Safe on three wheels
This scooter is ideal for the inner-city commuter, writes Craig Duff
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).