Piaggio provided Motoaus with the radical new MP3 scooter to try. 250cc and 3 wheels equals fun. Full ride review and specifications.
Piaggio MP3 250
If you wanted attention, you’d think maybe an orange M109R, or perhaps a Aprilia Touno R in a chequered flag paint scheme would be the thing? Maybe a lowered Hayabusa? How about a 250cc scooter!?
Thats right, the most amount of attention I’ve had in memory was whilst riding around on Piaggio’s blue MP3 scoot. People stare and point, even other motorcycle riders nearly fall off their bikes.This is no ordinary scoot though, the MP3s traffic stopping feature is the twin front wheels, which sets it apart from all else.
However, as well as attracting attention, those disc braked pair of 12′ wheels transform what can be a daunting cornering experience at speed, into a joy not found with a single wheel. But its appearance means you will spend most of your time when stopped explaining to passers-by young and old what it is. "Yes, you still have to lean it over … no, it isn’t front wheel drive… yes, it does stop well."
Still, as Oscar Wilde said, "The only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about". That won’t be a problem with the MP3. Neither will scaring sports bikes through the twisties if that’s your thing. But I imagine this unique creation will be more likely bought by those less interested in intentionally testing out front end grip at full lean.
Why? Because in addition to all the great commuter features common to big scooters like huge storage, great fuel economy and ease of riding, the MP3 adds another dimension. With its doubling of the front wheels, the fantastic braking, cornering and stability of the MP3 makes it an ideal machine for the less experienced.
As a rider with many years of motorcycle miles under the tyres, I imagined the Piaggio would ride like a normal scoot, with perhaps slightly better handling capabilities. But within minutes of getting on it I found myself marvelling at how easy to ride it was, and how confident you feel braking or cornering. Its something that needs to be experienced. Even with the lower extremities grinding the bitumen, things felt very comfortable, the Piaggio MP3 tracking smoothly and unfussed by even damp spots or gravel patches in corners.
How does it work? Well, basically it’s the same layout as most scooters, the difference being the radical design up the front. The twin wheels are independently sprung, and lean with the bike. It rides almost the same as a single wheel, except with a more settled, slightly heavier feeling up front. As it is not a trike, it could still fall over when you came to a stop, but it certainly has some extra help and is very easy to balance at low speeds.
A short video of the Piaggio MP3 in action
For parking purposes, there is no side stand, rather a switch that electronically locks the front suspension in place, making it into a rigid trike that will stand by itself. This could also be flicked on at the traffic lights, for a no feet down wait. It automatically releases as soon as throttle is applied.
This feature also turned out to be one of the great unexpected delights of this bike. When the MP3 is locked upright, it is the easiest thing to wheel it around, particularly in tight spots like in your garage. This will surely appeal to those not used to wheeling motorcycles around. A handy park brake stops it from rolling away. As it will lock at whatever angle you chose, it can be parked upright on the side of a hill. Some caution is needed due to the narrow track of the front wheels, it can be made to fall over with enough of a push, but on flat ground it is rock solid. A conventional centre stand is fitted as well.
The Piaggio MP3 is powered by a 250cc fuel injected single cylinder four stroke engine, with a CV Transmission – essentially an automatic- requiring no gear shifting or clutch operation. Twist and go. Although available in a 400cc version, this smaller capacity model had plenty of power for commuting duties, and tight road leisure riding. At over 200kgs, and making about 17kw, steep hills or open highways – especially two up- will probably leave you wishing for a little more power, but it has more than enough go to see off the cars at the lights.On the open roads, 100km/h is effortless, and in closed track testing a top speed of around 130 km/h indicated pegged it out. Between 30 and 80kmh the little Piaggio MP3 was great, more than enough for most suburban situations.
The low screen and wide body work kept the wind at bay well, with a little helmet buffeting evident at top speed only. A thermo controlled electric fan is fitted within the nose of the MP3, behind a car-like grill, which provides cool air via an airway back to the rearward mounted engine when in traffic, or running whilst stopped. Electric starting requires either hand brake to be applied, and the MP3 fired first stab every time.
That’s how it goes, how does it stop? In a word- very well. Ok that’s two words. The twin front discs are fairly insensitive compared to a sports bike, but the harder you squeeze the lever the harder it stops. The two tyre contact patches obviously increase the available stopping power tremendously, and although we didn’t scientifically test it, suffice to say, stoppies are possible, a rare thing on a scooter. The rear brake was a little more sensitive and it was fairly easy to induce lockup, but with the stability offered at the front and the extra braking available, I hardly needed to use the left handlebar mounted rear brake.
The great storage space found on all the big scooters was present on the MP3, with a boot that opens electronically, and a remote control on the key to open the seat. A full face helmet could be stored in the boot, but care had to be used with my egghead size lid, to avoid scratching the paint or visor, as it was a fairly tight fit. Under the seat was a vast area for loading junk into, I had a jacket, camera and water bottle in there at most times.
The dash area did lack the storage found on other scoots, possibly due to the extra room needed for the twin suspension front end. The instruments feature a large analogue speedo and tacho, with an LCD in the middle. LCD features include 2 trip meters and an air temperature gauge, scrolled with a right hand switchblock mounted mode button. The fuel gauge is analogue – located in the tacho- and a digital engine temp gauge and clock with time and date completes the features.
The ignition switch has a push and turn feature to open both the boot, and the fuel filler flap.In lock position, it not only locks the wheels turned, but locks the park brake on.
After a few weeks riding this little creation around town and through the many tight winding roads that thread the hills nearby, I’m going to miss riding the Piaggio MP3. Easily the most fun scooter I’ve ridden yet, due to that fantastic front end grip -allowing ridiculously high cornering speeds – almost like a thrill ride at a theme park!
I suspect the average MP3 buyer will be more impressed with the ease of operation, and the confidence inspiring grip and stability of this new innovation of 3 wheels from Piaggio. Add the usual scooter pluses of storage, economy and clutch free riding, and the MP3 will be hard to resist. I can’t wait to ride the bigger version of this scooter, the Piaggio MP3 400, and also the Gilera 500 Fuocco, all with the 3 wheel concept.
In the meantime, do yourself a favour and have a test ride on one. I guarantee you’ll love it, regardless of experience, or lack of it.
Piaggio’s MP3 delivered way more than I thought capable from such a funky looking scooter. The 3-wheeled setup is not some new gimmick to sell scooters, the configuration actually works. I was completely unprepared for its excellent handling and aggressive attitude into the tightest switchback corners I could find. Piaggio’s new toy is amazing and surprising with its independent front wheels which seem to allow much higher cornering speeds than I normally would attempt on some motorcycles.
In fact, on a downhill run, most sportsbikes would struggle to better the MP3 througha tight set of corners. Being only a 250, an uphill duel with a sportsbike is a bit of an ask. I can’t help but feel this would be a far better bike for many learners due to its 3 wheel stability, excellent handling and power limit on the 250. Even so, riding two-up on the MP3 was certainly comfortable, however, a little lacking in acceleration in some up hill sections.
.I did find the seat was on the high side for my preference, but I am only small at around 162cm. I had no problems with the weight, I actually found it easy to manouver at low speed.The storage under the seat is fantastic, perfect for spare clothes, handbag, or even a small shopping load.
I believe this little gem is here to stay and is going to change some of the negative attitudes towards scooters. These new creations have teeth!
Test bike provided by ScootersScooters Thanks guys!
Piaggio MP3 Specifications
Single-cylinder QUASAR, 4-stroke, 4-valve, electronic injection, catalysed
Displacement 244.3 cc
Bore / Stroke 72 mm / 60 mm
Compression ratio 10.5 :1
Max power / Max torque 22.5 bhp (16.5 Kw) at 8,250 rpm / 21 Nm at 6,750 rpm
Gearbox ‘Twist and go’ automatic CVT, torque server
Ignition Port Injected Alfa/n type with closed loop system, Lambda sensor in exhaust pipe and three-way double catalytic converter
Start Electric (freewheel) with torque limiter
Twin cradle: tubes in high tensile steel
Front suspension Parallelogram composed of four aluminium arms supporting two steering tubes, cantilevered suspension – Travel: 85mm
Rear suspension Two dual effect hydraulic shock absorbers and adjustable spring preload – Travel: 110mm
Front brake Two stainless steel disks, Ø 240 mm and floating calliper with two pistons, Ø 30 mm
Rear brake Stainless steel disk, Ø 240 mm and calliper with opposite pistons, Ø 30 mm
Front wheel rim Die-cast aluminium alloy, 12" x 3.00
Rear wheel rim Die-cast aluminium alloy, 12" x 3.50
Front tyre / Rear tyre Tubeless 120/70-12” 51P / Tubeless 130/70-12” 62P
Length/Width/Wheelbase 2,130 mm / 745 mm / 1,490 mm
Seat height/ Dry weight 780 mm/ 204 kg
Fuel tank capacity 12 litres (includes 1.8 litres)
Max speed 125 km/h
Consumption (ECE 40 cycle) 23 km/l
Emissions Euro 3