If ever there was a time to buy a more practical mode of personal transport, that time is now. The third National Lockdown is still in force but many people still have to go out to work which means there isn’t always an option to ‘Stay at home.’
With public transport being about as popular as a coughing fit in Asda, wintry weather making roads slippery and currently no way to get a CBT certificate or practical test in England, it means lots of potential riders are stuck in a quandary. That’s where three-wheelers, like this MP3 300 Sport come in very handy because most can be ridden on a car licence by anybody over the age of 21. This means it’s an easy transition for somebody who hadn’t previously considered riding a scooter, there are no licencing hoops to jump through – just get on and ride!
We’ve carried various road tests and launch reports on the MP3 and other three-wheelers in the past on SLUK so this feature is aimed more towards a new rider looking to take the plunge, rather than ‘just another’ road test. You’ll find links to other related articles within the text and a little video we did with an MP3 500 and Quadro4, 350 back in the very early days of SLUK.
VIDEO | This early SLUK teaser gives you a taste of what 3 (or 4) wheels can offer
The fun of two with stability of three
I’ve been a big fan of the Piaggio MP3 since first riding one way back in 2006. The idea behind it is fairly simple: build a scooter with the fun of two wheels but the safety and stability of three. It’s a concept that not only works but has changed the behaviour of many commuters around the world and has led to other manufacturers building their own three and four-wheeled versions. Piaggio can certainly be credited for being the first to mass-produce a modern tilting trike though and it’s a very useful tool to own. Practical, stylish, safe and great fun.
Aside from the Piaggio MP3, the current choice for new three and four-wheelers that can be ridden on a car licence includes the following: The Yamaha Tricity 300 (tested here) the Peugeot Metropolis and Quadro 4-wheeler (now known as Qooder). They’re all variations on the original Piaggio theme though. Your choice will probably come down to budget, styling and local dealers. It’s always handy to have a dealership fairly close to home.
The best capacity MP3?
There have been various capacities and variants of the MP3, from 125cc to 250, 300, 400, Hybrid 400 and a 500cc. Some early ones (pre-2009) couldn’t be ridden on a car licence so beware if you’re buying an old used example. The thing to look out for is ‘LT’ or Large Track, that means the front wheels are wide enough for it to be classed as a tricycle, which allows you to ride it on a car licence. A giveaway is the footbrake on the right-hand floorboard, all tricycle versions have that as standard to comply with legislation. Although owners converted some early models to LT by spacing the front wheels and fitting a footbrake, so check the logbook.
Currently, only the MP3 300 and 500 are in production. For me though, the latest HPE 300 version is the most practical and useful of them all. It gives a good compromise between power and weight, it’s cheaper to run than the 500, fast enough for most riders and won’t cost as much to insure or maintain. That’s the one we’re concentrating on here. Never underestimate the 300 class of scooters, they’re fantastic. Cubic capacity isn’t everything and sometimes less is more.
VIDEO | A view from the rider's seat
Novice? How do you ride one?
If you’re a seasoned scooter (or MP3) rider you can skip this box. If not, read on.
Like any modern automatic scooter, the MP3 is ‘twist & go.’ In other words, you’ve not got a clutch or gears to worry about – simply twist and go! This means it’s much easier to ride than a geared bike.
There are some peculiarities with a tilting three-wheeler though. Firstly, as an added safety device there’s a pressure switch in the MP3’s seat. If you’re not sat (with some weight) on it the engine won’t rev and the scooter won’t move. This stops it being accidentally revved up and shooting across the road on three wheels. Another safety device is the handbrake, it stops it rolling down a hill when you leave the scooter parked up. There’s also a foot brake and a centre stand, although not many bother to use those on an MP3. Braking is usually done with the front and rear levers, just like on a pushbike.
The scooter can be left locked upright, although it is fairly easy to put on the centre stand once you master the technique (something many new riders of any machine find a bit daunting). Our advice is to practice putting your new scooter on the stand at home, put the stand flat to the floor with your foot and hold it down as you push the scooter backwards. You’re trying to roll it on the stand, rather than physically lift it. Keep practising…
Can it fall over?
The MP3’s body tilts from side to side when you’re riding it, it leans and rides like an ordinary scooter. The body also locks into position but the scooter can still overbalance if you try and lock the body on the tilt, you need to respect this machine and get used to it – it is heavy.
Is it ‘safer’ than a two-wheeler?
The tilting body gives the scooter a fairly natural feeling of riding a ‘normal’ scooter but the extra wheel provides more road grip and stability. Dodgy road surfaces, wet roads and the like won’t faze this machine. As standard, it comes with ABS to all three wheels and ASR – Anti Slip Regulation (traction control) – features familiar to many car drivers. Safety is in the hands of the rider though in most situations, ride defensively and within your own limits and you’ll enjoy many happy and safe years of riding. The in-built safety features and third wheel of the MP3 provide great safe braking control and stop the rear wheel spinning on damp/slippery surfaces. It’s hard to crash an MP3 but it is still possible.
How does the tilt lock work?
As mentioned above, the body can be locked into position by using a switch on the right handlebar, you can only lock it at around 3mph when coming to a stop. An amber light on the dash shows you that you’re going slow enough and a bleep lets you know it’s locked when you slide the button. Make sure the body is upright when you press the button though! It can be locked at any angle. When you pull away the body automatically releases as you twist the throttle. Time it right and you can ride one without ever needing to put a foot to the floor.
What’s it like for storage?
The good thing about most modern scooters is that they have a large storage space beneath the seat, the MP3 is no exception. You can easily fit a large bag in there, as well as your security device (always use good security with a scooter) and use it to store your crash helmet once you get to work, or town. You can also buy a tunnel bag designed to sit in the raised section between your legs, dangle a bag from the bag hook, or fit a top box. Everday storage really isn’t an issue.
There’s also a USB charge point under a hidden flap above the dashboard so you can store and charge your phone.
0% finance offer
An MP3 is a serious bit of kit and a serious investment. The MP3 300 Sport we tested costs £7250. The slightly less blinged up MP3 300 is slightly cheaper at £7000. Both are available on 0% finance until March 31st.
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Do anything engine
Regular modern scooter fans will be familiar with the liquid-cooled engine that powers the MP3 300. It’s the 278cc Piaggio HPE lump, as used in the Vespa GTS. The Euro 5 version is the latest engine, built to conform to the latest regulations on emissions. It’s good for close to 80mph, isn’t overly thirsty and even with a heavy MP3 to pull it’s nippy enough. The engine is well proven and can do as many miles as you’d like to cover in a day. Don’t be put off if your commute is a long one or requires the use of motorways, this scooter can handle anything you throw at it.
Big but easy to manage
The MP3 is a substantial-looking scooter but don’t let all that plastic put you off, it’s not as big and cumbersome as you may think. One other benefit of three wheels is that you can wheel it around fairly easily with the body locked upright, this means the weight isn’t as much of an issue, which makes parking in bike bays or backing it into a garage much easier.
There were no surprises from a riding point of view with the scooter, I’ve ridden plenty of miles on various MP3s in the past and this one was every bit as steady and nimble at slow speed, and as sure-footed and confident at higher speeds. You can corner faster and harder on an MP3 than you can on most bikes or scooters. They’re an awesome machine, whether you’re a newbie rider or experienced rider looking for fun.
Parking and congestion charging
The good news is that most bike/scooter parking is free, easy and convenient in many towns and cities, with free bike bays and areas set aside for us. In some areas of London you will need to pay though.
Talking of London: Now for the bad news, the MP3 doesn’t currently qualify for free congestion charging in London. The criteria is that a tricycle has to measure less than 1-metre wide by 2-metres in length. The MP3 is just 40mm too long, quite an oversight on Piaggio’s part. Hopefully, they’ll rectify that in the future. The wheelbase is short enough at 1440 mm so I’d imagine it’s quite easy to lose 40mm from the rear end by altering the number plate hanger. If you want to have a go you can apply for an exemption from Transport for London here.
Dispel the myths
There are a couple of things that stop people from riding. Firstly, we’re brought up being told ‘Bikes are dangerous.’ People are brainwashed into thinking ‘I’ll kill myself on one of those.’
Bikes and scooters aren’t dangerous, people are. We’re all capable of holding a loaded gun without killing ourselves.”
Ride to survive
You can’t expect to jump on an unfamiliar mode of transport and have the skill levels of Valentino Rossi. Take your time, get used to things, treat every ride as a learning experience and pride yourself on avoiding hazards. Prevent issues by good planning and awareness. If a car pulls out on you and causes you a problem it’s as much your fault as the car drivers. Take responsibility and prevent accidents from happening. Simple.
The second barrier is licencing, many people would love to ride but for whatever reason don’t want to take a CBT, or go for a full bike licence. An MP3 solves that problem for you. As long as you’re over 21 and have a full car licence you can buy one today and ride away from the showroom. So what’s stopping you? Get out there and ride, you’ll not regret it.
Words and photos: Iggy, action shots, Linsey
For more information on the Piaggio range, MP3, and the dealer network you can visit Piaggio
Dealers are currently operating a ‘Click, Collect, Ride’ option if you don’t want to go into a dealership.
Piaggio MP3 300 Sport gallery
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