It’s the hectic daily sprint to the office and the weekly runs to the local market that keeps scooters ticking. But these little tykes can be so much more than just regular little runabouts. Piaggio’s Vespa set the ball of possibility rolling when it ventured into the realm of premium 150cc gearless scooters for the Indian market, and at a time when 125cc was all the displacement other manufacturers could muster. Now in 2016, Vespa’s sister company, Aprilia has taken this 150cc scooter segment a step further with the sporty new SR 150. And although these scooters share the same power plant, Vespa stays true to its classy styling and pleasant riding experience, while Aprilia gives us a taste of its racing heritage.
Dress shoes or sneakers?
On the surface it would be extremely hard to tell that these scooters are even remotely related. The Vespa manages to steal your heart with its charming retro styling and typically Vespa bits. The SXL version gets a nice squared headlight with chrome accents that complement the retro-styled chrome mirrors and brake levers. What’s more, the quality paint schemes add a whole lot of class to the styling. Even the side panels arch nicely over the rear wheel as they flow elegantly and taper towards a rather minimalistic rear end.
The SR 150 has seen Aprilia take a slightly different approach and there’s nothing minimalistic about it. It’s got a much sportier stance and styling, which announces the racing heritage of this Italian manufacturer. It comes with a nice dual-barrel headlight setup that fits snugly into the SR 150’s front beak. With styling cues taken from the likes of bigger Aprilias like the RSV4, the typical black, red and white livery with the Italian flag up front contribute to the racer look of this little 150cc scooter. The way the rear wheel extends beyond the up-swept, tail end of the scooter tells you that the SR 150 means business.
Hop on to the seat of the Aprilia and you’ll see a twin-dial analogue instrument cluster that appears quite basic, but is functional nonetheless. The pass flash button on the SR 150 too is a welcome addition. However, the lack of a rear brake lock clamp on the lever is sorely missed; a feature the SXL 150 misses out on as well. The Vespa’s speedo console appears premium and has a shape like that of an oyster. However, I did find the switches to be rather awkwardly placed and there was a fair amount of fumbling involved, especially for the buttons on the left. But I presume after spending a little more time with the Vespa, this is something that you would eventually get used to.
The SR 150’s speedo is basic and looks dated.
When it comes to storage, the Vespa is the more practical of the two. It’s got two small cubbyholes under each handlebar, and a cavernous under-seat storage bucket. The footboard storage may be a little restricted because of the spine that runs through the centre. The SR 150’s storage, or rather the lack of it, makes this scooter’s sporty purpose a little clearer; there’s just about enough space under the seat to cram a small half-face helmet. The SR 150 and SXL 150, both, get the same circular hook –under the central part of the handlebar – to hang stuff on. While both scooters do miss out on features such as a USB charging point, remote seat-opener and a remote fuel filler, they do get key slots for under-seat storage neatly tucked into the seat.
Coffee or Redbull?
Although both these scooters supposedly share the same carburetted, single-cylinder, air-cooled, three-valve engine, the Aprilia SR 150 runs a 154.8cc engine, while Vespa has been a bit unclear about the exact displacement of the SXL and instead, just says that it is 150cc. However, both engines are in varying states of tune; just like the proverbial coffee or Redbull, they both deliver a caffeine kick, but in very different ways. Despite the SR 150 being the quicker one here, it produces 10.6hp, while the SXL 150 produces 11.6hp. Torque figures stand at 11.4Nm for the SR 150 and 11.5Nm for the SXL 150. Quite surprising really, because even though the SR 150 doesn’t really feel earth-shatteringly fast, it does feel instantly quicker when you ride both the scooters back to back. Even test results show that the SR 150 is over one second faster to 60kph with a time of 7.4sec, compared to the SXL 150’s 8.6sec.
The Aprilia certainly has the speed advantage out on open roads, but the Vespa isn’t a slouch by any means.
But let’s not get into the numbers now, as the highlight of this whole comparison is the nature of these two little Italians. With its monocoque chassis, the Vespa feels like the more nimble of the two at low speeds. But once speed starts to build, the quick turn-in of the Vespa makes it feel a bit twitchy in corners. But here’s where the SR 150 comes into its element and this is where that blend between scooter and motorcycle starts to shine through.
The moment a set of corners start to show up in your crosshairs, instead of slowing down, you feel like leaning in and really riding it out. Confident that the underbone chassis and wide 120/70-14-inch Vee Rubber tyres and 32mm telescopic forks up front will help you hold your lines with precision. However, when bad roads show up, the SR 150’s stiffer suspension setup will make for a bumpy ride, but the 14-inch wheels tend to iron that out a bit. The SXL 150 on the other hand, with its single-sided trailing arm at the front and hydraulic shock at the rear, delivers a plusher ride and handle bumps better – and that’s despite having a smaller 11-inch wheel at the front and a 10-inch one at the rear. The broad Maxxis 110/70-11 and 120/70-10-inch set of tyres do a decent job with grip levels.
Single-sided trailing arm on Vespa for comfort.
Both scooters have large, comfortable seats that could allow for some slightly longer stints out on the highway. But, the SR 150’s seat does feel a bit narrow in comparison to the wide, plush seat of the Vespa. Seating position is a bit higher and sportier on the SR 150 than the more neutral one of the SXL 150. For stopping duties, the SR 150 has a large 220mm disc brake with a twin piston caliper at the front, and a 140mm drum brake at the rear, and that works well to bring the scooter to a halt from 60kph in 19.18 metres. The Vespa, with its 200mm disc at the front and 140mm drum at the rear, takes a tad longer and comes to a halt from 60kph in 20.86 metres.
With love, from Italy
The two scooters have clearly been designed to appeal to two different sets of riders. On one hand, the Vespa with its chic, retro charm and practicality stands against the might of the Aprilia’s sporty character and race-styling. On the other hand, the SXL 150 comes at a premium price of Rs 91,430 (ex-showroom, Delhi), with its steel monocoque chassis driving the cost up, and the SR 150 comes in at a more pocket-friendly Rs 67,396 (ex-showroom, Delhi). So it’s quite literally a battle of style and practicality versus affordability and fun. A tough choice, but being enthusiasts at heart, we’d have to give practicality a pass this time. Even though the Vespa brings the finesse to the table, the Aprilia’s sheer fun factor and its ratio of fun to the pricing is what works for us. Besides the engine and exotic Italian roots, the Aprilia SR 150 and the Vespa VXL 150 fit the whole chalk and cheese bill of dissimilarity. And, carrying more groceries home or emulating Gregory Peck à la Roman Holiday can’t beat the joy of nailing those apexes.