Minor niggles notwithstanding, the Vespa SXL 150’s strengths leave a lasting impression on us.
A year with us and it was time for our long-term Vespa to head back. At the risk of sounding dramatic, I was dejected when I found out. I’d grown fond of the snazzy-looking thing, having spent a major part of the year with it, clocking upwards of 6,300km.
While a majority of that distance was the daily commute to work, the Vespa’s reliability shone through after work hours – it was called upon for just about everything from last minute dinner plans in the busiest part of the city to an early morning trip to the clubhouse. The thought of traversing Bandra’s crowded lanes or South Mumbai’s dreadful traffic after a long day at work no longer prompted me to take a rain check as the Vespa made its way through the crowded streets quite effortlessly. Handling is nimble, and the 11.5hp, 150cc single-cylinder engine ensures a steady flow of power, which meant swiftly heading into gaps in traffic and overtaking on open stretches was a breeze. Another feature that the Vespa has going for it is storage. There are highly useful pockets below the handlebar and the underseat storage can gobble up a half-face helmet or a month’s supply of cookies.
The Vespa braved two of Mumbai’s notorious monsoons with us. Despite spending a decent amount of time wading through water and being parked in the open amid heavy rainfall, all the electricals were fine and there weren’t any instances of seepage.
However, the scooter doesn’t like being stationary for long as the self-start tends to malfunction; the kickstart, however, worked without any issue. This was followed by uneven braking and squeaking sounds from the brakes before it normalised after a couple of kilometres. Incidentally, the relentless rainfall last month meant the Vespa had to remain parked for a few days, and this took the life out of the battery. A visit from the company mechanic revealed a fouled spark plug.
In its last month with us, the handlebar started to feel loose and got a bit wobbly. The scooter started to pull to the left as well. Another visit to the service centre would have been due if the scooter wasn’t going back.
Nevertheless, the Vespa’s build quality deserves a mention as there wasn’t a creak from any of the panels, despite it being subjected to uneven roads frequently. So, a few troubles aside, the Vespa packs in a lot of practicality, joy of riding and Italian flair served in a stunning matt red shade. Safe to say the Autocar fleet will miss this warm dash of retro.