2019 Piaggio MP3 300 HPE | LAUNCH
Piaggio may not have been the first company to produce a three-wheeled scooter but they were the first to market one properly and revolutionise modern transport. Helped massively by exploiting the rules to allow their MP3 to be driven if you hold a full car licence. Since its inception in 2006 over 180,000 Piaggio MP3s have been sold, most of them into Paris so it’s no surprise where we headed for the launch of the all-new MP3 300 HPE.
Old versus new
In comparison, the old MP3 looks bulky, dated and a bit cumbersome. Not surprising really because it’s hardly changed shape since 2006. The new one has been to the gym, it’s buff, has lost a few pounds, gained some muscle power and will kick your ass. It’s altogether more pleasing on the eye. Check out the video here.
More power than the GTS
The new HPE version replaces the 2017 MP3 300 Business – read the test on that one here and as well as looking significantly different it’s claimed to be lighter (although Piaggio don’t like to publish weights for some strange reason) and 24% more powerful thanks to it using the latest reworked Piaggio HPE engine. The engine is more powerful than the same lump used in the Vespa GTS 300 as well, that’s thanks to a different airbox and mapping.
The new MP3 is also designed to be more agile, lighter, faster and with improved comfort and ergonomics. That awkward footbrake has been moved further forwards to give more space on the floor and the seat now comes with a lumbar support.
Our first sighting of this latest MP3 in Paris showed that Piaggio have completely redesigned the scooter. The styling is fresh and well thought out, whilst still retaining the spirit and family feel of the MP3. In fact, it’s a fusion between the Yourban (which was phased out earlier this year) and an MP3. The styling team have done a great job though, it’s brought the 13-year-old design bang up to date and made the old model look pretty dated in comparison.
There are two versions of the MP3 300 HPE, although the UK will only get the higher spec HPE Sport. The Sport boasts many styling enhancements to set it apart from the base model and it’s easy to distinguish thanks to its matt black detailing, fancy stitching on the new seat, red Kayaba shocks (rear are adjustable), wavy front discs and aluminium footplates. The Sport also comes with the Piaggio MIA multimedia platform as standard to give full mobile connectivity and sat nav, as well as a tyre pressure monitor.
Three different Sport colours are available, Pastel White, Glossy Pastel Grey and Matt Black.
Nothing much has changed equipment wise on this latest model, you still get three-channel ABS and ASR traction control. It has a USB point and space for your mobile in a glove compartment beneath the new integrated short screen and is ready to connect your phone to the MIA system (although we didn’t get chance to try that out). The clock and info screens are multi-function and operated by the mode button on the right handlebar.
Yes, you can ride it on a car licence!
It’s still surprising just how many people don’t realise that this scooter can be ridden on a bog standard car licence, no CBT, Direct Access or jumping through hoops required. That’s right, if you’re over 21 and have a full car (or bike) licence you can jump on this alien device and simply ride it away. That’s why they’re just so popular in heavy commuter areas. You can beat the traffic just as easily as you can on a bike but without the hassle of passing a bike test. If you’re a serious commuter and can’t be bothered with all the red tape it takes to get a full bike licence (or even a one-day CBT) a Piaggio MP3 makes perfect sense. Although Piaggio still recommends novice riders do a CBT.
Paris is a hotbed of three-wheeled commuter action, MP3s in all their guises and sizes can be seen blasting around the city, parked on the pavements, lining the streets and overcrowding the bike bays. Piaggio have sold more MP3s in France than they have anywhere else in the world. Even so, congestion is still high in the city and filtering is all part of the fun. Imagine just how bad it would be if all these car drivers hadn’t been converted to two or three wheels?
Governments take note, we are part of the solution rather than part of the problem.”
Although a typical French bicycle riding climate protester was happy to shout abuse at us outside the hotel before we even started the scooters up for the first time.
If you’re not already a scooter or bike fan but you’re tempted by the idea of riding one without the legislation, an MP3 is fairly straightforward so don’t be afraid to give it a go. Firstly there are no gears, no clutch and to make it move you simply twist the throttle – a journo on the launch from GQ magazine had never even sat on a scooter before and found the concept a bit strange to begin with but he soon got into it.
Put simply, it has three brakes, a front and rear lever (just like a bicycle), plus a car style foot brake. The foot brake is there to comply with legislation but to be honest, nobody bothers to use it – Piaggio have moved the position of it on the HPE model to stop it cramping the floor space, a good move. It’s much more controllable to use the brake levers rather than the pedal. The rear applies all three discs, front and rear, whilst the front brake operates the twin front discs. I find myself using the rear lever 90% of the time and the front if I need a little extra stopping power.
You’ll quickly notice that you ride an MP3 rather than ‘drive’ it, even though the scooter has twin front wheels you don’t steer it like a car. The body can be manually locked into position at very slow speed (around 3 mph) which means you don’t have to put your feet to the floor, good news for the confidence of shorter riders. It’s also useful for parking in busy spots, just get off and roll it into the parking space (the 500 version also comes with a reverse to help with parking).
Whilst you’re getting used to things it’s best to still ride it like an ‘ordinary’ two-wheeler and just put your feet down when you stop. You’ll soon get used to it though and start trusting the roll locking mechanism which is operated by a button on the right handlebar. As the scooter slows you’ll see an amber light illuminate on the dash and you’ll hear a bleep as the body locks when you slide the lock button across. This all happens a split second before you’d naturally want to put a foot down. Twist the throttle again and it automatically unlocks so you can also ride away without touching your fancy polished shoes to the ground.
In theory, there’s nothing to stop the MP3 rolling away, or being revved up to shoot away but Piaggio think of everything and a pressure switch in the seat means the ECU won’t let the scooter have any power until you’re sat on the seat. It also has a handbrake located in the centre of the inner fairing to stop it rolling away when parked up.
If you’ve been paying attention to our SLUK features you’ll know that the new Vespa GTS 300 also comes with this latest HPE – High Power Engine. We road tested that a few months ago and were mightily impressed with its performance from a standing start. The MP3 300 also comes with this new engine, but Piaggio have revised it to suit the heavier three-wheeled scooter. It makes 26.2 bhp at 7,750 rpm, that’s a 24% increase over the old MP3 300 and a significant increase over the 23.8bhp HPE GTS.
In MP3 guise the engine has been remapped for better mid range and top end power, whilst low down it’s not as quick off the mark. That’s fairly evident when you ride it as well, although we didn’t get a chance to do a fast run in Paris. Our test route was mostly bumper to bumper traffic and filtering, with the odd sprint between traffic lights. To be fair though, this is how most MP3s are ridden day to day. Piaggio claims 120kmh as the top speed, which equates to 74.5 mph.
The old MP3 300 was surprisingly lively, despite its weight disadvantage, the HPE is slightly quicker and for me it’s possibly a better choice than a 500 MP3. You save a fair chunk of money, running costs are cheaper, as are servicing costs, it’s lighter and easier to manoeuvre and the 300 is perfectly capable of long distance if you need it.
It’s quite hard to say how much of an improvement the new HPE engine has made to the MP3 without taking it out of the city and riding it for a day or two but I can say the whole MP3 300 HPE as a package is a huge improvement. Piaggio hasn’t changed the design of the MP3, other than minor facelifts since it was first launched so it was ready for a freshen up. Manufacturers like Peugeot, Yamaha and Quadro have all released their own 3-wheeled scooters since the MP3 first arrived, all with their own distinctive looks and up until now Piaggio were being left behind. This new model has improved things immensely. As a commuter focussed transport solution for non-riders, (or experienced riders) an MP3 takes some beating and takes away one of the major obstacles that stops wannabe riders from getting on two, or in this case three wheels. It’s probably the only EU loophole that benefits the motorcycle industry so take advantage of it!
If you own a current MP3 this new model will make it look dated overnight but that’s progress for you. As an overall package, the HPE 300 ticks a lot of boxes. It’s quicker, more efficient, better looking and lighter, what’s not to like?
Photos: David Pell
Piaggio MP3 300 HPE Specifications
Overall Length 2040 mm
Overall width 800mm
Seat height 790mm
Engine type Piaggio HPE 4-stroke, single cylinder liquid-cooled
Power 26.2bhp @ 7,750 rpm, 26Nm of torque @ 6,500rpm
Engine capacity 278cc
Service intervals First service 1000km (625 miles) then every 6,000 miles or 12/24 months
Warranty Two years (can be extended by 12-24 months)
Lubrication system Wet sump
Transmission CVT with torque server
Suspension Front Articulated quadrilateral, 95mm axial stroke, Electro-hydraulic suspension locking system
Rear Dual hydraulic shockers – 4-position preload
Brakes Front Twin 258mm discs
Rear 240mm disc
Tyre sizes Front 110/70-13″
Fuel tank capacity 11-litres
MP3 500 HPE Sport Advanced
If you need more power than the 300 (or 350cc MP3) can offer, Piaggio have also released the new 500 HPE Sport Advanced. The model boasts a reverse gear to aid parking, LED DRL headlights, and the latest version of the single-cylinder 44.2bhp ‘Ride-by-wire’ High-Performance Engine. The engine is designed to be more fuel-efficient, quieter and smoother than its predecessor.
Styling wise, the 500 retains the older MP3 shape but comes in three versions, Business, Sport and the top of the range Sport Advanced. Visit your local Piaggio dealer for more details and book yourself a test ride.
Piaggio MP3 300 HPE Gallery
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