Recently we attended a one-day Piaggio press event where we had a chance to ride the Aprilia/Moto Guzzi/Piaggio and Vespa range. We neglected most of the bikes on offer but took out three very similar but ultimately quite different 300cc scooters for a quick back-to back ride.
Piaggio MP3 Sport 300 Euro 5: £7250
Piaggio Beverly 300 Euro 5: £5400
Vespa GTS 300 75th Anniversary: £6650
It’s not often we get a chance to ride three similar scooters one after the other but it is a great way to compare things and with scooters that share the same 278cc Euro 5 HPE engine it’s also quite surprising to see how different sets ups can affect things. Although this group test ride only gave us about 3/4 of an hour for each machine, the route we used gave a good mixture of roads, from villages to fast A-roads and dual carriageways so it gave us a good chance to compare performance in different situations.
We’re no strangers to any of these three scooters at SLUK. We were on the launch of the Beverly 350 quite a few years ago in Italy, also the MP3 300 launch in Paris, the GTS 300 HPE launch in Italy (remember the days where you could just nip abroad?) and have ridden all these machines for many miles at home and abroad. We also had the MP3 300 for a few weeks over winter and had the GTS 300 Supertech on long term loan in 2019. If you do a search for the MP3 or GTS in the top search bar of this page you’ll find plenty of full road tests and more in-depth details about the scooters. For this feature, we’re just going to show you what you get and how they compare.
Piaggio MP3 Sport 300
First up was the Piaggio MP3 Sport 300, this is currently the lowest capacity MP3 in the range. It sits in-between the new 400cc variant and the existing 500cc model, giving customers a good choice of capacities. We’re yet to see the 400 but I imagine it’ll be a great option with enough power for most people. Personally, I’m already a big fan of the 300 but will relish a chance to try out the new middle brother.
Every time I jump on an MP3 I’m reminded just how well accomplished the Piaggio three-wheelers are. They carved out a new niche for themselves when they were launched, especially when the LT (Long Track) version was released to take advantage of the existing tricycle laws, which means anybody over 21 with a full car licence can ride one without the need for additional bike training. Of course, you can also ride one if you have a full bike licence.
Our day out riding threw up the perfect conditions for three wheels as well, wet, windy, lots of gravel and plenty of twisty country roads. The MP3 excels when the going gets tough. Interestingly, despite the obvious MP3 weight disadvantage, it was quicker than the GTS at higher speeds (although it was slower on acceleration) as you’ll see on the accompanying video (above).
Piaggio Beverly 300 Euro 5
New for 2021, the Beverly 300 HPE takes the existing very competent 20-year-old Beverly to another level. The styling has been updated and refined, the details are fresh, sharp and well finished. It has new seven-spoked alloys, LED lighting, a new 5.5” LCD instrument panel, redesigned handlebars to increase visibility, there’s keyless ignition, a lovely new double-stitched sumptuous seat and a redesigned underseat area complete with courtesy light.
I must say, Piaggio have done a great job with this makeover, it’s an altogether much smarter looking scooter as a result. Of course, the Beverly also shares the Piaggio family HPE engine. It’s an engine that has seen quite a few changes since it was introduced on the Vespa GTS back in 2019. The latest engine features a redesigned cylinder head with redesigned internal components, reshaped ducts, a new intake and 3mm larger exhaust valves. The cylinder features a redesigned piston with the crown shape helping to make the combustion chamber highly efficient. Plenty more work has gone into the latest HPE engine and the claimed output is an impressive 25.8bhp at 8,000 rpm. Quite interestingly, the new 400 HPE engine (as used in the MP3 400) is also being used in the new higher capacity Beverly brought in to replace the outgoing 350. Sadly Vespa fans still face an endless wait for more GTS capacity and power (sorry folks).
The large wheels of the Beverly make for a more sophisticated ride, 14” rear and 16” front gives excellent stability and handles the bumps much better than a smaller wheeled scooter, like the 12″ GTS. I’d go as far as to say, the Beverly feels more like a sports scooter than the Vespa. It’s a machine you can really enjoy riding. It’s quick, comfortable, practical and in the latest incarnation, it looks great as well. Like the MP3 it can also outrun a GTS 300. Not massively but it will pull away and doesn’t hit the limiter.
As many of you will know, Vespa celebrated a big birthday this year. All the planned for celebrations in Italy were put on hold thanks to Covid and instead we were left eating very tasty wood-fired pizza and sipping fresh hot coffee in Vespa cups in a well ventilated, wet and windswept Piaggio industrial unit next to Silverstone.
Outside, the 75th Anniversary model GTS sat glinting in the dismal conditions, gold paintwork and graphics beading rain droplets faster than they could land.
I’ve been a Vespa fan since before puberty and was hoping for something extra special to mark this special occasion (the anniversary, not me growing hairs around my nether regions). Instead, we got the 75th Anniversary GTS. Let’s not be too hard on it though, it’s got some special stickers, a commemorative badge, chrome rear carrier with special round dummy spare wheel-style bag, a nubuck leather seat and new paintwork (as well as a special collectors pack of commemorative trinkets). Even so, I felt a little deflated when I first saw photos of it. I’m not really a gold paint fan though (the Italians say it’s yellow), or ‘Giallo 75th’ as the colour is named so that doesn’t help but even so, I was left wanting more from this flagship brand in the Piaggio Group stable.
Aside from my own personal disappointment, the Vespa GTS is still a very well accomplished scooter. I’ve owned enough of them to count on the hand of a Lincolnshire potato picker (6 in total) and know them inside out. I love the GTS and the latest incarnation with the HPE engine is an improvement in many ways. Subtle styling tweaks, new wheels, better instruments and of course the HPE engine are all positive steps forward. The 75th Anniversary model rides as well as any GTS but certainly better than the earlier models. We were at the HPE launch in Italy in 2019 and Piaggio had improved things further, more power, punchier acceleration, less of the GTS handlebar shake, better fuel economy etc. (you can read the road test here).
Despite the Northamptonshire weather (it slung it down and blew a gale later in the day), it was good to get out on the GTS and blast around the country roads, hunting down Aprilia and moto Guzzi riders from our group. A competent scooter in the right hands is a match for most bikes on roads like these. As many of you will know though, the average UK based (and of course many other countries around the world – especially Germany) GTS owner won’t just be posing around town or city. These scooters get used and abused, they’re great for touring fully-loaded, they’ve replaced the old workhorse Vespa PX 200 for many rally going scooterists. They’re hardy, dependable, quick, handle quite well and don’t take much looking after. It’s a Vespa for the 21st-century rider.
I’m not sure if the above usage for these scooters is also the reason why the engine mapping is cut short, or if it’s for another reason but the latest GTS models have a very harsh rev limiter. The HPE Supertech we had on long term was annoying at motorway speeds where you end up sitting on the limiter. The Euro 5 models seem harsher than an old-fashioned headmaster. Try and ride at full throttle on the motorway and you hit that limiter like a fly hitting a windscreen. It kills the power and drops your speed down significantly meaning you have to build up the momentum again (many owners opt to fit a ‘speedwheel’ to increase top end and stop the rev limiter coming in).
The larger wheeled MP3 and Beverly 300s never hit the limiter during the time we were riding them. The increased wheel size will raise the gearing though so maybe that’s the only reason? For somebody who uses a GTS for lots of motorway riding it’s the one thing that lets the Vespa down in its current guise. Andy from ScooterNova was audibly shocked when he first felt that limiter kick in whilst doing some on-board video footage on a dual carriageway (I edited his expletives).
Which to choose?
All three scooters are great in their own different ways. The Vespa GTS is the most stylish, it bears the iconic Vespa name and comes with 75 years of Italian pedigree. It’s practical, can carry plenty of luggage, there are loads of extras for them as well as tonnes of styling parts and of course we make some of our own products for them, including our best selling SLUK Guards and inner frame protecting SLUK Catchers. Aside from the annoying rev limiter, the GTS is a great choice for the discerning Vespa fan. If you want a 25th-Anniversary edition they’ll only be sold in 2021 but the other models in the GTS range can be had for quite a bit less money and for me the standard colours are much more pleasing on the eye (and easier on the wallet).
The Beverly 300 is a serious mid-capacity choice for the rider who needs a good all-rounder. It’s quick, agile, looks good, has decent storage space, is comfortable, has a good presence on the road and can be ridden as hard as you like. It may not be the obvious choice for more traditional scooter fans but it should never be underestimated. The Beverly is a fantastic scooter.
The MP3 300 is also a stunning machine to ride. It’s quicker than you’d expect for what is a fairly heavy 300. It looks good and is more easily accessible for newbie riders who may have never even thought about taking any bike training but still want the ease and convenience two wheels brings. The MP3 always impresses me.
Given a choice of the three my heart would go Vespa GTS but my head would toss-up between the Beverly and MP3. It would be a close call but for me and how I like to ride I’d take the Beverly 300 home with me. It’s a Jack of all trades but isn’t as flamboyant as a Vespa, or as in yer face as an MP3 but you can certainly enjoy riding and owning one.
Words, photos and video: Iggy
Riding shots: Piaggio