extension. This is intended to reduce lateral bending and slide friction, which allows for more precise steering and a smoother ride.
The Primavera weighs 258 pounds (dry) and has a wheelbase of 52.75 inches, two inches longer than the outgoing LX.
Testing the Primavera
Scooters fall into two groups: utilitarian and stylish. Recently, we compared the Yamaha Smax and the Suzuki Burgman 200, two utilitarian scooters that are uglier than almost anything on two wheels, but that can do pretty much everything a motorcycle can do for half the price and with twice the fuel economy. Then, there are the style scooters, which traditionally haven't offered the same kind of performance as the utilitarian ones, but do bring about the nice benefit of transporting you instantly to a California beach or a European city center, as soon as you place your feet on the floorboard.
The Vespa is the poster child for the latter and, luckily for me, I live on a Southern California beach.
Only a completely customized cafe racer or Harley can make you feel more like you're letting the bike down by not dressing for the part than the Vespa. So much so, that you sort of forget about class-leading storage or needing it go on the freeway. You aren't buying it for how it can make your life cheaper and easier, you're buying it for how it makes you feel.
I can't believe I'm about to publish this on the internet, but the Vespa makes you feel cute. Not cute in the attractive sense, more cute like Taylor Swift. It puts a stupid grin on your face which, when paired with the scooter, seems to put a grin on the face of everyone you pass. Little old ladies tell you how adorable you are as you park, girls smile or wave as you zip through traffic or apply liberal amounts of rear brake to screech to a halt at every opportunity. Real "bikers" find you so cute that you actually seem to become invisible to them and not a single one will wave, even when you flap your hand wildly as you pass.
During my time with the Primavera, I got very comfortable living the scooter life. So much so that having to step over the seat to get on a motorcycle seemed downright awkward.
Stacked up to the scooters we compared a few weeks ago, the Primavera struggles to be competitive in the performance areas. Its 150 cc single topped out about 60 mph, barely fast enough to ride along the Pacific Coast Highway and definitely not capable of hanging on Los Angeles freeways. However, given the 11-inch wheels it rolls on, I don't think I would really want to see the little Vespa pushed much faster. Steering is incredibly sharp, so much so that I always made sure to keep a hand on the bars at all times.
The Vespa Primavera is a beautiful scooter. Vespas have always been stylish, and this all-new scoot does a great job of blending old lines with newer technology, like LED running lights and an updated instrument panel. Everything from the headlight to the paint are absolutely stunning, which makes for quite an eye-catching little scooter.
At somewhere in the neighborhood of 115 mpg, the Primavera is very economical. I only had to put gas in ours one time in the month that we had it, and I put almost 400 miles on it.
I love that Vespa left the rear as a mechanically operated drum brake. The hooligan in me wishes more bikes had a lefthand rear-brake lever sans ABS. Sliding the rear of something like the Primavera literally never got old.
I was sad to see the Primavera struggle to keep pace down roads like the Pacific Coast Highway or other normal roads with higher speed limits. After spending time on the Smax and Burgman, I had become accustomed to pairing scooter sensibilities with the ability to ride longer distances. Sadly, the Primavera seemed determined to stay within a relatively small radius of my house. It was just too slow to pull its weight for normal Southern California day-to-day life.
The lack of a sidestand was annoying to no end. Sure, putting the thing up on its centerstand was cute and kind of fun in the right circumstances, but most of the time I just wanted to slide out a side stand and be on my way.
It's hard to find a direct competitor for a bike like the Primavera. Sure, there are other 150 cc scooters, but not with the Primavera's classic styling. With an MSRP of $4,799, the Primavera is in the same price range as the Smax and Burgman 200, but it has a completely different skill set and personality. With the Yamaha Vino 125 no longer available, the only similarly styled scooters are 50 cc models like the Vino Classic and the Honda Metropolitan. The other alternative is a larger Vespa model, but those start at nearly $2,000 more expensive.
The Vespa Primavera is the perfect scooter... for a very specific buyer. If you or your significant other wants something cute to ride around town on, there simply isn't a better option. Vespa made a host of updates to the old LX that really improved performance and comfort, but kept the price much more entry-level than the $10,500 Vespa 946.
During my time with the bike, several friends' wives and a neighbor or two all asked me about the scooter and mentioned they had considered getting one. Again, this isn't for the utilitarian "most bang for your buck" crowd, but for those who want a fairly cheap bike that costs next to nothing to run that will get them around town stylishly. If there was ever a vehicle that embodied our "form over function" love of two-wheeled things, the Vespa Primavera is it.
This story was updated Jan. 12. 2015, to clarify the Primavera's construction.