Vespa is the iconic scooter manufacturer. As Italian as espresso and Sophia Loren, the brand has taken a journey from utilitarian transport for the masses to super chic scoots for the debonaire man and woman around town.
Now I’ve always been a big fan of scooters, especially those with engines in the 300-400cc bracket, and Vespas still have that certain je nais se quois that makes them stand out from the crowd, so the GTS Super 300 Tech (to give it its full title) certainly seems to tick all my boxes.
The ‘Tech’ is the top model in the GTS range, sitting alongside the base version, the Super and the Super 300 Sport. Aside from colours, the main differences are that the mid-range ‘Sport’ features a keyless ignition system and compatibility with Vespa’s useful MIA app, while the ‘Tech’ we rode also comes with a smart and very comprehensive TFT dashboard. All versions are also available with 125cc engines, making them eligible to be ridden by learner riders who’ve completed the compulsory basic training.
And isn’t it smart? A bit like rebooted car classics, such as the Mini and Fiat 500, Vespa have remained true to traditional design elements while transferring them to a contemporary design. Connoisseurs will appreciate the (relatively) flat foot boards, traditional round headlight bezel, the teardrop rear bodywork and what Vespa refer to as the ‘tie’ adorning the front panel. I also love the matt denim blue bodywork of our test bike, ‘Blue Energico Matt’ to give it its proper title, with lashings of chrome detailing. On first impressions, it’s a winner.
Sit astride the Vespa and it feels equally lush. There’s a really quality feel to the GTS although, with a £6100 price tag, you’d expect nothing less. It’s actually been reduced in price from £6600 at the start of the year, although the base model starts at £5700, which squares it up against the likes of Honda’s Forza 350 and undercuts Yamaha’s XMAX.
While 125s are great and can be ridden on a CBT, the performance can sometimes be lacking for riders who need to spend time on dual carriageways. Unlike the 1947 originals, which featured buzzy little two-stroke engines with manual gearboxes, the latest 300 features an ultra modern 278cc four-stroke delivering almost 24bhp, meaning it is more than capable of holding its own on the open road.The twist and go transmission creates a scooter which is super easy to ride, and which can shoot away from the traffic lights as quickly as any car. It builds up to 70mph quickly and will maintain its speed on inclines and into headwinds, making it ideal for riders who regularly ride outside the city. Even at motorway speeds the Vespa is super smooth and vibration free, making it super relaxing to ride. The downside to the 300, for some at least, is that it requires riders to take full motorcycle test. That’s not a bad thing, but it will be off-putting for those looking to simply ride around after the day’s CBT training.
The TFT dash on our ‘Tech’ spec test bike was also really impressive. It delivers everything you’d expect from a high end dashboard, including clock, temperature and fuel gauge, and when connected to your smartphone through the MIA app you can also take calls on the move, listen to music and take advantage of a turn-by-turn sat nav, which is ideal for a city scooter. It’s also important because the Vespa’s fully enclosed and curvy design makes it difficult to mount your phone as a sat nav, which I’d normally do on a scooter like this.
Around town the Vespa is super agile. The 12” wheels recreate the classic Vespa look and give roller skate like handling, although the trade off is that it can feel a touch less stable than the likes of the Honda Forza (which has a 15” front and 14” rear) at speed and on bumpy roads. It’s still a very comfortable place to be, with the sumptuous saddle offering all-day comfort.
But it is in the city where the GTS is most at home, and riding the Vespa makes you feel like a fashion icon, even though there are definitely more practical options out there. For me, the Forza 350 (and the related ADV350, which we reviewed recently) are the class benchmarks and offer a higher spec for less money. The Hondas offer better weather protection, with proper windscreens, and much more storage space. That last one is my biggest bugbear with the Vespa, which has decent storage under the seat, albeit without enough space to store a crash helmet.
Something I really like about commuting by scooter is that it (usually) allows me to store my helmet, as well as some of my other gear, under the seat while I go about my business. The Vespa doesn’t allow me to do that and is a big black mark in my book, although there is an optional top box available for those who really need that facility.
Part of that space under the seat is taken up by the 8.5 litre fuel tank. Unlike many competitors, which have the fuel filler between the rider’s feet, the Vespa has nice flat footboards, which make it easy to get on and off. For added practicality, there’s also a small glove box with a USB socket in which you can store your phone while charging it. The front panel also features a bag hook, on which you take advantage of the space in the footwell and hang a bag of shopping.
The Vespa is something of an outlier in the mid-capacity scooter sector. Buying this over a Forza is a bit like choosing a Mini over a Ford Focus. It’s going for fashion over function, even if the fashionable choice is still pretty practical in itself. If the Honda Forza is the estate car of the scooter world, the Vespa is a cheeky little coupe that turns all the heads.
If the question is ‘what is the best value mid-capacity scooter on the market’ then it’s quite easy: it’s not the Vespa GTS 300! But taking the rational side out of it, Vespa still has that X factor the other manufacturers just don’t have. It’s very easy to love the Vespa GTS Super 300 Tech. Its performance is more than enough for modern roads, it looks gorgeous and has all the tech to enhance the city rider’s day-to-day commute.
Long live the Vespa, a true Italian icon.
Vespa GTS Super 300 Tech specification
Engine: 278cc, liquid-cooled, SOHC, single cylinder four-valves
Power: 17.5kW (23.8bhp) @ 8,250rpm
Torque: 26Nm @ 5,250rpm
Frame: Sheet steel body with welded reinforcements
Wheels: 12” front and rear
Tyres: Tubeless, front 120/70-12, rear 130/70-12
Weight: 158kg wet
Seat height: 790mm
Fuel tank: 8.5 litres