2011 Aprilia Scarabeo 500ie Comparison

June 27, 2011
Steve Atlas
Steve Atlas
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Professional-grade speed and an attitude to match, Steve Atlas is the new blood at MotoUSA. Atlas has AMA racing creds that are even more extensive than his driving record.

The Aprilia Scarabeo easily stood out as the most visibly different of the four-scooter field. With a very typical ‘Euro’ look to it featuring an upright, Vespa-style seating position and overall styling, all our test riders were excited to swing a leg over the Scarabeo. Could it combine the cool styling of a Vespa with the versatility of a long-range, big-bore scooter? Could it provide a true commuter, one which can tackle freeways as much as around town? About the best answer we can give is, maybe.

Why only maybe? Because before our first day of testing had even finished, the Aprilia was broken down and stranded on the side of the road. With roughly 100 miles of testing and two quick photoshoots under its belt, the Scarabeo simply stopped running. At first it felt like the battery had expired, but after an hour of not being able to jump life back into to it we realized something more fatal had transpired. What exactly? We had no idea and are still awaiting word from Aprilia U.S.A. for the reason. As such the Italian manufacturer was unable to participate in any further testing. In fact, last we checked they were still ‘waiting on parts’ and had yet to attempt to repair it.

2011 Aprilia Scarabeo 500ie
The true characteristics of the Scarabeo were hidden from us after breaking down before the end of our first test day.

Even so, we did spend roughly a solid day (though split four ways) aboard the little Italian red scooter (little when compared to its maxi comrades that is…). And while the Aprilia broke down before we were able to gather any comparison points like mpg, horsepower, torque, or acceleration and braking data, all four of the main test riders spent enough time in the saddle to, at very a minimum, get a general feeling of what the traditional-looking Aprilia scooter is all about. To say opinions varied would be a gross understatement. Because of this, instead of simply taking the controversial Aprilia Scarabeo 500ie out of the test entirely, we thought it would be better to let the test riders’ opinions do the talking and let readers judge it on that merit…

Jen Ross: “The Scarabeo certainly delivered on the charms of riding a traditional scooter, all the way to its finicky breakdown at the end. The Scarabeo had that “scooter” feel to it — peppy vibration, classic scooter harmonics, and a vintage look and feel. I was, however, a little put off by its molded seat, especially when trying to shift my weight through corners. It did offer an acceptable amount of power (for its intended application) on the throttle and scooted through many corners with ease, although throttle cable pull was on the stiff side and this didn’t help it any. The Aprilia was also one of the smaller scooters in the line-up and was very easy for someone of my small stature to manipulate in tight quarters. And though it may have been lacking in top speed compared to its competition, I thought it managed to get by on the freeway ride okay. Though it definitely feels more at home on city streets or beach side cul de sacs.”

Joey Agustin: “The Aprilia was the cute little ‘Euro-style’ scooter. It had a different riding position than the others. One thing that bothered me about it was that it seemed to have some throttle lag. It would take a second to respond. I also wasn’t too keen on the brakes. I grabbed a handful of the front brake with one hand while my other hand was wielding a camera shooting and not much happened. I  ended up over-shooting a road-limit line, which was quite scary; the machine just does not have good brakes at all. If you are looking for a scooter to simply shuffle around town on and you like its European looks, this might be it, though since

2011 Aprilia Scarabeo 500ie
Some of the issues our testers had with the Aprilia were its molded seat, throttle lag, brakes and lack of top speed.
2011 Aprilia Scarabeo 500ie

ours broke down in just one day I have a hard time even recommending it for that. But I can for sure tell you that if you are looking to ride it any kind of distance on your scooter whatsoever, this is definitely NOT the scooter for you. It’s very uncomfortable and provides very little wind protection, so just keep looking.”

Justin Dawes: “Although this scoot has a 500cc engine, it really was out of place in this shootout. The styling is a more traditional scooter with upright seating and a more forward layout. Larger wheels really ate up the storage under the seat, only offering about half the space of the other three scooters. If the Kymco felt old, the Aprilia felt ancient. Turning the throttle took way too much effort and made the slowest scooter in the test feel even slower. In the corners it felt like all the weight was on the front end, and it couldn’t cope. The fork flexed so much that the Aprilla wobbled through the curves. And the brakes? Forget about it! I’ve seen dump trucks stop faster. Not to mention it gave up the ghost before the test was over and finished the trip in the back of the MotoUSA van. A very disappointing machine.”

Steve Atlas (Author): “Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, depending how you look at it), of all the testers I spent the least amount of time in the Aprilia’s saddle, as it ‘bought the farm’ just as I was set to hop aboard for my second rotation on the Italian buzz-bomb. Because of this, my time on the Scarabeo was made up entirely of neighborhoods, small side streets and the occasional backroad, little more than one would encounter on a trip to the grocery store. Even so, it was enough to see that for one to be enticed into spending $6299 of their hard-earned money on the Scarabeo, they had really better be in love with its looks, as performance-wise it leaves a lot to be desired. Some of the other positives include good low-speed, parking lot maneuverability, and bright paint that makes it easier for other vehicles to see. But with a laundry list of negatives and it only running for a single day before floating off to scooter heaven, there’s no question that (breakdown or not) the Aprilia Scarabeo 500is finished right where it belonged.”