Review of the Vespa Primavera 150
"La dolce vita" (Italian for "the sweet life" or
perhaps "the good life") was the marketing cry of Vespa scooters
back in their heyday. By the later 1950s and 1960s, Vespa scooters had
grown far beyond their original purpose of inexpensive basic
transportation. Piaggio had been a manufacturer of military equipment
during the Second World War and in the post-war years they developed and
produced something that the population of Italy desperately needed - a
reliable, basic way to get around. Talk about the right place at the
right time with the right product, Vespa sales boomed in Italy and the
rest of Europe and even expanded to North America. Vespa's marketing
message during those baby-boomer/flower-power years certainly pulled the
focus from basic transport toward la dolce vita. I believe it was French
novelist Alphonse Karr who coined the phrase "The more things change the
more they stay the same." Here we are, about 50 years beyond the 1960s,
and a new Vespa scooter has reaffirmed that good basic transportation
can still transcend into the sweet life.
The 2015 Vespa Primavera can trace its
lineage in a direct line back to those first, post-war Italian scooters.
Since Vespa's return to the USA marketplace in 2000 (after a twenty
year absence) we have seen the 150cc ET4, the 150cc LX and now the
150cc Primavera is here.
Bob Hedstrom of
Scooterville generously made a brand
new Primvera available to me. This was both generous and brave, as the
last Vespa I reviewed was a GTS 300 from Scooterville that suffered from
the “Don’t crash it”
curse that Bob laid on it as I pulled out of Scooterville’s lot. (CLICK
HERE for that review). This time, Bob uttered an equally
prophetic "Have fun" as I left Scooterville.
Speedometer Reading/Speed/Fuel Economy
I mounted a GPS unit and headed
for the gas station to top off the Primavera. Like many scooters, it is
NOT easy to fill the petrol tank without a bit of backsplash. I was VERY
careful and managed to get a full complement of fuel without needing to
clean out the underseat storage area of spilled gasoline. Of course the
underseat bucket is VERY easy to remove, so I suppose one could do that
prior to filling the petrol tank. Unless you put
a lot of miles on a scooter, this somewhat troublesome filling process
won't be much of an issue - more in a bit.
The majority of scooters we
review have optimistic speedometers. That is to say their speedometers
indicate faster than the actual speed. This was the case with the Vespa
Primavera to the tune of 14% optimistic which is more than most. An
indicated 30MPH was actually 26MPH and an indicated 50MPH was actually
43 MPH. The odometer was fairly accurate. I didn't see a way to display
tenths of a mile, so I ran around the pond near my house until the
odometer ticked over and then started the GPS test. 11 miles on the GPS
was 11 miles on the odometer. I could have been 11.5 or something, but
the display was in whole numbers so....
The top speed I saw on a level
road was 60 MPH. I make a habit of NOT reviewing the manufacturer's
specifications on a scooter I'm reviewing until I have completed my
review process. Items like fuel economy and top speed are often
overstated by manufacturers. In this case it would appear that Vespa is
understating the top speed as they publish 59 MPH. I suspect it's not
just 1MPH difference as I was on a new scooter that was not yet broken
in AND I'm forcing that poor little machine to haul a 220 lb load. I
wouldn't be surprised if a 150 lb rider on a broken in Primavera saw
closer to 65MPH as the top end. The manufacturer's specifications DO
overstate fuel economy at 117MPG. I saw 90MPG in about 100 miles of
mixed use. After break in and assuming mostly city speeds I THINK
that 100MPG would be a possibility. Frankly, I consider the 90MPG to be
quite good considering the performance capabilities of the Primavera.
With a capacity of over two gallons, that means you won't have to worry
much about the sub-optimal filling situation.
As mentioned earlier, Vespa scooters have been around
since just after the Second World War. Several features of their design
like the monocoque
chassis and the swingarm front end have continued since the
beginning of the Vespa line. Unlike every other scooter in current
production, the Vespa has a sort of uni-body chassis of steel. Every
other scooter has a metal sub-frame and attached plastic body panels.
The Vespa steel body IS also the frame and as such offers a more rigid
platform. The front suspension is a single sided trailing link. New for
2015 (like the GTS 300 we recently reviewed) the lower shock mount
on the Primavera is now hinged. This allows the
front suspension to maintain correct geometry with no lateral flexing.
In combination with the monocoque steel chassis the enhanced front
suspension contributes to a smooth and stable ride.
Can we call "looks" a feature? Based on the
response this scooter got from people on the road, at parking lots, and
my wife I think we have to. Though the rough outline of a Vespa scooter
hasn't changed all that much since 1947, there has certainly been an
evolution of design. In the 1950s & 60s, Vespas were known for their
graceful curves. When the P-series came out in 1977, some thought the
shape far too "boxy". Jump to 2000 in the USA (1996 in the rest of
the world) and the bulbously curvy ET series hits the streets. 2005
saw the introduction of the still-curvy-but-less-bulbous LX series of
scooters. Now 2015 brings us the Primavera (and Sprint) and we're
back to those gorgeous, graceful, smooth curves of 50+ years ago.
Vespa also stepped away from the round speedometer
instrument cluster and reverted back to the "fan" or "clamshell" shape.
The dash is clean, simple and easy to read at a glance..... in
kilometers-per-hour. Yes, the Primavera is a "world"
and most of the world is metric in its measurement of speed. Miles are
indicated down there in smaller numerals below the kilometers.
Directly below the speedo is a multi-function display with pods of
indicator lights on either side. The hand controls are standard with the exception of a "mode"
button on the right-hand side for the aforementioned multi-function
display. Yes, the odometer can be read in either kilometers or miles. Oh
yes, I should mention that the turn signal switch works just like the
majority of other good scooters on the market. That is to say that the
previous Vespa "rocker" turn signal switch is gone in favor of a
standard push-to-cancel style that is easier to operate than the old
There are three positions on the
ignition switch, the off position, the run position
just clockwise and a "lock" position counter-clockwise.
In the "lock" position the key can be removed, the front wheel is locked
to the left and the seat switch is disabled. In addition to the
electronic seat latch release to the left of the switch, there is a
manual release inside the glove box. To open the glove box, one pushes
in on the switch. The glove box has a couple of small compartments on
either side of the steering shaft. The bucket under the seat is roomy
and it did manage to swallow up my XXL 3/4 helmet.... just. There are
myriad other storage and hauling options for the Primavera. In stock
form, it is equipped with a chrome grab rail for passengers, but that
can easily be swapped out for a luggage rack. With a rack mounted, a
topcase, basket or milk crate will provide more room to haul your stuff.
There is also an optional front folding rack available.
The Primavera continues Vespa's tradition of excellent
ergonomics. The seat, floorboards and hand controls are spaced and
positioned to allow comfortable
riding for a wide range of rider sizes. Most of the ergonomic components
of the Primavera are very similar to the LX with the exception of the
seat. The LX series of scooters had a VERY comfortable seat that was
roomy though it did rise up a bit more than some liked at the very
front. The seat on the Primavera has been re-formed to get rid of the
rise at the front and have softer edges on the sides. The result is a
slightly lower seat height than the LX and it looks like it should be
even more comfortable than the LX was. It isn't. Don't get me wrong,
it's a nice seat and it is certainly not UNcomfotable, but I like the
old LX version better. Lighting is good, but I was hoping for more LED
as seen on some scooters that cost less than the Vespa.
The Vespa Primavera started and ran flawlessly during my review. Just turn the key to the on position, wait for the fuel pump to charge, grab
a brake lever, and press the starter button on the right-hand control
and the scooter is ready to go. A smooth idle was just a minute or two
away after a cold start
immediate on warm starts. The fuel-injected, three-valve 155cc is mated
to a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) that seems
perfectly set up to take advantage of the about one horsepower increased
output as opposed to the old LX-150. I have to say I was expecting a
little more from the Primavera in the area of acceleration. On paper, it
SHOULD be quicker than the LX but I don't think it is.
Acceleration from a stop is brisk and there are no flat spots up to
about 50MPH when the forward surge slows until the top speed is reached.
I also noticed that the exhaust note is different than the LX, it almost
sounds like there's a small exhaust leak. Looking at the Primavera
side-by-side with an LX revealed that the exhaust outlet is smaller on
the Primavera. I suspect that the exhaust system on the Primavera may be
more restrictive than that of the LX which could account for the lack of
additional performance. The Primavera has more than enough power for
surface streets and has the top end to handle short highway jaunts of
55MPH to 60MPH, about the same as the LX did with maybe a touch more top
Handling on the Primavera is
markedly improved from the LX. As mentioned at the beginning of
"Features" the Primavera enjoys a new hinged lower
shock mount on the front suspension. This goes a long way to curing the
wandering feeling the LX was known for. There is still a touch of
wallowing when making fast transitions, but overall the rider is much
more controlled while still feeling smoother than most scooters of its
class. Braking is adequate. The Primavera does not have the new
anti-lock braking that the GTS AND the Sprint do. At the
very beginning of the review I had a minor rear brake issue that was
immediately handled by a minor adjustment. The front disc rear drum
combination is easy to modulate and only a tiny bit of fade is
noticeable after a lot of repeated hard stops. The Primavera is an easy
scooter to ride briskly. The eleven inch tires, front and rear,
contribute to quick response to steering inputs while being a bit more
stable than the more common ten inchers found on other scooters.
My wife Beverly also rode the
Primavera. Her regular "Italian" ride is a Vespa GTS 250 large frame
scooter. She fell in love with the smaller size and lighter weight of
the Primavera almost instantly. Of course before she ever mentioned the
easier handling around town of the smaller scooter, she went on at great
length about how wonderful the colour was and how incredibly cute the
new design was. In fact her very first comment after a commute to the
office was, "It's just gorgeous, I want one." No mention of positive
attributes other than "gorgeous" was mentioned until I pressed her to
define her impressions of the scooter. Oh yes, "looks" is a feature of
Vespa Primavera vs.
For our comparison chart, I
selected the Primavera's stablemate from Piaggio, the Fly 150, and the
Genuine Buddy 170i which has developed an almost cult-like following
since the Buddy's USA debut in 2006.
Both comparison scooters are
less expensive than the Primavera. The Genuine Buddy is quicker, faster,
has well-established industry leading quality, a great warranty, and
TONS of available accessories. The Piaggio Fly 150 is currently my
favourite machine in this class.
The ergonomics of the Fly fit me better than any other 150 scooter. It
offers excellent performance and handling, lots of native storage, good
quality and economical operation. The Engineer in me keeps shouting that
the Fly is a "better" machine than the Primavera (yes, there's a
little engineering voice in my head) as it does everything well and
HOWEVER, my wife has also ridden
the Piaggio Fly and she DID NOT immediately say how much she wanted one.
Here we enter into the realm of Vespa mystique. The combination of
history, name recognition, design, metal body, excellent paintwork and
so forth add up to something that is worth more to a lot of potential
buyers. There is value in how the Primavera makes one feel when riding
Fit & Finish
Vespa scooters have been a mixed
bag regarding fit and finish in the past. While the monocoque
chassis/metal body is generally finished very well with gorgeous paint
work, some of the components seemed lacking in quality and final
assembly was sometimes less than perfect. Alignment of add-ons to the
chassis and the fitting of fasteners could be just average at times and
head-scratchingly poor at other times. In the past several years, I've
noticed improvement in the Vespa line and the 2015 Primavera 150 shows
marked gains in quality control. Everything fit well on the scooter I
reviewed and I expect time will prove out the overall quality of this
machine. The paint work on the chassis continues to be breathtaking.
Earlier I mentioned the change from a rocker turn signal switch to a
conventional slider. I'll add here that the apparent quality of the
component is higher.
Bob Hedstrom's "Have fun"
admonition at the commencement of this review couldn't have been more
prophetic. After all of the checking, inspecting, testing and verifying
I had a LOT of fun riding the Primavera. The scooter kept impressing my
little engineering voice with it's improved quality and it's a blast to
ride. I don't think I could beat down that tiny engineer enough to
purchase a Primavera over a Piaggio Fly, but my wife could - in an