Market maturity has been the buzzword at the Vespa department of the Piaggio office over the past few weeks. What it is talking about is that the Indian customer's evolved perspective wherein the scooter isn't just a matter of practicality, but also a lifestyle choice.
However, while the rest of the players in the Indian market continue to shuffle among the 110-125 cc options, the Italians have dialled things up a notch and introduced a pair of 150 cc offerings. The Vespa VXL and SXL are two trim levels of the same scooter.
While the handling is decisive and telepathic, the ride quality is at the stiffer end of the spectrum. Pics/Crystelle Nunes
When it comes to design, the Italians have it covered. The higher-end SXL variant comes with more chrome treatment on the body parts, a perimetre and bumper guard, accessories such as the helmet and a cool-looking windscreen as standard equipment. There are, of course, minor differences between the two trims. For example, the VXL offers a roundish headlamp while the SXL features a bold rectangular reflector unit. Towards the rear, the VXL features a sturdy and functional grab-handle while the SXL comes with a strip of fabric running across the middle of the seat for a pillion rider to hold on to.
Hidden beneath the seats is a convenient 15- litre storage bin. Although alloy wheels are common to both the scooters, VXL gets chrome treatment whereas the SXL uses blacked out wheels. A footboard is common and is strongly reminiscent of old-school Vespas with parallel serrations running across the length. '
Another common feature is the combination instrument cluster which offers an analogue readout of the speedometer and digital readouts of the fuel-gauge, odometer and trip meter. The riding position is comfortable but the contoured and stepped seat is on the harder side.
As I thumb the starter, the engine comes to life with a throaty rasp. The 150-cc engine puts out a peak power of 11.6 PS at 7,000 rpm and peak torque of 11.5 Nm at 5,500 rpm. Power delivery, thankfully, is linear and acceleration is progressive. However, noise levels increase in lockstep with the speed.
While the handling is decisive and telepathic, the ride quality is at the stiffer end of the spectrum. Charge ahead with some excess speed through a rough patch and the Vespa will punish you with a sore rear.
Both scooters employ a 200- mm ventilated disc brake with a single-piston calliper at the front and a 140-mm drum brake at the rear. Shedding speed is a tricky ordeal on the Vespa. Although the 200-mm disc offers sufficient bite, it lacks progression and requires more than a handful from the right lever.
The basic VXL 150 is priced at R86,000 (OTR, Pune) and the addition of features costs a premium of R91,000 for the SXL, which makes it the most expensive scooter in the segment. Following this, one can also expect a limited-edition variant of the Vespa in the form of the Elegante next month.
The new 150 cc Vespa isn't a bad scooter and is certainly high on style. Unfortunately for the Italian marque, however, there are others who offer far more practicality and a decent amount of style as well for a lot less money. And that is the chink in the Vespa's Italian armour.
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