ScooterFile Review: 2012 Genuine Blur SS220i

The Genuine Scooter Company Blur SS220i is aptly named. It’s a machine that blurs the lines between scooter and motorcycle, between big and small, between fun and practicality; and between pleasure and pain. It’s also fast. Really fast. It’s a scooter that brought out my inner hooligan.

Billed as “America’s only sport scooter”, the Blur SS220i is both an update and a re-introduction of the Blur for the US market. Originally offered as a 150cc machine, the original Blur saw limited sales success, despite being a hit with owners. At the time, the Blur 150 was lauded as the best handling scooter available, thanks to its 13″ wheels and six-point, racing-style rear suspension. The Blur stopped well too. Dual disks gave it some of the best brakes of any two-wheeled vehicle then on the market. Its 150cc, four-valve, air cooled power plant gave the Blur 150 a slight acceleration and top-speed edge over its Buddy 125 cousin, although that advantage was difficult to perceive in the real world. All in all, the Blur 150 was a lot of fun to ride. I should know. I owned one in 2008.

But for all the Blur 150’s virtues, it was not a perfect machine. As brilliantly as the Blur 150 handled, it’s capabilities were all but wasted for overall lack of real punch. The exterior lines of the Blur 150 were pleasantly aggressive, but available colors were either a boring two-tone gunmetal/graphite or a terrible Halloween combo of orange and dark grey. The gauges were also an issue with the Blur 150. The analog speedometer was 15+% optimistic and the odometer read in units measuring neither miles nor kilometers. On Modern Buddy, these numbers became knows as BDUs (Blur Distance Units). While these flaws could be pretty easily dismissed as character, the Blur 150 had one significant Achilles’ heal: its very uncomfortable seating position.

A confluence of factors saw the Blur 150 disappear from Genuine showrooms in 2009. Once the depths of the recession passed, a steady current of pent-up demand grew for the now absent Blur. Riders wanted something quicker, more capable, and more modern looking than the Buddy. Competitors like Kymco and Honda were offering scooters that, if not outright sporting, were at least exuding a sport style. It was time for the Blur to return, but thankfully, Genuine Scooter Company decided that for the Blur’s reintroduction, it was time to go big or go home.

So when a snow white Blur SS220i arrived at ScooterFile HQ, I was as excited as I was skeptical. Would this new, larger, fuel-injected engine finally give the Blur the power it deserved? Would upgraded gauges finally tell the truth? Would a shaved seat solve the Blur’s terrible seating position? Only one way to find out. Let’s ride this little monster!

The new engine
The Blur SS220i starts readily thanks to its electronic fuel-injection. Essentially a “kitted” version of PGO’s 200cc engine, the Blur SS220i’s power plant has a palpable amount of angst in its engine note. It sounds like it’s in a hell of a hurry before you even rock it off its center stand. Rather than the deep growl of say, a Buddy Blackjack, the Blur SS220i sounds more like an angry leaf blower as you twist the throttle. I don’t intend that as a criticism, as it’s not an unpleasant sound. It’s just not the note you expect. It’s not deep and throaty like most single cylinder motors, and it’s not rev-happy like a sport bike. It’s a sound completely unique to this machine, and a sound one might dislike were it not for what accompanies it: power.

Twist the throttle and the Blur SS220i jackrabbits forward with a springy enthusiasm. I half expected it to hop like a kangaroo every time the light turned green. When I say that, it should be understood that I’m a big guy. I’m 6′ 3″ with a heavy build, yet the Blur SS220i would burst forward as though it were completely unladen. The engine’s mutant hair dryer exhaust note sounds absolutely furious, but the feel of the engine is completely smooth — like a jet engine running a big fan. That much power mated to the Blur SS220i’s highly capable chassis and brakes inspired confidence from the first corner.

Power alone isn’t what makes the throttle so charming on the Blur SS220i, however. The gearing and variator response on this scooter is, in a word, perfect. A common misconception among scooterists is that changing your variator roller weights alters your gear ratios. This isn’t quite true. Altering the roller weights changes the way the variator accesses the ratios available in the transmission. Put another way, it affects how readily you can get to the power you have. To actually change ratios, one would have to change the angle and diameter of the variator faces (i/e replace the variator with a different one). I’ve ridden a lot of CVT scooters over the years, and from the manufacturer, not a single one has gotten the variator weight and face angles quite right. They’re always just a little too heavy and the scooter simply can’t properly access the power its engine is producing. Not so in the Blur SS220i. Off-the-line as well as roll-on acceleration are as correct as I’ve ever experienced. At no point do you feel like you’re waiting for the gearing to catch up to the engine. It’s literally “grip it and rip it!” But unlike your average hot-rodded Zuma, the Blur SS220i can gallop as well as it sprints. Not only was I blowing the doors off of Chicago city traffic, but I managed an indicated top speed on our test machine of 78 mph! Did I mention I’m a big, heavy guy?

The old chassis and brakes
Power is great, but only if you can put it to good use. In the case of the Blur SS220i, the updated power plant was really playing catch up to one of the best scooter chassis ever made. While the Blur SS220i suspension lacks comprehensive adjustability, right out of the box the bike is comfortable and planted. Lightweight 13″ wheels and sticky sport tires work together with that superb suspension to soak up bumps, but more importantly, to inspire cornering confidence. The Blur SS220i is a little more top-heavy than what most riders are probably used to. It’s tall and you sit rather high up on top of it. Yet, the grip and suspension dynamics will have even novice riders all but hanging their knees off in the corners. There’s no twitch in the steering or bobble in the back end. I was soon addicted to 90º stop light turns. Zoom up, brake hard, dip my shoulder, just a touch of counter-steer, apex the corner in a deep lean and screw on the throttle. It’s hard to adequately describe without sound effects. Yet for all its track-inspired stability, the Blur SS220i is utterly nimble. It still feels 100% like a scooter ready to bob and weave its way through indifferent traffic.

High speed handling is just as impressive. The Blur SS220i’s slightly larger 13″ wheels give it a definite advantage in high speed stability over, say, a Vespa GTS. Even above 70 mph, the bike never felt twitchy or light. At that speed, the suspension is firm, but still not uncomfortable. There’s even a smidgen of power left at those speeds. Tuck in behind the Blur’s meager leg shield and it’s like finding another gear to get around that last car before the offramp. Were I in the market for something freeway capable, the Blur SS220i would be on my short list. Given its liveliness at city speeds, it’d be near the top. Personally, I prefer that liveliness to the more motorcycle-like stability of large wheel scooters like the Kymco People S. The Blur SS220i is also, in my opinion, a lot better looking. There’s a lot to be said for raw character over sheer on-paper practicality.

Any discussion of the Blur new or old must include a mention of its incredible brakes. I really can’t overemphasize just how good the Blur SS220i’s front and rear disks are at bringing the bike to aggressive, controlled stops. Now that this scooter has the power it always deserved, its stellar braking system isn’t just nice to have, it’s required. A two-piston front caliper and single piston rear are beyond adequate at pinching the Blur’s disks to a stop. In fact, a word of caution. When you ride a Blur SS220i for the first time, do not just grab the brakes like you would on a Buddy or a modern Vespa. Go easy. They’re not particularly grabby, but they’re surprisingly powerful brakes. Get to know them, and they’ll spoil you for nearly every other two-wheeler you’ll ever ride after.

At 6’3″, finding a scooter that fits me comfortably is hit and miss. For all the Blur SS220i’s capability and flexibility in its performance, its ergonomics are not so forgiving. There’s no single thing the Blur SS220i does wrong ergonomically, but the sum of its proportions means that in order to be comfortable, you’ve got to be just the right size. It’s a bit of a catch 22, actually. The Blur SS220i’s seat height is high, at 32.5″, which seems aimed at someone my height. Yet the bike is very compact. The foot boards are high relative to the seat and slanted forward. The handlebars are very low and the distance between the saddle and the bars is very tight relative to the seat. What I was left with was a bike that was the perfect height at a stop light, but kind of a cramped mess once I was moving. Maneuvering at slow speeds meant angling my knees far out to either side to avoid getting them tangled up in the handlebars. Yet the worst aspect of the Blur SS220i’s ergonomics, for me, had to be the height and position of the foot boards relative to the saddle. With my feet too high up, too far forward, and slanted at an unnatural angle, all of my weight sat squarely on my tail bone. Even with the Blur SS220i’s well cusioned and very comfortable seat, there was no overcoming that bad body position. After about half an hour of extremely fun riding, I’d have to dismount for a few minutes and give my arse a rest.

What must be understood is that the Blur SS220i’s ergonomic details are not actually bad. Everything is comfortable individually. The hand controls are comfortable and easy to use. The seat has plenty of cushioning and the grippy upholstery kept me one with the bike during aggressive riding. I think that there are a lot of people out there who are both long legged enough and short torso’d enough to be completely comfortably on the Blur SS220i. Also, if I were using this scooter primarily for short commuting runs, the comfort would be completely adequate. The bottom line is that if you’re considering this bike, you’re going to want to visit your local Genuine dealership and spend some time on the actually sitting on the bike. Put it up on the center stand and climb aboard for a good half hour. How’s your tail feel? Don’t make the mistake I made in 2008 and buy a scooter you don’t fit on.

Instrumentation and the little touches
The Blur SS220i features the backlit, digital multi-gauge cluster that many of us Blur 150 owners were importing from Taiwan and installing on our own bikes. Retaining an analog-style tach, the remaining functions of speed, fuel level, time and odometer are combined into a single electronic gauge. It’s a very nice update over the Blur 150s gauges. It’s also quite a bit more accurate. Both speed and distance are reported back to the rider at only about 5% optimistic, as opposed to the 15-20% optimism of the “Blur Distance Units” of the old 150.

The gauges aren’t the only popular Taiwanese accessory to make their way onto this reincarnation of the Blur. The sportbike-style rear wrap-around fender has made its way onto this new Blur as well. Another welcome touch are rear view mirrors with slightly longer reach. I can remember on my Blur 150 how the mirrors never did me much good other than providing me with a fine view of my own shoulders. Manly and muscular though they be, that view was of little help while riding.

One interesting new feature on the Blur SS220i is found in the ignition housing. The key controls all the normal functions common to modern scooters: ignition, steering column lock, seat latch release; and in the Blur SS220i’s case, a release for the fuel filler cap. In addition to all that function, the Blur SS220i ignition housing includes a protective security cover. Think of it like the lens cover on a point-and-shoot camera. The cover slides in from behind the housing to cover the key slot and locks in place. This is intended to make it more difficult to tamper with the ignition cylinder. The cover is released via a slide-out, blade-like secondary key that’s built into the main key. It’s a nice feature, and gives some added piece of mind knowing that this machine is just that little bit harder to nick.

The Blur SS220i is brilliant at what it does well, and superlatively so. You’ll not find a modern scooter that goes, turns and stops better than this bike does. I rode it like I stole it and our Blur SS220i tester still got 57.9 mpg thanks to its fuel injection system. Its greater power, more attractive available colors and updated details make this new Blur a soundly superior machine to the 150 it replaces. Yet for all its virtues, it retains the Blur 150’s ergonomic shortcomings. If you can fit comfortably on one, give it serious consideration. At an MSRP of $3,999, it’s a truly unique scooter in the marketplace. And like the Blur 150 that came before it, the Blur SS220i will turn heads wherever it goes.

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