First Ride: 2014 Vespa Primavera 150 3Vie

Since Vespa went properly modern in 2006, the mainstay of their fleet has been the venerable LX model. With many incarnations from 50, to 150 to the vintage-inspired LX-V, the LX has been the Vespa that people have bought and loved more than any other since Vespa went twist-and-go. That model has finally seen its sunset, and its replacement is the 2014 Vespa Primavera.

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Times are changing for Vespa. The iconic scooter brand is undergoing its first real generational evolution since the LX and GT models first hit the streets. Yet these changes aren’t simply mild updates, they’re completely new models inspired by Vespa’s now infamous 946 halo model. The 2014 Primavera gives us the first example of a production Vespa in the post-946 era, and as we saw in our first hands-on look, Vespa appears to be taking these new models very seriously. The question remained, however, how would this new bike ride?

I got to answer that question in Minneapolis, MN on a brisk spring afternoon. I happened to be at Scooterville MN, and their sales manager put out a brand new white Primavera 150 3Vie for me to evaluate. How could I refuse?

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Right away I noticed one key difference between the Primavera and the LX: I fit. I’m 6’3″ tall so many scooters are a tight fit. Back in 2009 when I was shopping for a new scooter, I looked at the LX and the S, but ultimately opted for the GT200L because my knees were way too tight into the handlebars. On the Primavera, I didn’t have this problem at all. The ergonomics have opened up nicely and this means a wider variety of people will be able to comfortably ride the Primavera.

Comfortable is a word that often came to mind once I pulled away and started putting the Primavera through its paces. The seat was comfortable. The hand position was comfortable. The foot position was comfortable. The ride was comfortable. It’s amazing how many scooters excel in one aspect only to be uncomfortable in others. The Primavera managed to be so ergonomically neutral in basically every respect that I found myself just thoughtlessly bombing it up the riverfront in Minneapolis. The Primavera’s suspension did a great job of not just soaking up bumps, but allowing me to feel very confident about tucking it into turns and dodging around potholes. It simply behaved itself whenever I’d tuck it into a turn or change direction. The Primavera’s steering geometry is set up just right, in my opinion. In fact, this is the first small-frame scooter I’ve ridden in quite some time that didn’t feel like it desperately needed a steering dampener. It also didn’t feel like all its weight was sat over the rear wheel — another plus for such a small machine.

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Power from the next generation 3-valve engine was adequate and smooth, if a bit subdued. The power is there, but it comes on very smoothly. There’s no real feel of grunt with the Primavera, but it’s not slow either. The throttle response is very civilized — very refined, but not at all aggressive. For a lot of new scooter riders in particular, this will make the Primavera feel very approachable. For the more experienced riders, the inevitable variator replacement will be a welcomed upgrade. The power is there, you’ll just want slightly better access to it.

Braking is better than adequate on the Primavera, with good feel in both the front and rear brakes. Like so many other aspects of this scooter, I was able to simply ride it as hard as I cared to, then get hard on the brakes for aggressive stops, fully under control. No drama. No wooden feel leaving me to wonder if I was on the verge of locking up a wheel. It just stopped without complaint.

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Besides comfortable, the other word that I think really sums up the Primavera is refinement. That’s not a term often associated with scooters, and not really a term that I’d use to describe the LX, as good a scooter as that was. The Primavera, even just on my quick little evaluation ride, had a level of poise and refinement that surprised me. The LX was already a great, solid scooter that rode well and, for the most part, it mostly earned the premium price for its premium name. The Primavera, meanwhile, squarely earns its $4,799 asking price in my opinion. While terrific rivals from Genuine and Kymco can be had for as much as $2,000 less, I can’t help but think that the Primavera is truly $2,000 more scooter than say, a Genuine Buddy 125. The Buddy is a great scooter, don’t get me wrong, but ridden back-to-back, you see where that extra $2,000 goes on the Vespa. Whether one can actually afford a $4,799 scooter is a separate discussion, but for those who have the means, the Vespa doesn’t disappoint, in my opinion.

For all that’s new on the Primavera 150 3Vie, there’s plenty that’s the same. The under-seat storage is significant, and a key differentiator from the bike it’s based on design-wise: the Vespa 946. It even still says “NO PETS” just like it should. The new 3V engine retains that characteristic, thumpy Vespa idle that leaves you no question that the bike is running. Touch points and switches are in the same positions, however I must admit, I preferred the old switches. The Primavera’s hand control switches feel much more “parts bin” in terms of their more conventional interactions, yet some of the choices are a bit of a head scratcher. For example, the turn indicator switch and high beam / low beam are the same style of switch on the left hand controls. A left/right toggle for high/low beam just doesn’t make any sense to me. The switches overall are bit fiddly and feel a lot cheaper that what they’re replacing, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say they feel cheap in the broad sense of things.

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Those little details will never be as refined and lush as on say, the 946, but that’s to be expected from a bike costing half as much. It’s a minor complaint, however, given just how good the Primavera is in all the other ways that matter. Vespa spent their production budget in the places that matter. They tweaked the bike’s overall dimensions for better ergonomics. They developed an engine that makes not just more power than its predecessor, but does so using less fuel. They sorted out the bike’s suspension and braking setup so that all one need do is ride the thing. For the urban Vespa rider, the Primavera is perfectly set up to do exactly that.

In the short few miles I spent with the Primavera, I tried to find anything that didn’t pass muster. Nothing really jumped out. It’s simply a very good scooter. Perhaps if I could level any critique at the Primavera, it’s that it’s too good. That’s not fair though. It’ll never be like riding a PX or a P200. That’s just not who Vespa is anymore. They’ve made this bike more refined on purpose, and the result is terrific. It will not, however, be a scooter that many hard core scooter fans will get excited about. It’s too nice. It’s too well put together. There isn’t enough drama in the way it rides. I’m thinking specifically about the Stella crowd here. The Primavera is a bike that doesn’t require any nuanced skill to ride well. For most people, that’s a great thing. For some, it’ll just be boring. Thankfully for those folks, however, the market is full of options. Ironically, for many, the less-good scooter will be the one they enjoy more. For the rest, the Primavera will be just what they’re looking for.

Gallery: First Ride: 2014 Vespa Primavera 150 3Vie

Special thanks to Scooterville MN for loaning me the Primavera to evaluate.

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