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Updated: May 15, 2012 17:31 IST

Retro magic

RISHAD COOPER
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Vespa LX125
Vespa LX125

The compact Vespa LX 125, the unisex scooter, is back on the Indian roads

Vespa has been synonymous with the word scooter for a long time and in terms of the original shape, not much has changed for over half a century. The Vespa scooters have always had an Italian flavour about them. But their latest offering for the Indian market has got an Indian touch.

The brand is no newcomer to India — Vespa played this market years ago with LML. The LML venture culminated in 1999, after which parent company Piaggio has built three-wheelers here for some time, while simultaneously eyeing the tempting two-wheeler boom. The decision to jump back in with Vespa came with the opening of a new factory at Baramati, Maharashtra in 2007, from where the company's first manufactured-in-India scooter, the LX125, is now all-set to make a big splash.

The compact LX125 looks as scooter-like as they come, with timeless, classic styling that is just as seductive today as it was when first seen back in the 1940s. It's a scooter with unisex appeal, showing off smooth, curvaceous lines and a rounded front mudguard. Three-spoke alloy wheels are standard. The front apron has a smart lining that runs along its edges, and it rises smoothly back into a circular, clear-lens, halogen bulb-equipped headlight. The handlebar shroud flows smoothly into high-quality palm grips that are nice to touch, and the LX employs a rounded instrument cluster that includes a speedometer, odometer, fuel gauge and digital clock. There are meaty-feeling buffed alloy levers that are always a bonus, while smart-looking switches work well on this Vespa and include the premium feature of push-to-cancel indicators that isn't common on Indian scooters.

Features and styling

Large, round and chrome-backed mirrors are superbly styled, but offer limited adjustment. Another disappointment is the lack of a rear brake locking clamp, which is more a necessity than luxury on an un-geared scooter such as this. You do, however, receive a larger than expected front storage bay, which opens neatly with a push of the ignition key into its slot. Below, we found the ridged floorboard impractical and nowhere as accommodating as most modern scooters' flat units, but let's overlook this as a sacrifice made to preserve the Vespa's undiluted retro theme.

You'll love the way the bag hook sits neatly recessed in the comfortable seat, which itself offers ample padding and a smart, textured finish. Likewise, another plus for the LX125 is the ease with which you can prop it onto its main stand, apart from which the convenience of a side stand is also available. Rear-end styling is in keeping with the classic theme — simple and in good taste, with a nicely turned-out grab bar. There is also a voluminous, lockable under-seat storage bay. Good paint quality, decent overall quality and adequate fit and finish were all apparent during our brief stint on the LX125, all of which we will be in a better position to judge after spending more time with the new scooter. The Indian-built Vespa LX125 comes with a 125cc, four-stroke, single-cylinder, carburetted and air-cooled engine. It uses three valves for enhanced intake capability and relies on inputs from an air-intake pressure sensor to help control a variable ignition system that strives for efficient combustion. The valve rocker arms are supported by roller bearings to minimise friction, and peak power output is 10.06bhp at 7500rpm, with 1.08kgm of torque coming through at 6000rpm.

The button-started LX125 uses a scooter-typical CVT automatic transmission system, which worked flawlessly throughout the duration of this first ride. This engine has a smooth, refined and built-to-last feel about it and feels tuned in the interests of good fuel-efficiency, rather than sprightly performance.

The Indo-Italian LX125 uses a monocoque-type steel chassis, its front suspension a single-sided hydraulic shock absorber with trailing linkage, and there is an Indian-scooter-conventional hydraulic monoshock at the rear. The engine pitches in as a swingarm at the back, and braking is courtesy a 150mm drum up front, and 140mm drum at the back.

The riding position feels spot on; comfortable and upright, and certain to make regular inter-city commuting a breeze. We were surprised at how good the LX125's suspension felt, providing excellent ride quality even riding two-up over the worst possible roads we could locate.

Light handling and acceptable cornering manners proved as good as can be expected from a scooter, and Vespa has excelled in providing grippy MRF tyres at both ends. The front brake proved to be the LX125's Achilles' heel although. A spongy and feeble feel makes its way through the right lever with woefully inadequate stopping power, posing a major problem that we hope Vespa steps in quickly to address. We faced no such trouble with the rear brake, however, which boasts ample bite and affords strong stops.

The Vespa LX125 is priced at a hefty Rs. 66,661 (ex-showroom, Pune) and Indian scooter buyers could question purchasing the LX125 at this price solely to make a bold lifestyle statement.

Keywords: Vespa scooters

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