Vespa PX 200 Review
After nearly 30 years of uninterrupted production, the Vespa PX is by far Piaggio's best-selling scooter, with millions sold worldwide. But the iconic symbol of European commuting may be coming to an end. Lawrence Schäffler reports.
At the end of June Piaggio is launching a new generation of Vespa scooters - complete with all the features that typify the modern "twist-and-go" genre of machines. The phasing out of its stalwart Vespa PX seems inevitable.
So if you're the sort that thrives on nostalgia and enjoys making a statement on a set of retro wheels, it might be a good idea to grab a PX while you can. Besides, there are plenty of other reasons to support your idealism: simplicity, supreme reliability, virtually indestructible construction, fuel efficiency, excellent availability of spares - and cost.
Other than the satin-finish paint job, there is little to distinguish the 2005 model from its 25-year old sibling: the fundamental machine has remained faithful to the original design and styling. Which is why after years of riding "conventional" motorcycles and scooters, climbing aboard a PX 200 requires, well, a little acclimatization.
It still has the pressed-and-welded steel chassis, the funny seat designed at a time when the word "ergonomic" didn't exist, the off-centre, foot pedal rear brake, and of course, the clunky, left-handle, twist gear shift. It's a four-speed box, and your left wrist gets a good workout in the traffic. Even the "retro" speedo has been retained.
Some features have been updated over the years: modern PX models sport a halogen headlight, electric start, front disc brake, alloy wheels and automatic oil/fuel mixing. These changes have made a welcome difference.
Should you wish to remain authentic to the era, you can still kick-start the engine, but the electric start is much easier. The beefed-up front suspension and 200mm diameter disc brake combine well for quicker, more efficient and secure braking.
The 198cc engine only delivers 12 horsepower, but it's a direct drive through that four-speed box, and offers more than enough performance for zipping around town - especially as the machine weighs less than 100kg.
Out on the motorway, the PX 200 cruises comfortably at around 80kph. It's a struggle to get it up to 100 - and not much fun without a windshield - but this is not machine built for speed. It's about style, image and looking cool - and getting places efficiently.
The scooter has a large following in New Zealand (it's the most common Vespa by a long way) and the best indication of its popularity is its resale value: 1990 PX 200s commonly fetch between $2500 and $3000: a brand new one is just over $5000.
Of course, the major advantage of a production model that hasn't changed much over 25 years is easy availability of parts and accessories. All in all, it's a sublimely practical scooter (it even carries a spare wheel), very reliable and economical to run.
More than any other scooter, the Vespa helped to define modern commuting. So it's perhaps fitting that it's remained such a powerful symbol of the scooter tradition. It's a special blend of infectious fun - with a touch of romance. Riding it, you almost expect a statuesque Italian beauty to step off the kerb and wave you down, wrap a scarf over her head and hop on behind. Classic Vespa.
Specifications Vespa PX200
Engine: 12hp, single cylinder, two stroke, air-cooled Bore x Stroke 57 x 66.5mm
Start: Electric & kick
Suspension: Front - Single-arm, dual effect hydraulic shock absorber; Rear - Oscillating engine, dual effect shock absorber
Brakes: Front 200mm disc with hydraulic pump on the handlebar; Rear 150mm drum
Wheels: Rims in pressed steel, drums in light alloy
Tyres: 3.50" x 10"
Wheel base: 1,245mm
Fuel: 8 litres
Scooter provided by Scooter é Motion, 17 Ruru Street, Mt Eden, Auckland.