The first few days with the Piaggio Vespa SXL 150 had me strutting into office much earlier than I normally did, inviting a few subtly raised eyebrows from the regular ‘early birds’ as well as the housekeeping staff. No, I wasn’t rushing to meet a deadline and neither was I falling behind schedule. It’s just that my travel time was down by over 45 minutes! As you can imagine, not having to alternate between a rickshaw, bus and a cab (in that order) had me grinning from ear to ear.
You’d be right to point out that any other scooter would have had the same impact on reducing travel time. But bringing the same level of style to the commute? Not so much. The Vespa has always been instantly recognisable with its retro styling and the SXL 150 is no exception.
In fact, it received a comprehensive design update when it was launched last year. Square headlamps along with rectangular chrome mirrors further emphasise the retro styling, beautifully complemented by five-spoke black alloys. Our long-termer also came with the addition of a lightly smoked flyscreen, and wore an eye-catching matt red colour, the latter being a regular head-turner.
However, a big change is the addition of an all-new 150cc air-cooled single-cylinder engine, which makes the SXL one of the most powerful scooter in the segment. The motor puts out 11.5hp and a torque rating of 11.5Nm.
If the pure retro charm doesn’t turn heads, the matt red colour surely will.
Once on the go, the Vespa proved to be a complete hoot to ride. Acceleration is quick off the line and there is enough grunt right up to speeds of 70-80kph. It wore its reliability on its sleeve as its services were called upon for everything, from the usual commute to work and back, to small weekend chores to even pick-ups at the airport (complete with a pillion rider and two loaded backpacks). The tyres offer good grip and the Vespa makes no qualms about being shoved around in traffic.
The CVT transmission does a neat job and lends a considerable amount of smoothness to the ride. What is particularly commendable is it always has enough power, even at high speeds, to seamlessly carry out overtaking manoeuvres. Every millimetre of a twist in throttle is met with a quick shove forward – a trait that sets it apart from most scooters in the segment – and instills a sense of confidence.
However, it does get wobbly at high speeds and is not much of a crosswind fighter too. While the addition of the flyscreen does add aesthetic value, I couldn’t gain much from it due to my height of over 6 feet, and had wind buffeting into my face. A rear carrier or a chrome guard, for instance, could be a better choice for an optional extra, especially for tall riders. Athough the Vespa does a fine job of seating two average-sized adults, the absence of a rear footpeg and a grab rail can be a bit of a grouse for the pillion rider. Moreover, for a premium bike, we felt the switchgear didn’t quite meet the standards.
The Vespa SXL 150 makes for a fine package with a stylish exterior, coupled with a great riding ability. But at a price of Rs 1.10 lakh (on-road, Mumbai, including Rs 2,000 for the matt red colour), it makes a strong case for breaking a bank rather than being value for money.