The Vespa GTS 300 ABS/ASR
The UK’s best selling machine last year
The big question is are we going to see a 350cc Vespa GTS this year? Sadly we doubt it. Factory sources have consistently denied it, but that doesn’t stop the rumours, or demand, for an even bigger Vespa. It is the 70th anniversary year for Vespa and sources have indicated that we might expect some sort of upgrade, but what that might be is unclear. We’ll be the first to tell you about it though if it does happen.
One thing is for sure though; scooterists are never satisfied and are notoriously hard to please. That’s because our cherished machine, be it a vintage Lambretta, Vespa PX – or the GTS, is more than just a scooter – it’s something that stirs emotion and passion.
Mess with it and you’d better do a good job…!
The last update to this mile-munching scooter came in 2014 and we were at the launch in Italy.
The ‘facelift model’ included an ABS/ASR option, (that’s Anti Lock Brakes and Assisted Slip Reduction; which is a posh acronym for traction control). The option not to have these safety features was phased out in summer 2015, ready for the new Euro4 regulations that came into effect in January 2016. All newly-designed machines over 125cc must have ABS fitted as standard now, whilst existing models can be sold without ABS only until January 2017.
Aside from those safety features, the new model also gained new instruments in keeping with the Vespa Primavera and Sprint models. The dash has a more informative digital screen. It’s a definite improvement over the old GTS 300 clocks but still not as useful as the GTS 250 dash. There is, however, an optional extra that will please gadget freaks; it’s called Vespa Multimedia Platform, or VMP for short.
VMP allows you to mount your Smartphone on the mirror stem and connect a phone to your scooter via Bluetooth. The app then gives you a virtual dashboard with dials for speed, torque, acceleration, lean angle etc. There are functions for trip, top speed, fuel economy, a diagnostic function and indicator warning light. It even has a ‘scooter finder’ that will direct you back to where you left your scooter, presumably for when Italians are sufficiently drunk to ride. Other functions include a Sat Nav, espresso machine (ok I lied about the coffee) and the owner’s manual is on there as well. The app itself might be free but you’ll need to pay £200 for the privilege of getting the VMP device fitted to your scooter. Mamma Mia! That’s still cheaper than a dedicated bike Sat Nav though.
Although the ‘Facelift’ scooter doesn’t instantly look different (probably a good thing) there are some subtle changes – like the LED front running lights integrated within the indicators.
There’s the new dash of course and if you open the glovebox you’ll notice the left hand side houses a new plastic moulding. That contains the brains for the ABS/ASR. This box also includes a useful USB point to charge your phone. Rally going scooterists might be a bit upset though because the ignition needs to be on for the USB to be live, so you can’t just charge a phone whilst you’re sat on a rally campsite.
The underseat space has also been redesigned to include a couple of extra litres of storage space. Strangely, unlike the physically smaller Primavera and Sprint, it’s still not large enough for a full faced helmet but you can fit two jet style lids in there. Or a bucket full of ice and a crate of beer if you’re camping! That extra space was created by altering the chassis slightly; it means some older accessories don’t fit the later model, like the gel seat (which needs the rubber buffers moving to stop the paint being marked) and the popular Classic rear racks (a mini sprint style rack) don’t clear the restyled rear light. Both accessories have since been redesigned though.
Engine wise the liquid-cooled 278cc engine has remained exactly as it was (which upset many GTS fans) but the front suspension gets the new Enhanced Suspension System (ESS) as fitted to the Primavera and Sprint. It’s basically a new way of mounting the front suspension on a swivel pin, rather than being clamped solidly. This improves the feel quite considerably. In fact the new scooter felt much more planted on the launch than my own GTS, which was fitted with Malossi RS24 shock – although this change isn’t without its annoyances – as you’ll read later.
The press launch took place in Tuscany, an area of outstanding natural beauty with some fantastic tight and twisty riding roads. You couldn’t pick a better place to spend a day riding a GTS 300. Plenty of corners, bumpy roads to test the suspension, loose gravel to test the ABS and ASR and even a bit of rain to make sure the two new systems work well.
There were no great surprises, the GTS did exactly what it should do, as any current owner would expect, because they are a fantastic tool. To be honest the scooter felt pretty much like the one I’d ridden down to the airport (it should really because the basic chassis/engine hasn’t changed).
Other than the suspension, the only noticeable differences were the comfier new seat and of course the cockpit layout. The engine is still a tractable lump and I saw 80mph on the clock. Incidentally the speed reading matched the one on the VMP perfectly.
In slippery conditions I felt the ASR (Anti Slip Resistance) kick in. Basically it cuts torque to the rear wheel if it detects the rear tyre slipping under load. The times when it cut in weren’t potentially dangerous (in my opinion) and I was trying to make it work by being over enthusiastic with the throttle on loose surfaces. I also had the ABS activate a few times. On one occasion I was pretty glad of it after an unexpected emergency stop.
Would I buy one?
In a word; yes! Since the launch in 2014 I sold my old GTS (a 2006 250) and I bought a brand new one in March last year. I covered over 5,000 miles on it during the summer, half of which was riding to Croatia and back. It’s the sixth GTS I’ve owned (four 300’s and two 250’s) and to be honest it’s been one of my favourites so far (2012 model year was the worst) but it’s not been without problems.
The good news is that the front end is miles better than the old one. The annoying low speed ‘GTS front-end wobble’ has been cured at last. It only took Piaggio nine years. Although the trade-off is that the wobble has been replaced with a knock. Pretty soon after getting the scooter I noticed the front end bottoming out over bumps, or at least that’s how it sounded. On inspection the pin holding the front suspension had some play in it. Piaggio replaced the shock and carrier but it still has excess play. I’ve learned to ignore it and it doesn’t affect the way the suspension works or the handling but it’s still annoying. It’s not a problem confined to my scooter though, all the new ones seem to have a bit of play in them. Italians might call it ‘character’.
Aside from that minor issue my new GTS started playing up on the way to Venlo last August, the revs wouldn’t drop far enough so it would creep forward on tick-over. That was cured under warranty by fitting a new ECU. Since then all has been fine, although for some reason this GTS is marginally slower than the others I’ve owned.
It may not be perfect but the GTS 300 is still the best long distance retro styled scooter you can buy, without a doubt. In 2015 it was also the best selling machine in the UK in the 126-300cc category with 956 units being shifted. If ever a 350 did arrive, expect the market to be swamped with hundreds of used 300’s.
Lab rating: 8
VESPA GTS F.A.Q
Why does my GTS groan?
One new anomaly with the facelift GTS that has baffled a few riders is its ability to do animal impressions. Once it’s parked up after a ride it’ll give off a walrus like groan every minute or so until it cools down (maybe that’s why it was launched in Tuscany?). It’s nothing to worry about; it’s caused by a change to the way the fuel tank is vented. A build up of pressure causes the peculiar sound.
What is the security situation?
Sadly the GTS has gained an undesirable following in certain areas by bike thieves. In London the GTS is being stolen very frequently and has been linked to numerous crimes and antisocial behaviour. The scooter comes with an engine immobiliser as standard but the thieves have learnt how to bypass the system quickly and easily.
Without a doubt this will have a knock-on effect with insurers and will also put some buyers off. We’re told Piaggio UK are working with a security specialist to find a solution but there are things you can do to help yourself.
- Always chain the scooter up using a good quality Thatcham approved lock.
- It’s also worth having a tracker fitted. I’ve had a Datatool Trakking on mine. It costs £300 and gives live tracking information and if the scooter is moved without the ignition being on you get an instant alert. Money well spent for extra peace of mind.
- Out of sight, out of mind – cover it up when parked outside.
- Don’t be complacent at home – always chain it up.
- Put the scooter away as soon as you get home.
- Try not to park in the same place every day if you park it out of sight.
Buying a used GTS?
You should always be wary of any scooter that appears to be too cheap or not quite as it should be. Lots of 125cc GTS’s have been ‘ringed’ – especially in London so be very careful of ‘300 registered as a 125’ type adverts.
You can easily see the frame number by lifting the seat bucket out; it’s stamped around the edge of the chassis. The engine number is located on a flat piece of the engine on the left hand side as you look at the bac
- Make sure you see the registration document (V5)
- Are both keys with the scooter? Blue key and brown master key
- Before agreeing to buy a used scooter, check the frame and engine numbers match the logbook.
- If the seller offers to meet somewhere other than their registered address, be cautious.
Engine: 278cc, liquid cooled, fuel injected, 4-stroke, 4-valve, single cylinder
Claimed power: 22bhp
Torque: 22.3nm @7500rpm
Suspension: Front single sided fork with shock, rear mono shock
Claimed kerb weight: 148kg
Front brake: 220mm disc,
Rear brake: 220mm disc
Front tyre: 120/70x 12
Rear tyre: 130/70 x 12
Fuel capacity: 9.5 litres
Seat height: 790mm
Colours: Montebianco white, Blu Gaiola, Rosso Dragon red, Nero Lucido black