First ride: Kymco People GT 300i

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Not all scooters are the same. If you were on holiday in Italy this summer, you can’t have failed to notice the legions of big-wheel scooters that pack every village square, street corner and city centre. Sixteen-inch wheels give them better handling than traditional small-wheel scoots, and they are wildly popular on mainland Europe, if less so in scooter-resistant UK.

Kymco’s new People GT is the latest addition to the 300cc big-wheel class, which is led by Honda’s long-established SH300i. The People meets Euro4 regs with ABS as standard and like the Honda (and unlike big cruiser scooters) it promises the punch of a bigger engine in a more modest, scooter-sized package. 

Let’s face it, you wouldn’t buy one of these simply for its street style, unless you really wanted to blend in with the traffic. The People GT looks like a transport tool, though that doesn’t matter once you’re riding it. The seat is quite high at 810mm, but delivers an upright, relaxed riding position with feet on the floor, a good view of the road ahead and generous-sized mirrors showing what’s going on behind. There isn’t as much space as on the long wheelbase scooters, but this smaller package is easier to thread through traffic.

Head off into the mayhem, and the old adage about sheep dressed as wolves comes to mind. The People’s 27.5bhp single (with 30ftlb of torque) is more than powerful enough for city and suburban traffic, zipping away from the lights without any fuss. Unlike its main rivals, there’s no traction control, so applying this power on greasy urban streets would need care.

But its real advantage comes out of town, where it gets a second wind at 35-40mph then delivers strong acceleration up to an indicated 70, so there’s plenty of grunt for overtaking. Beyond that, it tails off slightly, but speed carries on building to an indicated 85-90mph. All of this is at odds with the GT’s conservative appearance, but that’s part of what makes it fun. With the standard screen, it does get a bit blowy at speed – a taller Givi screen is optional.

Fortunately, it has the underpinnings to cope with this performance. The ABS discs front and rear aren’t linked, but offer strong, sensitive braking, and the Taiwanese Maxxis tyres hold on well. Big-wheel scooters tend to handle better than the small-wheel ones, and the People is no exception. It’s stable at speed and isn’t troubled by mid-corner bumps or manhole covers.

The forks are non-adjustable and the shocks for pre-load only, but are up to the People’s engine performance. You would need that pre-load adjustment to cope with a passenger, and the People does have room for one, though carrying their luggage would be difficult – unlike the Honda SH300, there’s virtually no underseat space, which is why you get a small topbox as standard.

The dash is simple in the extreme – a big clear speedo plus digital fuel and temp gauges – underlining the fact that this is a useable transport tool with no pretence at being anything else. It’s also pretty quick.

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Peter Henshaw

By Peter Henshaw