Aprilia Scarabeo 250 i.e. Review
Muscular engine, Muscular styling, Much better
Words by JEREMY BOWDLER, photogaphy by LOU MARTIN
It’s the question that strikes fear into the heart of every roadtester. The question that puts you on the spot, that admits of no equivocation, that demands an answer, a considered answer, before whoever is asking the question snorts in derision.
So what’s the best scooter, then?
The how long is a piece of string defence is long gone, shattered by repetition. The question and its cognates (So what do you ride?and So what’s your favourit scooter?) are never satisfied by reasoned argument. You cant, for example, say that a 50 would be perfect if all I wanted to do was commute to and from work, or that a Vespa GT60 would be my choice of a modern scooter for posing at the cafe, or that an MP3 would be the only one Iíd ride in the rain or that the old 1961 Li 150 Lammie in the shed holds a special place, when what the interrogator wants to hear is that the scooter he or she has is, in my opinion as well, the best on the market, in the world and possibly the history of scootering.
Of course, from the above, youíve worked out that the peril of the job lies in amassing such experience on scooters that you can never be satisfied with just one ñ not unless you could take the engine from one, the chassis from another, the colour from a third and the body from a fourth and all for the price of the fifth. I could build the best scooter if I had access to all the bits.
Fortunately Aprilia has almost done it for me with the new Scarabeo 250ie. Almost, but not quite.
Let me take you back to issue #7, where we tested the Scarabeo 250, an oddly styled beef-up of the delightful (but small) Scarabeo range. We liked the performance from the engine (the almost ubiquitous Piaggio Leader), we liked the powerful brakes and compliant suspension and we liked the motorcycle-derived handling, big wheels and tyres. We didnít like the lack of storage, though we did appreciate the top-box, and we didnít like the flip-up sidestand.
Fast forward to last week and there was a new, bright red Scarabeo 250ie in the carpark.
At first glance the only difference appeared to be the lack of a topbox and the addition of ie badges. Then the detail began to become obvious and it was apparent that Aprilia has made more of what we liked and eliminated what we didnít. It’s a major upgrade.
Firstly, the scooter is still roomy, with low, flat footboards that fit taller riders well, despite the seat being only 790mm and narrower to allow an easier reach to the ground. Comfort is good, but the rider ís seat has a scalloped shape and I found I slipped forwards a little under hard braking. The pillion gets treated well with a broad, comfy seat and neat fold out footpegs as well as a hefty rack that doubles as a hand-hold.
The new injection system has given the engine a lively boost in power (it feels like the strongest and tightest incarnation of the 250cc Leader) and the claimed 15.6kW at 8500rpm is coupled with 19Nm of torque at 6500rpm. While these figures are the same as quoted for the older 250, the engine delivers better power and feels stronger thanks to the linearity delivered by the electronic injection.
This is emphasised by the quick-action throttle which has less than a quarter turn from closed to wide open.
Performance from the liquid-cooled four-valve single is fine from around town blasting away from the lights to highway overtaking though planning is needed for such manoeuvres at highway speeds.
Throttle response is clean and accurate and the fuel injection system should give you confidence that you are only using as little of your precious petrol as is absolutely necessary and with the Scarabeo requiring Unleaded 95, it is precious. Apriliaís background in making high-performance and racing motorcycles is obvious in the chassis integrity of the Scarabeo which has a rigidity and tautness missing from many scooters. The double cradle steel frame gives a great feeling of stability, aided in no small measure by the large wheels (16-inch front and 14-inch rear) which carry tyres with significant rubber on the road.
This in turn means the brakes can be upgraded to match the scooterís performance and the 250ie has a single disc front and rear, with the left-hand lever operating the rear caliper and one piston in the front, giving an integral, balanced braking performance. Itís a common system on many large capacity motorcycles and one which gives more confidence to the rider and that means more safety.
The suspension has been upgraded from the previous model with new larger fork tubes giving better handling and more confidence in the front tyre, while two easily adjustable spring-damper units have replace the older modelís single rear shock. Again, this adds up to better compliance and control over bumpy tarmac.
The single disc of the 250ie (there is a cover on the right-hand fork leg where the larger modelsí second disc is fitted) reduces unsprung weight and rotational inertia to give the 250 sweet steering and the scooter is very manoeuvrable in town and very capable out of it.
So Aprilia has improved on almost every area we liked. What about the downsides? The sidestand is no longer spring-loaded, but has an electronic cut-out so you canít start the scooter with the stand down.
A much better solution. Other electrical trickery includes a standard immobiliser and alarm system.
When it comes to storage, Aprilia has excelled. Where the 250 had none, the 250ie has what looks like class-leading space under the seat. Not only is it a regular shape (rectangular) it has a standard depth of 150mm, without protrusions or bumps so itíll take a helmet and stuff more easily.
A low seat, big wheels and storage?
There is also a glovebox in front of your knees which has the fuel cap and seat latches (the seat is also unlockable from the keyfob) though youíd be hard-pressed to fit a large mobile phone in either of the two little pockets. A luggage hook completes the storage options until you fit the optional topbox (in three sizes).
So it’s perfect? As I said at the outset, almost but not quite.
Apart from the seat locking me in a little ñ which may become uncomfortable after a full day in the saddle my main gripe is that to gain the rigidity from the chassis, Aprilia has had to lose the flat footwell that is so useful. Not only can you not carry boxes between your feet, getting on and off the scooter leads to boot scuffs that are unsightly. What else donít I like?
Well, Aprilia is asking a premium price for the 250ie but, considering what it is, what it has and what it does, plus the likely resale values, I just got one step closer to being able to answer the big question.
It was apparent that Aprilia has made more of what we liked and eliminated what we didnt.
As published in TW SCOOTER MAGAZINE – 6/03/2008
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