Review of the
Genuine Stella Automatic 125cc
UPDATE - New
The Genuine Stella has been around for over ten
years and has become an icon in the North American scooter world. Based
on the late 1970s Vespa P-series and manufactured by LML in India, the
Stella has brought a generation of new scooterists into the "traditional"
scooter world. Until a couple of years ago, the Stella was a 2-stroke
150cc machine. The realities of modern emission requirements brought us
the 4 stroke Stella. Of course it was still a shifty, so buyers could
enjoy their trip to scooter history while running cleaner.
Yes, until very recently, Stellas utilized
the "typical" older scooter control configuration: Throttle on the right
grip, front brake on the right lever, rear brake by the right foot,
clutch lever on the left lever and shifter on the left grip. The clutch
and shifter on the Stella raised a barrier that many new scooterists
interested in crossing. Now, Genuine has given us a Stella that
shiftyphobics can love.
Speedometer Reading/Speed/Fuel Economy
I installed the base for a GPS mount atop the front brake master
cylinder, not my favorite attachment point, but it worked well on the
Stella. Right off the bat, the new Stella Automatic (henceforth
Stellauto) shocked and awed me. The speedometer reads....
pessimistic?!?! Don't see the big deal? Read a few of my other reviews
and you'll see how rare this is. The VAST majority of scooters read
optimistic, that is to say that the speed indicated on
speedometer is faster than the actual speed. The Stellauto was very
close to spot on and a couple of readings were a tiny bit pessimistic.
The speedometer indicated slower than the actual speed. The odometer was
as close to right on the mark as any I've tested.
Top speed was a touch tricky.
The Stellauto had a few miles on it, but was not fully broken in. It was
also kind of windy when I was doing my tests. I did the best I could to
find a level road that had some cross-wind but no headwind or tail wind.
I saw 57 MPH on the GPS once. Going up a fairly steep hill, 45 MPH was
the best I could maintain. Since I brought the Stellauto back to
Scooterville, Bob Hedstrom (the owner) has put a small windscreen
on the Stellauto and said he saw at least 60 MPH. I'll also mention that
I weigh 220 pounds and have a physique that does NOT contribute to the
aerodynamic efficiency of this, or any other scooter. Bob is a scrawny
Curler who weighs about as much as my left thigh. I would expect that
after break in with a normal sized rider (165 pounds) the
Stellauto should be capable of a little better than 60 MPH. This DOES
NOT mean it's a good highway scooter - more on that later.
During my review, fuel economy
was 86MPG. Certainly not the 100+ MPG that Genuine claims, but very good
nevertheless. Running the scooter hard, searching for top end and
making a lot of 50 MPH surface road runs, mileage falls to about 65 MPG.
Doing an extended parkway run (Grand Rounds) keeping things at
30MPH or less, I wouldn't be surprised to see 90ish MPG.
Let's begin covering the features of the Stellauto with
a little more in-depth discussion of the scooters design and execution.
Like the Vespa P-series it's based on, the original 2-stroke Stella
brought to the USA was built on a monocoque chassis. The body shell
IS the frame. The new Stellatuo is a combination of a traditional
front end and a new subframe back end. The cowls can be removed in the
ordinary fashion (release levers under the seat) and then the
entire back end body shell can be removed to give access to the
drivetrain. Apparently, this resulted in less-than-optimal front frame
rigidity as a brace was added, disguised as some kind of air intake.
The Stellauto is carbureted. However, because of the
design of the new engine and CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission)
The main fuel tank is situated low and has a fuel pump. Did I say "main"
fuel tank? Yes, I did. The carburetor is still gravity fed from a small
fuel reservoir located ABOVE the carburetor. There is an ECU (Engine
Control Unit) and an oxygen senor so it seems that the Stellauto is
part-way to fuel injection as it sits. The fuel pump lacks the pressure
necessary for fuel injection, but maybe there will be a few changes in
future models to rid us of that carburetor.
else is different about the Stellauto as compared to the 1970s Vespa
P-series? How about brakes that work (see riding impressions),
headlights that show the road at night, easy starting and smooth
running. A "feature" that's missing from the Stellauto would be a spare
tire. There's no room under the cowl, though there IS a fake spare tire
cover peeking out from the bottom.
The wheels are split rims and there are inner-tubes under those tires.
There are plenty of accessories that include a way to externally mount a
spare. One can also carry a new tube and a few tools and deal with most
right on the spot. As the Stellauto comes from the factory, there is
reasonable storage in the glove box. Part of the fun of a Stella (or
Stellauto) is accessorizing and I'd likely add a rear rack pretty
quickly. Oh, and some legshield guards, ooooo and a front fender chrome
guard, and one of those little windscreens with the checkerboard lowers
and.... that's just me though.
The control layout is different from other Stellas, and
a touch different from most other automatic scooters. To begin with,
there's no clutch lever. The left lever is for the rear brake. Yes,
there is a small dimple just opposite the left handgrip in the place
that the gears (one through four) WOULD BE on any other Stella.
That's because the manufacturer is utilizing the same parts.
Also on the left hand control is the horn button and a
switch for selecting high beam or low beam headlights. Like all modern
USA configured scooters, there is no "off" switch for the headlight. The
front brake lever is on the right as well as the electric starter (there
is also a kick-starter), engine kill switch AND (unlike most
scooters) the turn signal indicator switch.
dash display of the Stellauto includes a speedometer, odometer, fuel
gauge and several indicator lights. The fuel gauge sits above the
speedometer and I found it to be more of a yes-you-have-some-fuel devise
than a precise measurement of exactly how much fuel was in the tank at
any given time. The speedometer is bias toward miles (kilometers on
the inner part of the display) and, as mentioned earlier, is
astoundingly accurate. The odometer sits in the middle of the
speedometer display. There are indicator lights for high beam and low
beam headlights, turn signals, brake light and the ECS control system.
When starting the Stellauto, one should turn the key to "on" and wait
for the ECS light to go out before pressing the starter switch. Most
everything worked just fine during the review with the exception of the
fuel gauge that seemed to "wander" a bit.
The bench seat is long enough for two and well padded,
a little TOO padded for my taste, but that's an easy modification. Below
the front of the seat is a luggage hook.... and nothing else. On a
2-stroke Stella, the oil tank sight glass would be here, along with the
choke lever and fuel selector lever. Not needed on the 4-stroke
automatic. Press the release button on the back and lift the seat and
you'll find the fuel filler cap.
sorry to say that I had the opportunity to see how the Stellauto starts
up in the cold. Yeah, April is STILL winter in Minnesota,
at least this year. The scooter fired right up, warm or cold, and ran
perfectly during the time I had it. One of the big advantages that the
Stella had over the 70s Vespa P-Series was braking power. The front disc
brake was stronger, easier to modulate, and much more fade resistant
than the drum on the Vespa. The Stellauto is also disc front (drum
rear) and is even better than the Stella 2-stroke. I'm not sure why,
the set-up looks very similar, but the Stellauto brakes are the nicest I
have encountered on this type of scooter. This is probably a good time
to mention, strictly for the benefit of old Stela/Vespa riders, that the
rear brake control is at the left lever and NOT on the right side of the
floorboards. Bob Hedstrom from Scooterville mentioned that he stomped on
the floorboards once or twice and I found myself doing the same thing. I
am VERY proud to say that I did NOT lock up the
rear brake thinking I was grabbing the clutch lever. I think that riding
different machines as one ages is a good way to exercise one's brain and
maintain mental focus. During some past group rides that involved
switching scooters, I've had to adjust my responses, especially going
from vintage to modern scooters. Other than getting used to the
right-side turn signal controls, the Stellauto is controlled just like
most every other modern twist-and-go scooter.
The Stellauto does not, however,
handle like most every other modern scooter. The P-series Vespa
and older Stella had a rear-heavy, lopsided feel to them. It wasn't bad,
and one got used to the "feel" very quickly. With the weight of the
engine on one side and just a spare tire on the other, those older
machines do not offer symmetrical distribution. The Stellauto doesn't
feel lopsided but it does feel rear heavy, or front light if you prefer.
Not difficult to accommodate, but different from, oh, say, a Genuine
Acceleration off the line is
adequate. Roll-on from about 20 MPH to 45 MPH is a bit more than
adequate. Getting from 50 MPH to the top end takes some patience. The
ride is VERY smooth compared to an older 2-stroke Stella - very, very
smooth. The ergonomics are excellent - proof that Vespa got it right in
the 1970s as nothing much has changed in the ergonomics department from
then to the Stellauto. The seat is tall at 32 inches, but even with my
30 inch inseam I didn't have a problem. My wife Beverly also rode the
Stellauto and found the ergonomics very workable.
has owned/ridden a couple of motorcycles, a Yamaha Vino, SEVERAL Genuine
Buddy scooters, a Genuine Blur, a Yamaha Morphous, a Vespa ET2, A Vespa
GTS 250, a Honda Elite, and a Kymco People but never a Stella or vintage
scooter. She found the turn signal indicator switch awkward, but
otherwise liked the Stellauto. The very first thing she said at our
first photo-break after riding was, "it's really cute". I asked her how
it rode, "Huh? Just fine. It's really pretty!" From that, I gather that
the Stellauto's idiosyncrasies are minimally intrusive.
The Stellatuo did commuter duty
just fine as long as no highways were involved. At speeds up to about 50
MPH (it strikes me that the drivers on the Pierce-Butler route view
the 45 MPH limit as a mere suggestion) the Stellauto keeps up and
handles just fine. Expecting regular highway use out of the Stellauto
will lead to disappointment. This scooter is made for, and excels at,
surface road riding. A couple of hours of parkway cruising was an
absolute joy, while ten inch wheels and a light front end resulted in
nervous highway runs. Carrying a passenger around town is not a problem
at all. The Stellauto seat has lots of room and the engine can easily
handle two people at city speeds.
Fit & Finish
Like a lot of components of
reviewing the Stellauto, one has to make two comparisons: first to other
modern scooters and second to other Stellas. The fit and finish on the
Stellauto is not as good as on top tier scooters like Honda, Kymco and
even the other Genuine scooters. The paint is nice, the red and blue
choices are especially attractive, but not all that heavily or evenly
applied. Compared to other Stellas, the Stellauto is a step up in fit
and finish. Overall I would call the fit and finish on the Stellauto
exactly who (or rather 'what') is competition for the Stellauto?
No other offering combines the 1970s retro look AND feel with an
automatic transmission and metal body. The Genuine Stella 4T is a manual
shift scooter. Those buyers are getting that Stella BECAUSE it shifts
and is a retro machine. The other incredible success story from Genuine
is the Buddy line of scooters. I've ridden and reviewed all of the Buddy
iterations and have owned most of them. They are awesome scooters. Of
course they are NOT traditionally laid out metal scooters like the
Stella/Stellauto. I've also included the modern Vespa LX 150ie because
it is a metal body automatic scooter.
Other than price and fuel
injection on the Vespa, there's not Grand Canyon wide differences
between these three scooter so far as the specifications are concerned.
The Genuine Buddy 125 is the least expensive and, frankly, the best
performance of the three. The Vespa is modern, has fuel injection,
stellar ergonomics and it's, well, a VESPA! It's also pretty pricey -
$1,200 more than a Stellauto. It's been my experience that Vespa buyers
aren't really that interested in any other brand of scooter, so I don't
know exactly how much "competition" there will be from the Stellauto in
that respect. The Buddy 125 is a member of the Genuine family and I
believe that previous Stella scooters have resulted in a LOT of Buddy
sales. New riders come into a dealership to see the "cool" Stella,
realize it's a manual shift, and leave with a new Buddy. I do believe
that there will be some Stellauto owners who would have otherwise been
The new Stella 125cc automatic was
a machine I had really been looking forward to seeing in the flesh. I'm
impressed with the engineering and design work that went into creating a
new powerplant and CVT that would fit in the confines of the traditional
P-series body/chassis style. I'm a touch apprehensive about the
carburetion and the "removable" rear body section, but only time will
tell us how well this combination works out. While I still think the
Buddy is probably a better scooter from a technical standpoint, the
Stellauto is more appealing on a gut level. The Stellauto is gorgeous,
metal, and had no glaring deficiencies in operation. It has a look and
feel that fulfill the image most people have of what a scooter should be.
Again, a big THANK YOU to Bob at
Scooterville in Minneapolis for providing the scooter used in this
Automatic Update & Rear Luggage Rack
I was at
Scooterville the other day and left my
Moto Guzzi for Bob Hedstrom to ride. He offered up the Stelauto demo
scooter for my use. This is the same scooter I utilized for this review.
It now has about 800 miles on it AND I got to install a new rear luggage
rack on it. The rear rack is from Prima and will work on Stellas,
including the new automatic, and Vespa P-series scooters. Some drilling
may be required on some of the P-series scooters. It was a quick and
easy install on the Stellauto and I was impressed with how well the rack
fit with the seat - sometimes an issue with other rear racks.
MSRP is about $120
which I think is a fair price. I bungied my man-purse (large
briefcase) on the rack and took off. When I got home I tried loading
the rack with some bigger stuff and it worked just fine. It would also
make a very good platform for mounting a topcase, trunk, milk-crate,
whatever, on the back of your Stellauto. I also this this rack looks
better than some other options. This rear rack is just one more example
of what a good job Genuine does of recognizing the value of high quality
accessories to scooter riders. Too many scooter brands in the USA just
don't pay attention to the accessory market. A LOT of scooter riders
want & need things like windshields and luggage racks. Genuine has a
history of making decent stuff available for their machines and I
believe it's one of the reasons they have done well with both dealers
It was fun to ride
the Stellauto again, especially with a few miles on it. It was running
even smoother than when new and is the easiest-starting Stella I've
experienced. A couple of days on the Stellauto confirms that Genuine has
found a solid combination of old-school look and feel with a more modern
CVT powertrain. Damn my tiny townhouse garage....