2019 Vespa GTS 300 HPE launch | ROAD TEST
The new 2019 Vespa GTS 300 HPE. For many of you, those three letters signified HoPE. Die-hard GTS fans hoped for a bigger, faster engine. Maybe some radical new features and for British riders an end to any rusting issues. The Vespa GTS HPE was revealed to the world at EICMA last November. The first dealer-bought models are already on our roads and this week we’ve been out to Italy to test ride it. Let’s see if Vespa have answered your wishes…
Most powerful Vespa of all time
2.6 bhp isn’t exactly what our power-hungry riders had in mind as a power increase but even so, it makes the new 300 HPE the most powerful production Vespa ever (those figures are measured at the crank rather than real wheel by the way).
Interestingly the new engine is said to give a 12% increase in power and 18% more torque, taking torque up from 22nm @5000 rpm, to 26Nm at 5,250rpm. Those improvements are thanks to the new head, with improved valves, new springs and a new cam chain. The injection mapping has been altered, there’s a new airbox and a new quieter starter motor. Interestingly the service intervals on the new engine have been doubled from 5,000km, it’ll now need servicing every 10,000km. That’s a bonus for us longer distance users who can rack up close to 5,000km during a touring holiday. The first service is still at 1,000km though.
The new HPE engine exceeds Euro 4 regs and is already Euro 5 compliant (Euro 5 arrives in 2020), so Piaggio envisages it being around for a while to come. The new engine is more fuel efficient than the old model as well, it does 31.2 km to the litre on the WMTC testing cycle, the old model did 29.4. That’s good news from a range perspective, after 68 miles it had only used 3 bars on the fuel gauge but according to the spec sheet the tank only holds 7-litres, as opposed to 8.5 for the old GTS models (unless that’s a mistake?). The HPE engine is also designed to be quieter and has a newly designed, modern looking side casing and airbox, also said to reduce engine noise. Not that the GTS is particularly noisy by any stretch of the imagination. To be honest, though I didn’t notice it being any quieter in use, or at startup.
I must admit that the new engine was noticeably quicker off the mark straight from the off outside the hotel. I wasn’t really expecting to notice much difference with just an on paper 2.6 bhp power hike but it’s a 12% rise and is actually well worth having. In fact that 18% torque increase is evident right through the rev range. It makes overtaking much nippier, pulling off from a standstill quite quick and the power out of corners is much punchier. Everybody I spoke to on the launch agreed that it was noticeably better.
Blasting around Italian switchbacks, the blue ocean glistening in the sunshine and multi-coloured GTS’ in front and behind me in the new mirrors was the perfect way to be trying out the latest incarnation of our favourite modern Vespa model. Shod with Michelin City Grip tyres and with both ABS and ASR (traction control) sitting in the background to help keep the rider safe we certainly pushed the GTS to its limits. One thing I did notice was that the new side stand no longer grinds out on left-handers. It’s been turned from the near useless old flip-up suicide stand to a proper useable fold out side stand, complete with engine cut out switch. Those extra couple of degrees of lean certainly give you more confidence in corners, although I did quite enjoy grinding the old one when I had a pillion on board.
The Michelins work really well and never lost grip whilst I was riding, even though some of the Italian tarmac had a nice shine to the smooth surface. The brakes and suspension haven’t been altered on the new model but they didn’t really need to be improved to be honest. They have more than enough bite to reign a GTS in, lots of feel at the lever and of course two-channel ABS to cut in if the wheel locks under heavy braking. To be honest you do really have to try if you want to feel the ABS, which is a good thing. The same can be said for the ASR (that incidentally can still be turned off if you prefer).
It was quite interesting to hear one of the bike journalists talking about his first go on a GTS, he’d half expected to be underwhelmed but had great fun tearing up the twisty mountain roads. Riding in a pack of equally matched scooters is always good fun. You don’t need huge amounts of power to enjoy a good ride. A mid capacity scooter like the GTS is perfect for the job. It picks up instantly and the mid-range power leaves it on the boil all the time. The old engine lacked a bit of overtaking ability at times. Not so with the new one, it has the instant power you need, when you need it. Twist the throttle, blast past a slower vehicle, nip back in before the next scenic bend. Hard on the brakes, power it out, a few quick zig-zag corners, feeling like you’re on the edge but the GTS is well under control. You’re at full tilt, tyres still feeling good beneath you, it’s not squirming, there’s no loss of traction, no scraping stand – it just does what a decent sports scooter should do and does it very well.
I’ve missed riding a GTS over the last few months, I maybe didn’t realise it until I was out on the launch. I sold my 2015 model last summer but maybe it’s time to get a new one? Riding a GTS hard is a great feeling, they’re well balanced, handle very well and are quick enough to have fun. Of course, they’re also ultra practical. These really are a fantastic scooter, the new HPE model further improves its prowess. I half expected to be left feeling a bit flat by the new model but that new engine does the business. We didn’t get a chance to get them flat out during the launch so we can’t give a top speed figure yet but will do as soon as we ride one in the UK, I did get up to 74mph on the clock at one point and there was still more to come. If you’d been waiting to upgrade and the minor bhp hike put you off I think I’d advise you to nip to your local Piaggio dealer and get out on the shop demo if they have one.
If you know the Vespa GTS very well you’ll be able to spot the differences without much prompting, they’re subtle rather than revolutionary but they work. As an overall package, it looks great and the new colours further enhance things.
- New horncast (or ‘tie’ as the Italian’s call it)
- New LED headlight with chrome surround
- New headset with one piece front rather than having removable master cylinder covers
- New mirrors
- New hexagonal radiator side grills
- Revised front mudguard
- Revised rear side panels with sporty cutouts
- Revised roomier grab rail
- New LED rear light
- New engine, instantly recognisable from the old lump
Some of these differences arrived on the facelift/crossover model in 2018 (remote keyfob/side stand/mudguard reshaped/different master cylinder moulding.
The model range
There was a bit of confusion over models and colours at the launch. We’re still not 100% sure which models we’ll get in the UK. We are definitely getting the GTS HPE Super, that’s the base model at £4999 (£4499 for the 125), then there’s the popular special edition Notte at £5199 (£4699 for 125), the Touring is £5699 (£5199 125 Touring), the SuperTech price hasn’t been released yet. Then there’s the Super Sport, a popular model in the UK… Piaggio aren’t planning to bring that one in this year. Despite having the lovely matt ‘Blu Energia’ and ‘Grigio Dolomiti’ colours. I have a feeling SLUK readers won’t be too happy at that news. Especially as it’s only usually around £100 more than the Super and especially when the next jump up is to either the Touring or SuperTech. We expect it’ll be around £500-700 more than the Super, a big jump for what is essentially a different colour and TFT dashboard.
To confirm – there are currently no plans to bring the SuperSport in this year…”
We will have to wait for the SuperTech pricing to be revealed and the full spec though of course, they may surprise us and the jump in price isn’t so big. The colour choices for that model will be Grigio Titanio (above) and Blu Vivace. The SuperTech is scheduled to arrive in dealers in April and we’re planning to do a long term test on one this summer.
What do you want?
We have told Piaggio that they should bring the Super Sport in again, I think if you harass your local dealer and Vespa social media they’ll soon change their minds…
Talking of colours, the ‘Ernie Smith’ three-wheeler blue pictured above, ok that’s not the official colour name (it’s actually called Verde Relax) but it reminds me of the local grumpy invalid’s car. Ernie Smith terrorised us kids during the 1970s with his mobility vehicle. This colour is going to be limited to just 10 units initially in the UK. In our opinion, that’s another mistake, it suits the GTS very well and accentuates the details. Once again, if you want one, get one ordered today, or join the waiting list once Piaggio changes their mind.
The 2018 Yacht Club special edition has been dropped (not that that will upset many people). Thankfully the popular Notte is being retained, as is the Sei Giorni. There’s also the lovely new metallic green ‘Verde Bosco’ Touring edition. It’s quite a dark green up close but looks very nice in bright sunlight, as does the glossy yellow ‘Gialo Estate’ Super. The world of Vespa is a vibrant and colourful place to be.
If you’re thinking of trading up on your existing GTS you won’t be disappointed, the HPE looks sharp and performs very well. The detail changes are subtle but effective, like the new horncasting with its triple grills which was designed to fit in with the current small frame Vespa models. In my opinion, it’s an improvement. Piaggio may not have reinvented the wheel with the new HPE but what they have done has been well thought out and well executed.
Second Opinion – Andy Gillard, ScooterNova Magazine
It’s a little strange when you’ve not ridden a particular model of scooter for a while then find yourself in the saddle of the latest model, being asked to compare it to its predecessor. You think you notice things, but then start doubting yourself whether it is a deliberate change or your recollection of the last ride was truly accurate.
The last Vespa GTS I rode wasn’t a 300. In fact, I think it might have been just a GT. However, I’ve done enough miles on the full range of modern large-frame Vespa scooters to know that I enjoy the ride. Yes it’s smooth, it’s effortless and of course being a metal-bodied Vespa it is stylish too, But what many forget is that the steel forming the structure of this scooter also adds a sturdiness to the ride that rival scooters with cheap plastic clad around a hidden frame simply don’t have. When you turn in on a Vespa you know you’ve turned. It feels sure-footed, there’s no creaking of plastic every time you ride over an imperfection in the road, and of course it is a robust machine that can take a few knocks and bruises if push comes to shove.
Despite the Vespa being more solid, it is keen both from a standing start and for overtaking. I noticed this early on in the ride and the more-seasoned GTS rider that is Iggy confirmed it wasn’t simply that I’d not ridden one as recently as he had, but that Piaggio’s promise of increased power and torque for the new model were indeed obvious. I found it pretty keen to skirt around four-wheeled traffic on the twisty coastal roads with only the slightest encouragement. It was a smoother engine to ride too than before, less of a rasp or rumble.
I’d forgotten too how much leg-room there is on one of these, and the seat on the Super Sort I spent most of the day riding both looked stylish and felt plush. It’s a shame that this particular version is unlikely to be imported into the UK during 2019.
Discussion with other riders during the day revealed one slightly disappointed that the speedometer unit didn’t offer more than time, odometer and two trip counters. I’d noted to myself earlier that I quite liked the simplistic layout of the GTS handlebars. It told me what I needed to know via an instrument that had obviously been designed rather than simply liberated from a parts bin. Maybe because I come from a classic scooter background I’m happy to ride with just the basic information to distract me.
I understand that Piaggio have to move with both the times and customer demand. Features such as anti-lock brakes (only coming into effect when forcing a situation at high speed) and traction control (which I’d forgotten was fitted until attempting a fast pull-away on gravel) are a result of this, but like the old-skool speedometer I appreciate that the approach at all times comes across as sympathetic to the Vespa legacy.
On the flip side they do need to make sure that simple things such as handlebar grips are fitted correctly on each scooter to not to leave varying gaps between them and the headset units which is a little untidy. Nitpicking maybe, but if you’re paying Vespa money for a superior product, it should be right and in this case, the fit and finish needs to match the improved power-unit.
Andy Gillard – ScooterNova magazine
Rust? What rust…
We were asked by SLUK readers to find out if Piaggio had done anything to improve the frame rusting issues. A Piaggio spokesman seemed very surprised when we asked. In fact he told us “I’ve never heard of this problem before, maybe it’s a British issue? Perhaps the salt on your roads?” He is reporting back to the factory and promised to look into it and let us know what they come up with. I’m pretty sure the number of warranty claims for bodywork issues hasn’t gone unnoticed, although I image there are lots of owners who haven’t bothered pursuing it, or have a scooter out of warranty so get it sorted themselves.
I’ve owned GTS’ since 2005 and like many of you, I found the early 250 to be much less prone to rusting than the newer models. I sold a rusting/paint chipped 2012 300 and replaced it with a 2006 250, the paint and condition of the seven-year-old scooter was at the time a lot better than the year old 300. Although to be fair my 2015 GTS seemed much better than the 2012 one.
The mainly UK based corrosion problems led to us developing the SLUK Guard and SLUK Tail to help protect the metal bodywork from spray and stones. We’ve sold over 2,000 of them so owners are aware of the failings of the GTS and many use sprays like ACF-50 to protect the bodywork, both inside and out.
Incidentally, we redeveloped the SLUK Guard in 2018 to fit the latest mildly redesigned front mudguard of the HPE models and summer/autumn 2018 pre-HPE crossover models. Our SLUK Driver screen, SLUK Tail, suspension cover and Eros fork cover also fit the HPE models. You can find the full range here but ask your dealer to fit a SLUK Guard before collecting your new scooter.
Photography: Action shots Rudy Carrezzevoli, Milagro
Video: We’ll be adding some video content and more images later so watch this space
Vespa GTS 300 HPE specifications
Engine: 278cc, HPE, liquid cooled, fuel injected, 4-stroke, 4-valve, single cylinder
Claimed power: 23.8 bhp @ 8250 rpm
Torque: 26 Nm @5250 rpm
Suspension: Front single sided fork with shock, rear mono shock
Claimed kerb weight: TBC – 148kg
Front brake: 220mm disc (ABS/ASR)
Rear brake: 220mm disc (ABS/ASR)
Front tyre: 120/70x 12
Rear tyre: 130/70 x 12
Fuel capacity: 7 litres
Seat height: 790mm
Price: From £4899 (£4499 125cc)
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