PIAGGIO VESPA ELETTRICA (2019 - on) Review

Highlights

  • Stylish design with a classy finish
  • 50 mile range
  • 30mph top speed

At a glance

Power: 5 bhp
Seat height: Medium (31.1 in / 790 mm)
Weight: Low (287 lbs / 130 kg)

Prices

New £6,300
Used £5,300

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
3 out of 5 (3/5)

As soon as you jump aboard the Vespa Elettrica you imagine yourself zipping through the bustling backstreets of Pisa, a waft of espresso filling your nostrils as you shout "ciao" to the passing signoras.

Unfortunately, a particularly cold drop of rain that crept in past my jacket and down my back brought me crashing back to the grey industrial estate next to Silverstone in Northamptonshire where I would be spending my two hours with the bike.

I’m not looking for you to feel sorry for me in any way but I share this detail because there is no doubt in my mind that my opinion of the Vespa Elettrica was affected by the weather and the location of the test.

Had I been sunning myself in the Med with a hotel continental breakfast in my stomach, fighting the temptation to go ‘full Euro’ and ride in shorts and flip-flops, I’d have had a much better time.

But the complete lack of romance did force a certain amount of objective clarity to proceedings and I’m sure I got a much more realistic idea of what it would be like to own an Elettrica in the UK – it does rain here quite a lot, after all.

Vespa Elettrica on the road

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The ride is on the firm side and you’re best off sort of standing in a weird squat pose as you tackle speed bumps (the signoras would be well impressed) but on smooth tarmac the Vespa is effortless to throw around, as you’d expect from such a light machine.

Flicking from left to right happens as quickly as you dare, with almost all of the bike’s 130kg weight held low down in the under seat batteries and wheel mounted motor. The Vespa has the centre of gravity of a limpet; at a standstill you can practically lean it completely onto its side with one hand like a pushbike.

Grip from the Pirelli Angel scooter tyres is excellent, even in the wet and in warmer, dryer conditions I don’t think you’d get anywhere near a front wheel tuck if you tried.

The brakes are more than powerful enough for the job and I didn’t feel the need to use more than one finger with the conditions as they were. I’m not ashamed to admit that the temptation to lock up the rear with a handful of scooter brake proved too much for me on a few occasions – I’m only human!

Vespa Elettrica on the road rear

Engine

Next up: Reliability
3 out of 5 (3/5)

Piaggio say you can ride the Elettrica in 'absolute silence' but in reality it makes quite a distinct whine as you get up to speed. If you’ve ever heard the sound of an electric pallet truck or forklift you’re in the right ball park.

Power – or what there is of it – is linear and smooth and it doesn’t take you long to get up to speed. The range is claimed to be 62 miles but at the rate I was getting through the battery I’d have needed to plug in after 50.

The throttle could be more responsive, almost nothing happens for the first quarter turn and then everything happens at once making it easy to get caught out during slow speed manoeuvres.

But the biggest problem with the Elettrica’s motor – in this restricted version at least - has been designed in on purpose: the 30mph limited top speed isn’t enough.

I found myself on a stretch of national speed limit and can honestly say they were the most terrifying few minutes of my life. I’ve never stared so hard at my mirrors and felt completely vulnerable.

Even downhill and with a backwind, the electric motor keeps you pinned to the 30mph mark. And that’s in ‘Power’ mode, in Eco you only get to 20mph!

If you were never, ever going to leave the confines of a city and their 20-30mph speed limits, this wouldn’t be an issue, but that isn’t the case for a lot of people. The 44mph version only costs £300 more and so unless you were on a restricted licence it would make more sense to go for that one. But how many 16-year-olds are buying a £6300 electric scooter to buzz around on for a year?

Vespa Elettrica right side

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The Elettrica has a premium price tag and I can happily report that it has a premium finish to match. The components look and feel high-end and there are classy touches everywhere you look like the Vespa logos in the grips or on the rear grab rail bracket.

The only place this attention to detail slips is the horrible chrome effect plastic around the switch gear – the switches themselves also feel lightweight and flimsy.

Being electric, there’s not all that much to go wrong in terms of moving parts. Only time will tell how the batteries cope with repeated charge cycles.

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
1 out of 5 (1/5)

There’s no getting away from it, £6300 is a huge wedge of cash for a scooter with a 30mph top speed – no matter how pretty it is.

The equivalent model from urban mobility experts Super Soco, the CUX costs just £2249 for a standard one or £2499 for one in Ducati livery. So for the price of the Vespa you could buy two CUXs and still have enough change left over for a trip to Pisa.

New kids on the block Silence’s 125-equivalent S01 costs £4995 and that has a clever removeable battery system, too.

And a Niu NQi GTS Pro costs just £3596 and comes with two removeable batteries and cruise control as standard.

The final fly in Piaggio’s ointment is that firms like Retrospective Scooters can turn an old petrol Vespa into an electric with kits starting from £3445. That leaves you with over £3000 to find a donor vehicle before the Elettrica would be the cheaper option and you’ll arguably end up with a more authentic and a cooler end product.

Vespa Elettrica headlight

Equipment

2 out of 5 (2/5)

You don’t get much in the way of bells and whistles, but what is there works well. I have deducted a star for the underseat storage, which wouldn’t fit my full face helmet because it’s too cold and wet to use an open face  helmet most of the time in the UK.

The standard three-pin plug charging cable extends from a hole under the seat and is really easy to use but the batteries aren’t removeable so you need to be able to ride the scooter to a plug socket. You also can’t use the kinds of fast chargers you get at public stations, but you’d be mad to try and ride the Vespa far enough to need one in one go.

You also get a reverse gear but engaging it through the dash is fiddly. You will never need to use it in real life, which is lucky because the bike lets out a reversing beep so loud that people in neighbouring counties can hear it. Handy if you enjoy being conspicuous, I suppose, but the bike is light with a low seat so manoeuvring the old-fashioned way is fine.

Vespa Elettrica dash

Specs

Engine size -
Engine type Piaggio electric brushless motor with KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System)
Frame type Load bearing sheet steel body with welded reinforcements
Fuel capacity -
Seat height 790mm
Bike weight 130kg
Front suspension Single-arm fork with coil spring and hydraulic monoshock absorber
Rear suspension Hydraulic monoshock absorber
Front brake Hydraulically operated 200mm stainless steel disc
Rear brake Mechanically operated 140mm drum brake
Front tyre size 110/70-12
Rear tyre size 120/70-11

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption -
Annual road tax -
Annual service cost -
New price £6,300
Used price £5,300
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two years

Top speed & performance

Max power 5 bhp
Max torque 147.5 ft-lb
Top speed 30 mph
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 50 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

  • 2019 – Vespa Elettrica introduced as an electric version of Piaggio’s iconic Vespa scooter.

Other versions

There is a 75kmph version, which is identical but with a top speed of just under 47mph. It costs £6600.

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