One of India’s latest manufacturers is breaking new ground in the scooter segment. Here is its debut maxi-scooter offering.
The Indian scooter buyer is maturing, and this humble class of two-wheelers is no longer confined to being a utilitarian workhorse. Some manufacturers think our market is warming up to the idea of maxi-scooters, and they’re dipping their toes in the water with watered-down maxi-style scooters. However, the only two true-blue maxis on sale so far are the Rs 1.39 lakh Yamaha Aerox, and the Rs 10.4 lakh BMW C 400 GT. The latest entrant occupies the space between these two, and simultaneously introduces a new brand to the market. Hungarian-registered, Chinese-owned Benelli’s sister-brand Keeway has debuted in the Indian market with the Rs 2.99 lakh Vieste 300 maxi-scooter.
The promise of a maxi-scooter is that of greater size and comfort, sprightlier performance and a more luxurious experience than what you’d get from a more affordable, ordinary counterpart. Some of these areas, the Vieste has well-covered. Others, not so much. The performance aspect is taken care of by the rather likeable 278cc motor. This single-cylinder liquid-cooled unit is one of the stars of the Vieste’s show, and once you learn that it’s sourced from Piaggio, it all adds up. Performance is pleasantly zippy at city speeds, and a sharp twist of the throttle quickly places you in the next gap in traffic. And even though acceleration begins to fade at 80kph, a 100kph highway cruise is still perfectly doable, with a little left in reserve for overtaking.
There are quite a lot of vibrations at idle, but the engine smoothens out considerably once you’re on the move, so it’s only really an issue when you’re stopped at a red light for a while. The smooth engine and the effortlessness of a CVT make for quite a relaxing riding experience, and the large 12-litre fuel-tank ensures the ride can continue for longer, despite the understandably low fuel efficiency figures.
The fuel tank is housed in the central spine section, so you’re not going to have the practicality of a flat floorboard here – this is one of the sacrifices a maxi-scooter demands from you. But what it usually promises in return is comfortable, laid-back seating and generous underseat storage space. Unfortunately, neither of these hold completely true on the Vieste.
CRAMPING MY STYLE
It features the traditional floorboard extensions that allow you to slide your feet further up, but there simply isn’t enough distance from the footboards to the rider’s seat, even for my 5 foot 8 inch frame. As a result, your legs end up feeling quite cramped, and if you’re around the 6 feet mark or more, this is going to be a pretty significant issue.
You can’t slide further back on the seat to make room either, because of the rider’s backrest. Usually, this is a nice thing to have, but in the case of the Vieste, the backrest is extremely stiff, and after just a short while of leaning against it, you will be quite uncomfortable. The seat itself has some shortcomings – it’s quite a long unit, but there simply isn’t enough padding on it, and you’ll soon find yourself sat on the base-plate, which is a rather unpleasant experience.
The entire seat unit flips open to reveal the boot (only the rider’s seat opens up on its sibling, the Sixties 300i), so the storage space is quite long. But it isn’t very deep. You’ll struggle to even fit a half-face helmet underneath, making it more useful for storing smaller knick-knacks instead.
GOT MY BACK?
The discomfort aboard the Vieste is two-fold, because in addition to the seating, ride quality isn’t exactly what you’d call plush. The front fork seems well set up and deals with imperfections well, but the rear shock absorbers feel quite unforgiving, often crashing and thudding through bumps and transferring most of the impact through to your backside. Between the seat and this stiff set-up, the scooter takes quite a toll on your back, so even though the engine and fuel tank are up for long distances, you probably won’t be. On the plus side, the J Juan stopping set-up, with disc brakes at both ends, works quite well, and dual-channel ABS is always a big thumbs up.
On the luxury front, it’s a case of hits and misses – much like the scooter as a whole. On one hand, you have some truly remarkable features, like heated grips and keyless operation, which are unheard of at this price point, but on the other hand, basic quality and finish levels aren’t up to the mark in areas like the switchgear and storage spaces. And while the heated grips work exceptionally well, the keyless system isn’t the most seamless unit around. Also, the ignition knob looks like it came off a home appliance. The semi-digital instrumentation layout looks quite smart, but it doesn’t feature Bluetooth connectivity or show any fuel consumption-related data.
In many ways, the Keeway Vieste 300 seems to have the tools for the maxi-scooter job. It certainly has an engine worthy of that tag, and the form factor is in place too. It also backs it up with some fancy features. But there is a distinct lack of comfort in the overall riding experience, and unfortunately, this is one area where a maxi-scooter is expected to excel. The Vieste also fails to come across as a premium product. And since the price is certainly at the premium end of the scale, this isn’t a great value proposition. If you are looking for a higher displacement scooter than the offerings currently in the market, its sibling, the Sixties 300i, makes for a better stepping stone. You can check out our review of that scooter here.