Piaggio MP3 Yourban 300 i.e. – First Ride A lighter, better handling three-wheel scooter.

In 2006, Piaggio surprised the powersports industry when it unveiled its three-wheeled MP3 scooter. It features a clever, and duly patented, tilting front end that allows the MP3 to offer motorcycle-like steering response with the additional safety provided by two wheels up frontparticularly on slippery or rain-drenched surfaces. Despite its high sticker price (the original 500cc version pushed $9000 in the U.S.), the MP3 has been a success, with Piaggio selling 83,000 units worldwide to date.

This success led to further investment in the concept and an ever-growing expansion of the MP3 lineup. The latest edition is the MP3 Yourban 300 i.e. (You Urban), which I had the chance to ride on the rain-soaked roads of the Còte d’Azur around Cannes in the South of France.

Built as a response to criticism of the original MP3’s excessive weight, size and price, the latest MP3 Yourban is the best version yet. Weighing 33 pounds less and sporting a 2.0-inch shorter wheelbase (56.7 in.), the Yourban now features larger, 13-inch front wheels instead of the previous model’s 12 inchers. Front-end geometry has been altered to accommodate these changes. Not only is the Yourban lighter but it looks the part as well.

Fresh styling features less bodywork that exposes more of the front suspension components, giving it a more techno look. The footboard has been lowered 0.78 in. contributing to a comfortable riding posture, with the seat set at 30.7 in. off the ground.

The 300 i.e. is powered by a liquid-cooled, 278cc, sohc, four-valve, fuel-injected Single, which makes a claimed 23 horsepower and 17.3 foot-pounds of peak torque. This unit is teamed to an effective CVT transmission, featuring a crisply engaging automatic (centrifugal) clutch that extracts the best from the willing Single.

Although the Yourban shed a meaningful amount of weight, it still tips the scale at 453 pounds, but the combination of its lighter weight and quicker steering response proved to be a lot of fun on the wet French roads. The MP3 is very quick off the line and rapidly progresses to 60 or 70 mph, easily ahead of traffic.

Piaggio MP3 300 Hybrid

Potholes and rough pavement were competently absorbed by the larger front wheels and well-tuned front suspension. Wet pedestrian crossings and manhole covers barely upset the Yourban while cornering; the rear wheel would step out of line a minor amount when I was hard on the throttle but would then immediately recompose itself with little if any necessary steering input. Wet or dry, the MP3 Yourban allows incredible lean angles around corners with a high degree of safety.

It’s sure-footedness in the rain easily beats that of a motorcycle in similar conditions.

Despite our wet and cold test ride, the MP3 Yourban proved very comfortable and is possibly one of the best scooters in production. For the first time the MP3 can be purchased without the electronic system that “freezes” the front suspension for ease of parking. Eliminating the system requires that the rider hoist the scooter onto the centerstand to park it, but also knocks an additional 26.5 pounds off the Yourban’s weight and reduces the MSRP by 700 euros.

Expect the Yourban 300 i.e. to hit the U.S. market by the end of 2011 at a yet undetermined price.

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