What is it?
Clearly, it’s a scooter and a racy-looking one! And, it just happens to be a 150cc scooter. And, it just happens to be priced at Rs 65,000 (ex-showroom). And, oh, its the Aprilia SR 150. Don’t fault us for being excited about it. This combination of ingredients was something we never saw coming, and the surprise hasn’t washed off yet.
What’s so exciting?
Well, firstly for the enthusiasts, it’s the name; usually owning an exotic Italian brand is for a slim strata of society. But, with the arrival of the SR 150 we can ride around on an Aprilia while continuing to dream about owning an RSV4 or a Caponord. The SR 150 is eye-catching and we ended up staring at it a bit. The overall design looks confident and racy. However, the pointy and slim front-end looks a bit awkward from some angles and the twin headlamps mounted on the front cowl may not be to everyone’s liking. A smart touch is how the front fairing seems to float before flowing into the footboard. The generously proportioned stepped seat sits on an upswept tail section. The contrasting red and black seat cover and the flush folding pillion footpegs are smart design touches.
Of the touch points and the rider's cockpit, everything felt functional and smart, not wow. The palm grips felt soft, and switches simple. The inclusion of a pass flash switch was very welcome. The two-dial analogue instrument console looked a bit dated. Aprilia says that the price dictated some of these decisions and future updates could include an analogue and LCD unit. However, the absence of a brake lock clamp was annoying.
Did you only see it?
No! We got to ride it too. But, first we’ll look under the skin.
The 154cc four-stroke engine is derived from the force air-cooled unit seen on the Vespas and this has undoubtedly helped Piaggio price the Aprilia well (Piaggio owns Vespa and Aprilia, amongst several other brands). This engine makes 11.4hp of power and 11.5Nm of torque, the same as the Vespa. Piaggio representative said that some tweaks have been made such as a longer crank case to adapt it to the SR chassis, but other internal changes have not been revealed. Piaggio officials suggested that while the stated power and torque might be the same as the Vespa on paper, the dikat was to make the SR150 the fastest scooter in India. Recalibration of the variator to deal with the new wheel size could also have been used to improve responsiveness.
Don’t think of this as a differently dressed Vespa, because instead of Vespa’s signature piece – the monocoque chassis – the Aprilia uses a tubular underbone chassis. Also, it weighs an estimated three-four kilograms lighter than the Vespa. As you can see, the SR150 packs telescopic forks, 14” wheels, a 220mm front disc brake so it could add a dash of zing to your daily commute without taking away the convenience of a scooter.
Uff, Talk to the heart, man!
Right, the Aprilia was a hoot to ride around. The beauty is the way it combines performance and handling to deliver a near “bike” like experience without sacrificing the ease of use expected of a scooter. Incredibly, the motor just feels so strong at higher speeds. Getting to 80kph was a breeze and the 100kph mark came up more often than expected! What was all the more impressive was its well calibrated responses even at low speeds, which makes it very easy to ride carefully. The only downside is that at idle there are a fair bit of vibes at the bar. But, this phenomenon disappears as soon as you twist the accelerator even slightly.
Even at low speeds, the balance of the chassis becomes apparent. The SR150 is precise and confident to steer. These words are usually not used for a scooter, but it becomes very apparent as speeds rise. The SR150 feels more bike than scooter in the way it handles. It doesn’t feel as light as a scooter to steer, but it feels just so sure-footed. Once familiarised, you learn to break late, chuck it in hard and then nail it. Unlike most scooters, the SR150 doesn’t feel nervy when cranked over. It is fun! Even with a pillion on board, the SR150 felt composed as we tackled bumps at 80kph. Shedding speed was solid, courtesy of the 220mm disc two-pot Bybre caliper. The 120/70 x 14 Vee Rubber tyres were tested by the strong bite of the brakes, but they held up well. And after a few corners we couldn’t help but check for chicken strips. We expect that this might end up being the city runabout in most superbike owners’ garages too.
Sporty and practical then?
The stepped seat was generous and the cushioning felt well judged even at the end of our two-hour stint. The riding posture is comfy and there is enough room even for taller riders. The only trade off for this fun runabout is that the suspension is set a bit firm. The result is that it can feel a bit jittery over uneven tarmac. But, the suspension and the large wheels deal with bumps and potholes fairly well.
As of now, we don’t have the underseat storage capacity in litres, but a quick check with an Arai helmet showed that it isn’t a very large space and is likely to accommodate a half face helmet. Also, remember, the SR150 does without the modern day gadgetry that is all too common on newer scooters, such as charging sockets, USB ports or remote seat release mechanisms. We don’t expect that to be a deal breaker for enthusiasts.
Italy for the win?
The SR150 is an exciting product that does justice to its brand name and to its very existence as a scooter. On top of that, it is also very well priced. Will it be a scooter for everyone? No. Its lack of modern day features, lesser storage and expectedly lower fuel efficiency will not appeal to the majority of the scooter buyers. But, for those looking for the fun factor of a motorcycle, but with the convenience of a scooter to tackle the city every day on, the SR150 will hit the sweet spot. Don’t wait around though, the Aprilia’s introductory price may not last longer than a couple of months and it will be available through all Vespa dealerships across the country. Aprilia has rolled the dice. We think it’s a six.