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Lambretta returns! But it's made in Taiwan

By Trevor Franklin -

New bikes

 01 September 2011 16:34

The new LN125 is the first scooter 'branded' Lambretta for decades. But while the name is synonymous with Italian style - and the new scoot is styled by an Italian - it's based on a Taiwanese-made Sym four-stroke.

So while the LN125's silhouette harks back to the iconic two-stroke workhorse of the '60s and '70s, any similarity ends there. And what opinion you'll hold of the LN125 depends on what age bracket you fall into.

If you're a fresh-faced 20-something with no memory of Fernando Innocenti's original design, the LN125 will appeal. It's a simple, colourful twist-and-go scooter. Put the key in, pull on the bar-mounted rear brake lever, thumb the starter button and pootle off in the same way as you would on countless other cheap and cheerful scoots.

However, if you're over 30 and have a memory tinged by images of the original Lambretta, you will undoubtedly view the Li125 with suspicion. I certainly did. While it looks like an Innocenti machine in some areas - cool paint, bulbous metal sidepanels - the chassis is mostly modern and it has cast alloy wheels, an ugly exhaust and, of course, the cases of the four-stroke engine.

But hang on, this is a modern world. Surely the use of a simple, automatic (CVT), emissions-friendly four-stroke is a masterstroke, isn't it? In some ways, yes. The steering is light and agile, though a tad nervous at low speed - a trait of all small-wheeled scooters. Twist the throttle and as the 125cc motor builds revs steadily forwards movement occurs.

So far so good. The wibbly steering stabilises with speed and before you know it you're doing 65mph. Zero mph is a lot quicker to reach thanks to a surprisingly effective front disc and rear drum brake.

If you check the engine oil at least once a week and get it serviced as per the manual the LN125 will give years of fuss-free riding. Just like any modern-day scooter. And there's the problem. The LN125 is just a budget scooter.

Don't think for a moment the LN125 is rubbish; it isn't. It is a perfectly good scooter, but in now way do you get a feeling of well-being and pride, and definitely not the urge to shout 'I own a Lambretta'.

This Lambretta is another superstore pre-packed meal of the scooter world - ingredients sound good but the cooked result is the same as every other superstore's chicken curry and rice. The only difference is the Lambretta leaves a nastier taste in the mouth.

Not even the use of recycled metal body panels (main seating area and front section of the leg shield) swerves my view of the LN125.

I can understand the marketing ploy of using the Lambretta name on a cheap scooter. It'll get the brand recognised by a younger market. But will anyone care? It's a fake. Don't think you're buying a Lambretta because of the premium price of £3299. Do metal panels, quality paint scheme and a recognised name justify paying an average £1500 more over the price of a basic Far East scooter? I don't think so.