Vespa GTS 300 Super Sport
Vespa’s zippy 300 Super Sport lives up to its name, with plenty of performance and a brilliant quality of finish. And it can mix it in any traffic situation
From the shaky days under AMF to the famous management buyout of 1981 and into the decades beyond, Harley-Davidson has built itself into a global giant on the back of retro styling and a rich, long heritage.
Hang on, this a scooter review, isn’t it? Yes, it most certainly is, but if you think about it, the relevance of the Harley example becomes clear – in several ways Vespa is Harley’s scootering equivalent.
Long and proud history? Check – the first Vespa was developed under the guidance of Enrico Piaggio, son of Piaggio’s founder, Rinaldo Piaggio, at the end of WWII. Cultural icon? Check – the Vespa has become synonymous with Latin chic, ever since actors Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn took to Rome’s streets on one in the 1953 Hollywood blockbuster, Roman Holiday . Retro styling with modern engineering?
Check – Vespa has never strayed far from its original silhouette, but today the marque’s product line-up boasts features such as electronic fuel injection, helping it to meet increasingly strict European emissions regulations. Premium price? Check and ker-ching – like Harley owners, Vespa owners do pay a fair whack more for the name, but what price do you put on style?
Sitting at the top of Vespa family tree – along with four other models, each stylistically a little different but with the same basic engine and chassis configuration – is the GTS 300 Super Sport. It’s not quite as fancy as the limited-edition GTV 300ie Vie Della Moda or the optioned-up GTV 300 Via Montenapoleone, while the Super Sport’s Nero Abisso colour scheme (that’s ‘black’ to you and I) isn’t quite as striking as the limited-edition and dazzlingly orange GTS 300 Arancio Competizione, but it’s a small step up from the standard GTS 300 Super, thanks to its Super Sport badges and decals, and ribbed seat. Yep, between the superlatives and the Italian, you’ve got to work pretty hard when reading the promo blurb to pin down the actual differences between these models – better then to simply revel in the beauty of the scoot you like best, and judge it on its own merits.
I recently spent about 1000km over a couple of weeks doing just that on the GTS 300 Super Sport, and while I wouldn’t classify myself as a scooter devotee, I was mightily impressed from the moment I hopped aboard. In fact, I was impressed even before I hopped aboard – because Vespa does style so well, and the GTS 300 Super Sport hammers that point home.
I mean, from a city block away it could only be a Vespa. The lines, the level of finish – it’s all there. It’s beautifully put together and pleasingly devoid of any cosmetic foibles.
The matt-black colour provides a stark backdrop for the chrome highlights like the mirrors, the pillion grabrail, and various other bits of trim.
It appears fairly sizeable for a scooter at first glance, but any notion of it being unwieldy is instantly dispelled the moment your rock it off its centrestand or pick it up off its sidestand. It’s 148kg (dry) weight is light in itself, but because the bulk of that weight is carried right down low – the direct-drive engine effectively serves as a swingarm, after all – it feels like it could be half that. This means it’s easy to push around in the drive, and, combined with a short 1370mm wheelbase and 12in wheels, it changes direction with lightning speed and a bare minimum of input.
Pull in the back brake lever and press the starter and the scoot’s 278cc Quasar single-cylinder engine stirs into life. It’s a four-stroke and it’s clean and quiet – an aspect that isn’t such a neat fit with the evocative images of Vespas back in the day – but it’s still one spirited little performer. Wind it on from a standing start and the SS leaps off the line, offering punchy, largely linear acceleration all the way up to 100km/h, from which point the go tails off until an indicated top speed (with this 92kg rider) of around 120km/h.
It’s ample to beat the tin-tops away from the lights, and – in a point of distinction from the marque’s smaller-capacity fare – it’s enough to mix it with the cut and thrust of freeway traffic. I felt quite secure aboard the SS on my daily commute, which takes in around 130km, 95 per cent of which is freeway. I’d only recently had a Vespa S 150 IE for a spell, and that didn’t quite have the oomph for 100km/h zones but it was entirely happy in 80km/h zones.
I guess it all depends on where and how you intend to use one.
The suspension is basic, with a non-adjustable mono-arm front shock and preload-adjustable rear twin shocks. The springs do a decent job, and with the steel monocoque chassis they provide a stable platform over typical city streets. It’s surprisingly stable, too, despite those diminutive rims, even when tapped out on the open road.
The braking package comprises twin-piston calipers front and rear, with a single disc up the pointy end. Used together they’re really pretty good, offering reasonable feel and plenty of power, and certainly enough for its intended usage.
The CVT auto transmission offers fuss-free operation, with a super-smooth take up from stationary to forward motion. All the practical benefits of scooters are here – the ‘twist ’n’ go’ convenience, the shopping hook, the lockable glove compartment, and the underseat storage. The latter will swallow a fair bit of gear and probably a couple of open-face helmets, but it’s not deep enough to take a full-face lid.
As for gripes, there’s not much to speak of. That self-retracting sidestand is annoying – I nearly accidently chucked the thing on its side once during the scoot’s stay – but fortunately the centrestand is really easy to use. The headlight is a winner, offering a broad spread of light, but the horn could be louder – a common complaint with scooters.
The instrumentation comprises an analogue speedo, fuel gauge and engine temperature gauge, plus a small digital display, but it could really do with a trip meter to back up the odometer – that would take some of the guesswork out of timing your next petrol stop. The digi display features a clock. Press the adjacent button and the display flips to the date. Press it again and it shows seconds.
And finally, we have the jewel in the Super Sport’s crown – its fuel economy. It returned an average of 27km/lt while in my care, which was only 1km/lt under the S 150 IE I had before it, despite the extra weight and performance. With a 9.2-litre tank, that equates to a working range of around 230km, which ain’t bad.
The fuel filler is fiddly. It’s located under the seat and the diameter of the opening is just the right size to accept a petrol pump nozzle. While this means you won’t ever make the mistake of filling it with diesel, it’s way too easy to shoot fuel back out of the top of the filler, which then spills into the adjacent under-seat storage.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you’re used to getting around by car or motorcycle, over time the Super Sport’s frugal economy will go some way to addressing the Super Sport’s biggest stumbling block – it’s price. At $8290 (plus on-roads), it’s a lot of cash for a scooter and there are far cheaper alternatives. However – and as is the case with Harley’s cruisers – if having the right name on the product is an essential ingredient, Vespa’s GTS 300 Super Sport has the performance and the quality of finish to back up the image.
SPECS: VESPA GTS 300 SUPER SPORT
Type: Liquid-cooled, four-stroke, four-valve single-cylinder
Bore x stroke: 75mm x 63mm
- Vespa Scooter Photos & History
- Vespa GTS 125 Super review – Telegraph
- Vespa GTS 300 Super Review Scooter News and Reviews Scootersales
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- 2008 Vespa S 150 Scooter Review – Motorcycle USA