First ride: 2014 Vespa Sprint 125 review

Vespa's new Sprint 125 proves that Italian-built doesn't have to mean impractical and compromised

IN the UK, smart riders ‘get’ scooters, whilst the unenlightened dismiss them as insignificant machines, their riders thought of as effeminate in some obscure way. Well let me challenge you; if you’ve never ridden a modern scooter before, then head down to your nearest Vespa dealer and bag yourself a go on this latest 125cc Vespa Sprint. You may just be converted.

If you know anything about Vespa history, you won’t need telling that the Sprint is a model that first arrived in 1965. But this reincarnation of the name bears little similarity to the old two-stroke geared scooter that mobilised Italian youngsters. This is a clean burning and efficient four-stroke scooter with a claimed MPG figure of just over 130 miles to the gallon and service intervals of 10,000kms (6,200 miles).

It’s also automatic, as you’d expect, and very nippy. It handles perfectly, can carve through traffic faster than an emergency vehicle and will stop as quick as you’ll ever need to. And that’s just using the front disc with a rear drum set up on our test bike. UK models will come equipped with ABS as standard – yes ABS with a drum rear brake, how very Italian.

The modern commuter needs a few practical touches and with the Sprint you can easily stow a full faced helmet beneath the seat. There’s 16.6L of space beneath there, as opposed to 14.3L on the Vespa S – the Sprints predecessor. The Sprint has also been lengthened, so even the tallest rider will have plenty of legroom whilst the seat height has been reduced by a further 5mm to 790mm. The foot boards have also been rescupltured to make them narrower - meaning shorter riders will be able to touch the floor very easily.

As with all Vespa models there is more to owning one than just buying the scooter, it’s a lifestyle choice, so naturally there are plenty of practical, or stylish accessories for your new machine. You can choose from two styles of flyscreen, a colour coded top box, mobile phone holder, different wheels, a single sports seat or one of three stylish leather bags. The scooter also comes equipped with a 55W halogen headlight, LED parking lights and rear light. The instruments are shaped like Vespas of old but include an analogue speedo and a smart modern digital screen with fuel gauge, dual trips and odometer. The Sprint also comes with a factory fitted immobiliser and there’s an alarm offered as an option, just as well if you plan on keeping hold of it. Good looking scooters can attract thieves.

Despite having great lights, riding a scooter need not be something you feel you need to do after dark, especially if your machine looks as cool as this one. With a Vespa you will get noticed, especially when it comes in three vibrant colours, blue, red and in your face yellow. It looks equally as nice in all of them but the blue and yellow really stood out to me, although I’m undecided as to which one I’d actually choose if I were buying one.

Back in the 1960’s the Vespa Sprint was a model known for its racing prowess. In fact, the collectable 90SS - or Super Sprint - is still raced by enthusiasts today due to its excellent handling characteristics. This model may not look much like those classics of yesteryear (unless you squint a bit), but the designers have put plenty of emphasis on making sure the Sprint handles well on the road. They’ve stiffened the frame considerably, redesigned the front forks, fitted 12” wheels (Vespa S had 11” wheels) for added stability and increased the braking power by fitting a larger front disc and a surprisingly powerful rear drum (better than any drum brake I’ve ever used). The drum will be retained when the ABS equipped production models arrive but there are no complaints from me in either the braking or handling departments.

This is a sporty feeling scooter and it’ll get around corners as fast as you like. It’s great fun to ride hard but is also easy for a novice rider to get to grips with. As city transport goes, you’ll have to go a long way to beat a Vespa around town. They’re just so light, flickable and precise that you can throw them into corners and nip in and out of busy traffic both comfortably and safely. They really are a fantastic tool for the morning commute, or just for posing and enjoying the ride.

The 3-valve fuel injected engine isn’t overly powerful but its 10.5bhp is more than enough to get you to the front of every queue and power away from anything else at the lights. You can win traffic light Grand Prix’s easily on this machine. Top speed is said to be close to 60mph, although we didn’t get a chance to find out for sure on the launch in Rome. One thing’s for sure, it’s quick enough to get you out of trouble, but not fast enough to get you into it.

If you’re looking for a stylish, well-built and useful scooter, have an A1 licence and you aren’t worried about the prejudice ‘proper’ bike riders have towards scooters, then this little 125 Vespa Sprint is well worth a look. It arrives in May and will cost around £3,600. 

Model tested: Vespa Sprint 125

Price: £3,600 (TBC)

Power: 10.5hp

Kerb weight: 121kg

Seat height: 790mm

Colours: Giallo Positano yellow, Rosso Dragon red and Blu Gaiola blue

Availability: May

Read our First ride: Vespa Primavera review

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