If Harley-Davidsons are practically synonymous with cruisers, on the other end of the spectrum, the name synonymous with scooters is Vespa. Easily one of the oldest scooter brands around, Vespa first came into prominence in 1946 from the hangars of the Piaggio Aviation company. The word, Vespa, itself is Italian for wasp, which may explain its bug-like styling that the world has come to embrace. In fact, Vespas enjoy a similar cult-like status to Harley-Davidson, with its fans heavily customizing their beloved Vespas and continuing to patronize the brand with unwavering loyalty.
As such, we thought we’d sample the Vespa lifestyle for ourselves with a review of one of its more popular models, the Sprint 150. Despite being a stock unit, MotoItalia, distributors of Vespa in the Philippines, have gone all out with custom decals on our Sprint to give us a feeling of what it would be like to have a personalized ride. Despite its already attractive minimalist styling the Sprint lends itself well to customization with broad areas and distinct character lines for decals or multiple tone paint schemes. Vespas may all look the same to the uninitiated but they offer various models for discerning tastes, from the entry level S, the classic PX’s, the modern Sprint and Primavera, and the larger 300 GTS.
Of all the Vespas, the Spring is perhaps the most adventurous when it comes to styling. It deviates from the standard round headlamp with a more hexagonal one. Its design is clearly sportier and more modern. Nonetheless, it retains Vespa hallmarks like the single sided front fork and single rear swingarm, the three vents in front and the square rear tail lamp. What has changed is the shift to larger 12-inch wheels, the revised trailing link suspension in front and its 150cc air-cooled engine that now has the i-Get system.
The i-Get engines are essentially smoother, quieter, and more efficient powerplants. This is achieved with tech like 3-valve timing, a heavier crankshaft, an ECU barometric sensor for optimal combustion, and electronic fuel injection. All of these combine to produce EURO4-compliant emissions. This results in 12.70-hp and 12.75-Nm of torque from its 155cc single cylinder engine and fuel consumption at a relatively high 35 km/L.
Yet tech talk aside, it’s in the ride where the Sprint truly impresses. The Sprint is just a tad heavier than Japanese scooters when maneuvering with the engine off around parking lots. Just a quick press of the button gets it started. A quick kick off gets it off the center stand and on the go. The larger 12-inch wheels keep you higher off the ground and give the bike a more top-heavy feel, but they also grant exceptionally good maneuverability at low speeds. It’s tight turning radius was seemingly designed with traffic in mind, making it easy to squeeze through cars.
A twist of the throttle gets the Sprint accelerating. Unfortunately, it’s not quite at a neck snapping pace. Power delivery is more progressive and gentle, making this bike ideal for newer riders that have yet to master throttle control. Nonetheless, it does get up to some decent speed, able to hit 100 km/h. Once at higher speeds, it’s still surprisingly stable. The suspension soaks up well. It also leans in rather eagerly. No matter what the speed, the Sprint returns very precise and quick steering.
Coming to a stop is hardly a worry either as a disc with ABS in front and a drum in the rear provide some very assuring braking. One will tend to slide a bit forward under braking with the stock seat, but not enough to fall off.
Once at your preferred café or commercial center, the Sprint can be parked with a sidestand, or easily propped up on its low-mounted center stand. Under the seat is a massive storage space capable of containing a full-face helmet.
One aspect of the Sprint that becomes more evident after a few days of use is the sheer quality throughout the bike. The engine accelerates and hums smoothly and quietly. There was some rough idling with our unit, but I believe that can be quickly remedied. The bike’s heft reminds you that there’s real sheet metal in here and not plastic.
Yet what really makes it feel worth the premium price is the fit and finish of the switches. Every button and switch for the lights, turn signals and even the mirrors have tighter and pleasurable tactile feel to them. It’s this quality that the Japanese scooters have yet to catch up to.
After a few days with the Sprint, it’s easy to see now why so many riders have become passionate about the brand. The quality and feel of a Vespa is still a step above many Japanese offerings. With the technological improvements, has only become easier to use and far more reliable. Indeed, it all comes at a pricey premium - far more expensive than many Asian motorcycles - thankfully the fine fit and finish are somewhat deserving of that high asking price.