Safe on three wheels

This scooter is ideal for the in­ner-city com­muter, writes Craig Duff

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Motorbikes -

SAFETY and sta­bil­ity are the key at­tributes of Pi­ag­gio’s three­wheeled MP3 scooter, which is why the unique ma­chines are such a hit in Europe.

They haven’t taken off as quickly here, though, prompt­ing the Aus­tralian im­porter to ra­tio­nalise the range. The MP3 300 now re­places the 250 and 400cc ma­chines pre­vi­ously sold and Pi­ag­gio mar­ket­ing man­ager Simon Gloyne says it is the best of both worlds.

‘‘The 300 has such a sweet en­gine and it has bet­ter torque and fuel econ­omy, so it was the log­i­cal choice for the range,’’ Gloyne says. The Gil­era Fuoco stays as the range-top­per.

‘‘ We’ve also up­graded the rear wheel from 12 inches to 14, which im­proves the ride and should ex­tend tyre life.’’

There are the usual cos­metic changes, led by chang­ing the front grille from hor­i­zon­tal bars to ver­ti­cal stripes, but it’s the en­gine— and rideby-wire throt­tle — that make the LAMS-com­pli­ant 300 worth a ride.

It mightn’t look like it, but the MP3 is no wider than a maxi-scooter and far more sta­ble in city rid­ing.

The dual front wheels are linked to a unique sus­pen­sion set-up. It looks funny, un­til you ham­mer it over the first set of pot­holes, cob­ble­stones or tram tracks.

It takes a ridicu­lous amount to un­set­tle the lit­tle Pi­ag­gio, and then it’s the back end that will step out slightly. Roll off the throt­tle or pick it up — there’s a 40deg lean an­gle — and it set­tles down in­stantly. Get used to it and that trans­lates into a con­fi­dence-in­spir­ing ma­chine.

For novice rid­ers that’s a much bet­ter op­tion than find­ing out first-hand how un­for­giv­ing bi­tu­men can be.

As for the brakes, sim­ple physics sup­port the fact an ex­tra con­tact patch means the MP3 will out-stop any scooter on the mar­ket. Re­peated grabs on the lever don’t af­fect the per­for­mance and, if you do lock up, it won’t throw you down the road.

Per­for­mance is brisk up to 110km/h and the Pi­ag­gio has a the­o­ret­i­cal top speed of 130km/h, so it’s safe to ride on free­ways.

The stan­dard high screen pushes the wind over the top of your hel­met, so there’s no rea­son you can’t make it a long-dis­tance com­muter.

The un­der-seat stor­age, ac­cessed by lift­ing up the seat or through the rear lid, can fit a full hel­met.

In short, it’s a se­ri­ously good al­ter­na­tive to a con­ven­tional scooter, es­pe­cially for an in­ner-city com­muter rid­ing on bro­ken sur­faces.

Rough rider: when the go­ing gets tough, Pi­ag­gio’s MP3 keeps go­ing, whether over pot­holed roads or the dreaded tram tracks (right).

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