At first glance, the 2014 Vespa Primavera, announced yesterday at the EICMA motorcycle exhibition in Milan, appears to be a mostly aesthetic update of its predecessor, the LX series. Underneath the cowls, however, there are a number of improvements in design and engineering that distinguish the new model from the old. Beyond the styling, the technology and engineering represent the biggest evolutionary leap in the mid-size Vespas since the ET was introduced in 2000.
Vespa Style: the
2009 LX, the 2013 LX 3V, the 2013 946,
the 2014 Primavera.
(Scale is approximate.)
While scooter companies continue to push the limits on engine size, releasing bigger and bigger models each year, the qualities of smaller scooters are the basis for the classic image of scootering and much of the joy of riding associated with that nostalgic ideal. It’s reassuring to see that this segment of the market — the 125cc-150cc range — isn’t being ignored. It actually represents the lion’s share of global scooter sales.
In comparing the Primavera with earlier Vespas, we focused on the 125cc and 150cc versions. (In general, many scooters that are 125cc in other countries are 150cc in the US. This is due to licensing and other requirements.) While there will be 50cc versions of the Primavera, as there are for the LX, they don’t share some of the biggest new features of their larger siblings, such as a new engine. Other characteristics such as dimensions, styling and so on are uniform across all of the models.
The angular, beveled
cowls of the 946 (left) and Primavera.
(Scale is approximate.)
The most obvious changes from the LX are in the styling of the Primavera. Many of the cues and the move from round to angled are borrowed from the new Vespa 946, the company’s high-dollar, limited-edition showpiece. In many ways, the Primavera is the practical version of the 946, with the more excessive design features scaled back and the addition of storage, better passenger space and a price tag far below $10,000. (Final pricing has not yet been announced; we anticipate it will be slightly higher than the current LX series.)
Not only does the Primavera have the storage the 946 lacks, it offers more and better storage than its predecessor. The underseat space is larger thanks to the relocation of the battery to under the floorboards. That means the ability to stash bigger helmets and more groceries under the seat. The glovebox has also been improved thanks to simple plastic enclosures to keep items from falling out. This has been a design flaw (or “challenge,” at least) in new Vespas for over a decade. Glad they’ve worked it out.
Storage, expanded and improved in the Primavera
The new model also features redesigned gauges and controls. The dash is simplified, with a larger, high-contrast speedometer over a multi-function LCD display and indicator lights. The gauges are a nice nod to the “clamshell” design found on many vintage Vespa models and the original ’60s Primavera. There’s a new switch on the right handlebars as well, above the starter, labeled “mode.” This is likely to control the LCD readout.
The Primavera (left) gauges more closely resemble the “clamshell” style of vintage Vespas than the LX (right).
The biggest change in the Primavera is the new 3-Valve (3V) engine, first unveiled in the Vespa 946. This has been available in LX models sold overseas for the past model year, but not the US version of the LX. (The US version of the 2013 Piaggio Fly does have the 3V engine, though.) Without getting into the technical details, the completely new motor is stronger, faster and more efficient than its predecessor. These are the spoils of research and development: a lighter engine that gets better gas mileage, puts out more power yet requires less maintenance. Other companies (particularly Honda) have made some good strides in improving engine efficiency and output in recent years. Over the past decade, Vespa’s 125cc/150cc engines have had some modest upgrades, including the move to fuel injection, but nothing as substantial as this.
The Primavera has a number of other performance and handling upgrades. The transmission has been redesigned and features a new clutch and a system to maximize power output and fuel economy at lower RPMs and speeds. Though no specific technical details are yet available Vespa claims the transmission is designed to “to reduce engine rotations when shifting up from a low gear to a high one,” which may mean a new type of variator. In addition, the front suspension is all new. The rear tire has been bumped from a 10″ to an 11″ which will improve stability and allows a larger rear drum brake.
The downside of that 11″ rear tire is that the size (120/70-11″) is rare. One frequent criticism of the LX models was the scarcity of tires available in its unique 110/70-11″ tire size. There have often been fewer than five options on the market. Michelin, which makes the stock City Grip tires shown on Vespa’s press photos of the Primavera doesn’t list the new rear tire size among its offerings. It may be a year or longer before more options are available for a Primavera rear tire.
The full specs, as currently available, for the Primavera and current LX (US version) are in the table below. Improvements and changes for the Primavera are in red. ScooterFile will have further information, including pricing and availability, when available.
*Some specs are
unavailable for the Primavera, so we
used based Vespa’s estimates for the
Piaggio Fly 3V. As the Fly’s weight
and other specs aren’t the same as the
Primavera, MPG is likely different,
but still significantly higher than
the earlier LX models.