Sporty new version of the Vespa Primavera scooter rides on 12-inch wheels.
Vespa nearly sold 200,000 units in 2013, an accomplishment that proves the company is the real pillar supporting the Piaggio Group. Just like in 1946, when the iconic scooter emerged from the rubbles of the Piaggio Aviation company hangars and saved the whole company. And today, Vespa has brilliantly revitalized its appeal and efficiency as the sturdiest, most reliable, and versatile urban commuter thanks to radically evolved engineering that has remained smartly conservative in styling and general layout.
With the arrival of the new Primavera, the junior Vespa has been upgraded to the quality and technological refinement of the Vespa GTS, and perhaps even a couple of steps beyond that. For proof, look no further than the new Vespa Sprint. The new Sprint is the “lean and mean” derivative of the Primavera. It has sharper styling for the headlight, handlebar and instrumentation, plus a more elegantly contoured seat with double stitching, a touch of red paint on the edge of the front air intake gills and on the coils of the front suspension spring. But the real evolutionary step is the move to 12-inch wheels, front and rear. There was a time when junior Vespas tiptoed around on skinny 10-inch tires.
2015 Vespa Sprint static 3/4 view
Marco Lambri, Chief of Piaggio Styling, and Alessandro Bagnoli, Chief Project Engineer and R&D Manager, agreed that it was time to give the junior Vespas a more masculine look, and larger wheels were the first step. Compared to the Primavera, the new Sprint does look leaner and more muscular, and I think it might be the best-looking Vespa ever. That’s my humble opinion, of course. The suspension, an evolution of the traditional Vespa trailing link design tuned for the larger front wheel, features a hinged lower shock mount that relieves the same shock absorber from parasitic flexional loads. Nicely styled cast alloy wheels (2.50-12 in front, 3.00-12 in back) shod with tubeless Pirellis (110/70-12 in front, 120/70-12 rear) complete the Sprint’s rolling hardware.
For improved weight distribution, Bagnoli moved the battery from its traditional underseat location to a spot under the backbone that runs from the steering head down to the floorboard. In Europe, the Sprint comes powered with the latest edition of Piaggio’s air-cooled 125cc sohc three valver, but in the US there will be a Sprint 50 powered by the company’s familiar four-valve 49cc engine, plus a Sprint 150 equipped with a 150cc variant of the sohc 125. The 125cc version I tested in Rome features a compression ratio increased from 10:1 to 10.5:1, while all the rest remains unchanged: two 20mm inlet valves and a 22mm exhaust valve set at 36 degrees included angle. Fed by electronic fuel injection, this 125cc engine generates a claimed 10.8 horsepower at a mere 7,700 rpm, plus 7.7 pound-feet of torque at 6,000 rpm. The numbers are slightly lower compared to previous versions, but the throttle response is much more prompt and consistent from much lower rpm.
2015 Vespa Sprint studio left-side view
A highly efficient continuously variable transmission (CVT) turns this good energy to performance that’s remarkably good for a 125cc buzzer. It felt almost like the 150cc Primavera I tested last November. But what really sets the Sprint apart is its incredibly surefooted handling. Steering response is way above the scooter standard, the Sprint feeling stable, precise and quick. Most important, this new Vespa scooter does not have a mind of its own—it stays composed in high-speed bends, yet in wild Rome traffic it quickly stays out of trouble, immediately reconfiguring its line with no wobbling or any unpleasant tendency to go wide.
The rolling gear of the new 2014 Sprint is so good and so well balanced that it would be logical for Bagnoli to think of an engine that’s larger than the 58mm x 58.6mm 150cc unit, which is, after all, only a minor improvement over the 52mm x 58.6mm 125cc. I have no idea how far this block can be stretched (a new block is out of question for obvious standardization reasons), but I can assure you that this chassis can handle 20 horsepower anytime. The 200mm front disc brake and rear 140mm drum are perfectly adequate for the performance and weight of the Sprint, which tips the scales at a claimed 267 pounds dry. Top speed was clocked at 61 mph, and acceleration felt very good.
Look for the new 2015 Vespa Sprint 50 and 2015 Sprint 150 to arrive in the US in mid-May, priced at $3,699 and $5,099 respectively.