While Vespa’s now infamous 946 model has been the center of attention in the scooter world since its debut, that $10,000 scooter isn’t exactly on everybody’s actual consideration list. The real impact of the 946 for Vespa as a brand is not its sales numbers. Rather, it’s the influence the 946 — and in particular its design language — will have on the rest of Vespa’s modern scooter lineup.
Enter the 2014 Vespa Primavera.
The Primavera is the first new model from Vespa post-946 and the family resemblance is obvious. The sculpted rear end, the details in the horn cast, and the bike’s overall stance are as iconically Vespa as they’ve ever been, but with its 946-inspired lines the new Primavera looks decidedly more modern than the bike it’s replacing: the long-suffering but very popular Vespa LX-150.
This week I walked into Motoworks Chicago to pick up some parts for one of my own bikes and Grant, part of sales staff, informed me that Vespa had sent them a brand new Primavera more or less out of the blue — weeks earlier than they’d expected to start receiving them. Naturally I wanted to take a look and I’m here now to share those first impressions with you.
Right off the bat, the resemblance to the 946 is striking. This particular example was almost trying too hard to look like its more glamorous sibling. Dressed in white with a maroon seat, the color combo made it easy to mistake the Primavera for the 946 at first glance. The giveaways are the wheels, the overall size of the headset, and of course the lack of the 946′s unmistakable cantilevered seat.
Yet the Primavera does not feel cheep in the metal. Not at all, in fact. In terms of fit, finish and details, the Primavera is head-and-shoulders above the scooter it’s replacing, yet not quite as lush as the 946. That’s to be expected. The 946 has set a very high bar in terms of finish — a bar few assembly line bikes would ever be able to clear without costing, well about $10,000. Yet this new Primavera looks fantastic in person. Where some details on the LX-150 look a bit “parts bin,” the Primavera has all new touch-points and a new gauge display. It looks decidedly modern but without losing its classic roots.
I have just one gripe, really, and it’s an easy one to fix. The grips on the Primavera are a branded set of black rubber grips that are showing up on Vespas across the lineup. They bother me for a couple of reasons. First, they’ve got the Vespa logo on them over and over again — as though we’d forget who made this scooter. Vespa aren’t the only ones guilty of this, but the over-branding on this particular touch-point is glaring, just because it’s so over-the-top. What’s more, the black rubber of these grips doesn’t match at all — at least not on the Primavera I previewed. They look like something off a dirt bike — utilitarian and generic, despite the Vespa logos all over it. Most of all, they just feel like an afterthought — like the bike was on its way out the door and they didn’t really have any grips for it, so they just slapped some on.
The solution seems simple. The seat on this Primavera is already echoing the burgundy leather on the 946. Even if Vespa were to keep the ugly design of these grips, why not at least cast them in rubber that’s color-matched to the seat? For a bike that’s doing so many things well, having such poor design on such a primary touch-point seems like a significant oversight in my mind.
Speaking of things the Primavera does well, let’s talk about under-seat storage. Where the 946 features basically zero storage under the seat, the Primavera’s under-seat bin is downright cavernous. It should be able to accommodate even the largest of full-face helmets with no problem. While not expansive front to back, the bin is deep and should prove very useful to Primavera owners over the years. I also appreciate the little bit of upholstery on the inside of the under-seat storage bin. So no worries about scratching things up on plain plastic. It’s a very nice touch.
With an MSRP of $4,999 for the Primavera 150ie, one could think of it as a Vespa 946, but half off. While not quite up to the 946′s fit, finish and hand-built details, the 2014 Vespa Primavera certainly doesn’t fall half short. With the same 3-valve, 150cc engine, same basic styling, and lots of added utility, if you’re shopping for a small-frame Vespa, this long-overdue refresh of the LX-150 should fit the bill very well.
Special thanks to Motoworks Chicago for giving us access to their new baby.
Gallery: Hands on with the 2014 Vespa Primavera