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.

Vespa PX 200 Review
Vespa PX 200

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
RRP: $5395.00
Engine: 12hp, single cylinder, two stroke, air-cooled Bore x Stroke 57 x 66.5mm
Displacement: 198cc
Start: Electric & kick
Gear: Four-speed
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"
Length: 1,780mm
Weight: 97kg
Width: 700mm
Wheel base: 1,245mm
Fuel: 8 litres

Scooter provided by Scooter é Motion, 17 Ruru Street, Mt Eden, Auckland.