Piaggio X10 500, BV 350 and Yourban 300
Piaggio ups the ante with three new premium scooter models, across the urban, suburban and maxi applications and with a fresh design influence
The powered-two-wheeler market as a whole may be slowly clawing its way out of the GFC abyss but the scooter segment is still doing it tough: sales of new scooters were down 13.2 per cent over the first six months of this year and that figure comes off a total drop of 8.7 per cent for 2012.
The mood at Piaggio Australia, however, is upbeat. The marque essentially held steady over the first half of 2013, posting a marginal increase of 1.3 per cent, and it was up a whopping 28.1 per cent in 2012. In a sea of 24 brands, Piaggio leads the way with a 25.7 per cent slice of the market, also holding the number one and number three slots on the sales chart with its Fly 150 and Zip 50.
Add to that a brace of smart new 2013 models recently unveiled to the nation’s press and the Aussie distributor has every reason to be beaming.
The three new machines were revealed at a media launch at Kingscliff on NSW’s Far North Coast, the models spanning urban, suburban and maxi-scooter applications. The Yourban 300 is the updated MP3 300 three-wheeler; the BV 350 is an all-new big-wheel scoot with a brand new engine; and the X10 500 is the marque’s new flagship — a maxi with all the trimmings.
The three are the first of a new breed of Piaggios to bear something of a fresh design influence. The new models feature striking seat/bodywork colour combos, plenty of LED lighting, and any number of small but thoughtful touches to put them ahead of the competition.
This fresh approach is also evident in the ultra-stylish Vespa 946, of which 52 — all spoken for — will be coming to Australia later this year. Initially launched as a one-off model, Piaggio (Vespa’s parent company) received such an enthusiastic response to the 946 that it’s decided to do a limited run of the model each year. After all, there’s nothing to be gained from turning away eager buyers!
While we only had a few hours to sample the trio — look for more in-depth reviews on each model in the near future — the route took in freeway, winding and sometimes potholed backroads, and regional towns. It was a diverse ride that touched on anything a scooter owner would likely encounter.
First I threw a leg over — or through — the BV 350. It’s known as the Beverly 350 in Europe (a reference to the high life of LA’s Beverly Hills, apparently), but thankfully that moniker — a carry-over from the Beverly 250 that disappeared from Aussie streets in 2009 — has been dropped here. Don’t expect to see the Piaggio Beryl, Maud, or Shirl anytime soon, either.
Essentially a clean-sheet design, the BV 350 is the first Piaggio to sport an all-new engine for some time. The 330cc single-cylinder powerplant has a dry sump and, in a major break with scooter tradition, a wet clutch, which is integrated with the gearbox. Don’t let that last point throw you — it still has a classic ‘twist ’n’ go’ CVT automatic transmission.
A new torque server is said to improve engine braking while valve shims (rather than screw adjustors) mean the BV 350 is easier and faster to service come valve-check time.
A lot of effort has been placed on minimising internal engine friction, too. The end result, says Piaggio, are improved fuel economy and extended service intervals (10,000km for minor services and an impressive 40,000km for major services including valve clearances — the latter double that of the pre-existing Quasar engine). The engine is only 62cc larger than the Quasar engine but it produces significantly greater output — Piaggio says it’s equal in performance to a 400cc engine while weighing significantly less.
The BV 350 is also fitted with ABS and ASR, the latter standing for ‘Accelerated Slip Reduction’ (or traction control). The ASR can be switched off, while the ABS can’t.
On the road, the BV packs some serious scooter performance. With a claimed 24.5kW pushing 177kg, it streaks away from a standing start and accelerates hard (by scooter standards) to three-figure speeds. Even at 110km/h there’s still a reasonable amount of urge available for overtakes.
Expect to see this new engine cropping up in future Piaggio/Vespa models — no bad thing.
The handling is light and lively and the Michelin City Grip tyres provide the confidence to explore the scoot’s ample ground clearance. The large wheels (16in at the front, 14in at the rear) deliver motorcycle-like handling, taking bumps and dips in their stride, while the brakes wipe off speed in an impressive manner. The safety nets of ABS and ASR will seal the deal for many a prospective buyer, we think.
I reckon it looks really smart, and I certainly couldn’t find fault with its finish. The small screen helps deflect the wind’s blast and you get niceties like a 12V accessories socket, good underseat storage, a glove compartment, an engine immobiliser, flush folding pillion ’pegs, and informative instrumentation, the latter offering up info like battery voltage, ambient temperature, fuel and time.
YOUNG AND THREE
The Yourban 300 continues as Piaggio’s sole three-wheeler (although it’s officially categorised as a two-wheeler, not a trike). The MP3 500 was dropped from the line-up last year and so the Yourban is an update of the MP3 300. As such it’s powered by the outgoing model’s 278cc Quasar engine — a four-valve, four-stroke, single-cylinder affair.
While the new styling immediately catches the eye, the revision goes further than skin deep. The old MP3’s ride-by-wire setup has gone in favour of a mechanical Marelli EFI system, while the output has been boosted slightly to 16.6kW at 7500rpm (up from 16.5kW at 7500rpm) and 24Nm at 6000rpm (up from 23.3Nm at 6500rpm). Yes, that’s a poofteenth, but it’s appreciable when you consider the model has also dropped 20kg — mainly from its frame.
The front wheels are now slightly bigger, too — 13in items, up from 12in– and, finally, significant work has gone into tidying up the model’s electrics, simplifying maintenance and service tasks.
It’s been a few years since I’ve ridden an MP3 but it took no time to get back into the swing of things. It’s no wider than a standard maxi scooter and the system that locks the front wheels at a standstill is super easy to operate. On the go, I hardly noticed the extra front wheel — that is, until I hit a patch of gravel when turning onto a quiet side road at an intersection. There was a small amount of slip before the wheels gripped and the Yourban continued on its way.
That’s the beauty of these things — hitting a patch of oil or gravel won’t spell disaster and for cautious riders they provide a lot of extra reassurance, especially in wet weather.
Despite the weight loss, the acceleration is adequate, if not exactly scintillating — I’d like to see that new 350 donk found in the BV 350 slotted into the Yourban. Still, there’s enough punch for plenty of fun and the Yourban will have no trouble holding its own at highway speeds.
The handling is secure; our speeds on this press launch were somewhat sedate but I still fondly remember hammering the first generation of MP3 through the hills on that model’s release and being truly amazed by what it was capable of. They really are remarkable machines and I take my hat off to Piaggio for bringing a model like this to production. It took guts and it’s created a unique niche all its own.
There’s no ABS or ASR but you do get a disc brake on all three wheels; when you really need to jump on the anchors the Yourban will pull up quickly and with impressive stability. The electro-hydraulic front end can be locked for parking (or even at a red light so you can freak out the driver behind you with your ‘perfect’ balance as you keep your feet up on the footboards!) via a handlebar-mounted switch. The system disengages as soon as you give it any throttle.
There’s also a park brake, an engine immobiliser, masses of underseat storage and clear and legible instrumentation, the latter with a clock, ambient temperature, battery voltage and more.
MASTER OF YOUR DOMAIN
That leaves the X10 500, which takes over from the outgoing MP3 500 and XEvo 400, both now discontinued, as Piaggio’s new flagship model. A luxury maxi scooter, the X10 is powered by the 493cc Master single-cylinder engine previously found in the MP3 500, but that aside it’s essentially a new-from-the-ground-up design.
There’s no shortage of primo goodies on offer here, including linked brakes, integrated ABS and ASR, a 12V socket in one dash compartment and a USB socket in another, a large central glove compartment, electrically-adjustable rear preload, a shopping bag hook, a sidestand with integrated park brake, an engine immobiliser, and a massive, carpet-lined underseat storage area with light.
Via Bluetooth connectivity the X10 (like the Vespa 946) is also compatible with Piaggio’s new PMP (Piaggio Multimedia Platform) system — simply download the free Piaggio app to your smartphone (Apple or Android), place it in the dash-mounted bracket, and a wealth of ’net-integrated info is yours for the taking.
The associated GPS fixing kit is $110.65 while the PMP mount is $236.30. Unfortunately a demo unit wasn’t available on the press launch so I couldn’t take a closer look, but among its many features is one that automatically brings up a list of the nearest petrol stations when the scoot’s fuel gets low, the GPS then navigating you to your choice. It also ‘remembers’ where you’ve parked your X10, helping you get back to it after a furious day’s shopping, and, via helmet-mounted speakers and mic, allows you to take and make phone calls or listen to music on the move.
The Master engine feels a little lumpy at idle but the vibes smooth out at about 4000rpm and at open-road speeds it’s a big magic carpet. With a claimed dry weight of 198kg it’s on the hefty side but the weight is carried low and it’s actually far more manageable than that figure may suggest. With its good steering range, smooth take-up and excellent fuelling, it’s no drama to perform U-turns or other tight manoeuvres in confined spaces.
Seating is superb and the ergonomics are designed for all-day comfort, with adjustable lumbar support for the rider. The screen isn’t adjustable, however, and at 188cm (6ft 2in) I could have done with it being five or so centimetres taller to put me in that quiet, cosy cocoon of protection. Even so, there was no undue buffeting, and there will be no issues for those of average height or below.
I still had good legroom and I liked the choice of two positions for my feet — either on the footboards or forward, the latter being my preferred choice. You really could easily lap the continent on an X10, it’s that comfy and the low-stress engine would simply eat up the miles.
The 52-litre underseat storage bay will take one full-face and one open-face lid, but not two full-face ones. It will, however, easily swallow enough gear for an extended, multi-day trip. Invest in a topbox for even more luggage capacity.
The linked brakes bring up the X10 with confidence and, as with the BV 350, you get ABS and switchable ASR. Do you really need them? Put it this way, when you do, you really, really do… In any case, on the X10 — as with the BV 350 — these systems are standard fitment.
The electronic preload adjustment is a handy thing. It can be changed via two buttons (one to increase spring tension, the other to reduce it) located next to the ignition — a little icon on the LCD display shows the current spring setting. The mix of digital/analogue instrumentation is well thought out and includes a trip computer with a handy ‘range to empty’ feature, among several others.
The X10 rolls on Sava MC28 Diamond S tyres (Sava is a European tyre maker based in Slovenia) with a 15in rim up front and a 13in rim down the back. With a cruiser-like 1640mm wheelbase, it’s super stable at speed and generally soaks up the bumps well.
The finish can only be described as beautiful. From the flowing bodywork to the lightweight cast alloy rims, it’s clear this scooter is a product of Latin passion and skilled artisans.
THE BOTTOM LINE
With models such as these and Vespa’s sublime 946, it’s clear Piaggio is entering a new era of design and functionality. Priced at $9990, $7990, and $11,990 respectively (plus on-roads) for the Yourban 300, BV 350 and X10 500, these are premium products but the quality is there in spades, along with a heap of clever features and some cutting-edge technology. Scooter sales in general might be falling but it’s easy to see why Piaggio is bucking the trend — and these three newcomers should only see that momentum build.
SPECS: PIAGGIO X10 500
Type: Liquid-cooled, SOHC, four-stroke, four-valve, Master single-cylinder
Bore x stroke: 94mm x 71mm
Compression ratio: 10.5:1
CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR
- Piaggio MP3 LT 300 Hybrid Test New Bikes Info
- Piaggio Typhoon 50 & 125 Motor Scooter Guide
- 2009 Piaggio BV Tourer 250 Riding Impression Review- Piaggio Scooters
- Scoot! Rides the Piaggio Typhoon 125 The Scoot Club
- Modern Vespa : 2014 Piaggio Fly 150 3V… it’s here…….