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2008 Vespa GTS 250 Review

Tuesday, December 2, 2008
2008 Vespa GTS 250
The Vespa GTS 250 delivers scooter style with more performance than expected from your typical small-displacement scoot.
Scooters rock.

I made this immediate judgment after slipstreamimg past a mullet in his monster truck on the freeway, cutting over just in time for my exit. Never mind that my daring maneuver took place at a modest 70 mph, or that the truck’s owner could have stomped on the pedal and had me choking down diesel fumes from the exhaust - which happened to be at my eye-level. No, not this time. Before my rival could turn down Kid Rock’s “Bawitdaba” the little red Vespa GTS 250 was out of reach on the off-ramp. Chalk one up to the Piaggio Kid.

Vespa means wasp in Italian, and the GTS 250 packs one of the biggest stings in the iconic scooter lineup. The GTS 250 replaced its GTS 200 predecessor as the most powerful ‘wasp’ on the road (a new 2009 GTS300 has since eclipsed the 250.) The 250 delivers more palatable open-road performance for scooter lovers, opening the riding options to anything with blacktop.

Credit the versatility of the big Vespa to its 4-valve 244cc Quasar Single. Quasar sounds like Star Trek to us, but it stands for QUArter liter Smooth Augmented Range - Quarter-liter being the operative word. See, the great thing about the Vespa GTS 250 is what it’s not, a 50-150cc scooter. We like the little guys too, but their applications are more specialized – a nice way of saying limited. The GTS 250 mill splits the difference between the fuel-efficient 125/150cc class and large-displacement 400-650cc maxi-scooters.

The 250 delivers more palatable open-road performance for scooter lovers  opening the riding options to anything with blacktop.
We took the Vespa GTS 250 on many more roads than your typical scooter ventures.
In real-world performance, the fuel-injected Quasar is capable of a variety of tasks with its claimed 22hp and 14.9 lb-ft of torque. The peppy throttle won’t intimidate newbies, yet seasoned riders will appreciate the acceleration and overtaking abilities. It’s no Hayabusa, but the GTS zips off a green light and motors ahead of four-wheeled traffic no problemo.

Quite capable of freeway speeds, we rolled the GTS 250 out on the superslab on regular occasion. Interstate treks filled with cell-phone-chatting soccer moms and 18-wheeled big rigs enhanced our feeling of vulnerability, inherent on all two-wheelers but exaggerated on a scooter. And the large (for a scooter) 12-inch wheels don’t eliminate total unease on the freeway – especially if you’re trying to survive a wild commute in a major So-Cal-esque interstate system. That said, our initial apprehension faded as more and more freeway jaunts made the 70-mph cruises routine.

Those large wheels do work well on regular roads. Teamed with 120/70 front and 130/70 rear tires, the GTS stirs confidence while cornering, to the point of us taking the Vespa on some of our favorite sportbike backroads – albeit at a lesser pace. With a 55-inch wheelbase the scooter steering geometry is far from sporting, but twisting the throttle out to the stop the little red road warrior held its own. And while it may have looked out of place during our Southern Oregon forest play rides, we felt at home buzzing through corners with some European metro verve.

The GTS stirs confidence while cornering  to the point of us taking the Vespa on some of our favorite sportbike backroads
Toss the scooter around some of your favorite twisties? The GTS250 was game for the challenge.
The single-side trailing arm and single shock up front confirm Vespa’s claim of minimal front end dive. But don’t seek out any harsh bumpy roads at high speed, as you’ll feel the jars – even with the ultra-cush 31.1-inch-high seat.

The Vespa’s dual-disc braking is effective, with positive lever feel. The rear 200mm disc feels stronger, bringing the rear-biased (61%) 339.5-lb tank-empty weight to a halt - although the back tire easily breaks loose with hard application (an optional ABS version is available.) Grabbing a handful of both levers stops things in an efficient manner, but we were glad to never test the full effect at some of the higher speeds we achieved on the Vespa speedo – topping out on one downhill pitch at an indicated 80mph.

Stop-and-go street traffic is where the GTS shines, a rider not bothered by the usual gear shifts and clutch pulls. While it sports a larger scooter engine, the GTS is still relatively small. Riding it in urban settings, or what passes for them in our Southern Oregon HQ, we loved sneaking around parking lots and alleyways for those improvised scooter parking spaces. And every time we were stacked up behind a red light, the urge to do some California-esque lane splitting was almost overwhelming.

2008 Vespa GTS 2502008 Vespa GTS 250
Fit and finish on the Vespa is good, including an informative instrument cluster. We most appreciated the digital fuel gauge.
Storage on the GTS is decent, with one glaring exception – there’s no space for a full-face helmet. Our mad Tetris skills were utterly useless attempting to squeeze one under the seat. PR fine print claims underseat storage can hold “two Vespa half helmets,” so riders have to purchase the optional top case. Still, there is room for a modest amount of gear and the underseat space is supplemented by a convenient glove compartment up front.

The instrument cluster is attractive, with an analog speedo next to digital tach, fuel and temperature gauges. Riding position is relaxing, the soft seat accommodating long rides as well as the usual quick trips. The floorboards did cramp our size-12 feet, but passenger footpegs are a nice addition, as is the convenient metal rack to bungee gear. If you are carrying extra lbs out back, the rear suspension is preload adjustable.

While the standard centerstand is easy to use, we cursed every time we were forced to use it for menial tasks – like closing the garage door, or jumping off to snatch something from the underseat storage. A conventional side/kick stand would be welcomed.

In the style department, some in our office snickered at the molded-leather-like seat, which will perfectly match some purses out there. Okay, maybe it’s a bit much, but how can anyone hate the looks of a Vespa scooter? Honestly, it’s like saying an old Volkswagen Beetle is ugly – the iconic styling fly above conventional critique. And Vespa is iconic, the non-riding public recognizing the Vespa name as synonymous with scooter.

And, of course, everyone also knows scooters get incredible gas mileage. The 2008 summer of $4 gas made fuel efficiency the hot button issue, with scooters more fashionable than ever. And although the price of fuel has plummeted this fall, who knows what to expect next summer! Our GTS 250 observed a respectable 59.8 MPG. Better than any four-wheeled offerings, but run-of-the-mill in the scooter realm. Still, figuring against a 24 MPG “average” car, the Vespa gets 10 cents per mile savings in fuel costs at $4 gas. Plus, there’s something to be said about the psychological benefit of shelling out less than 10 bucks to fill up the 2.4-gallon tank.

2008 Vespa GTS 250
The Vespa GTS 250's versatility is a big selling point, as a freeway-capable mount in neccessary for most US urban and sub-urban commuters.
Vespa touts the fuel efficiency of its scooters as an economic and environmental benefit, which it dubs Vespanomics. We’ll examine Vespanomics further in an upcoming article, but even if we could save the planet and $50 a month in gas money, the pricey GTS 250’s $5999 MSRP is a definite drag. For the same cash a rider could purchase a more powerful maxi-scooter (many with comparable MPG), or even a Ninja 250R with $2500 to spare!

Another drawback to the GTS is fixing it can be expensive. Just ask any Vespa owner who’s had their little beauty tipped over. At issue is the sheet metal frame, which contributes to the classic Vespa look but also bears the brunt of a tip over. The result is an auto-body repair, not a cheaper, easy-to-replace plastic panel swap.

Plusses and minuses aside, bike ownership isn’t about cold, rational decisions. There’s always the grin factor to consider, and something else that can’t always be justified, yet is understood – personal taste.

Making that admission, we flat out loved our little Vespa scooter. It was our summer crush. Our budget-shredding commuter. Our weekend joyride. The speedy red freeway racer that reminded us scooters really do rock. And they do!
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Highs & Lows
  • Versatile performance with 70 mph freeway speeds a definite plus
  • Comfortable seat and ergos
  • Classic style from an iconic brand
  • High $5999 MSRP for scooter
  • 59.8 MPG figures good, but not amazing
  • No full-face helmet storage

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llazy1   May 5, 2012 08:23 PM
I test drove one today.. a very comfortable ride- very maneuverable in the city and in the 200-250 size the easiest that I tried for a short person (due to lower seat height). It's a hot contender for my new scooter pick.
Tom -This is the USA  November 22, 2010 06:52 PM
No Scooters Allowed....get a Harley. And be a MAN.
Pete -Scooters look so queer  November 22, 2010 06:51 PM
What real man drives a Scooter? Come on...girly man???
Larry aka 2007 GTS -Millwaukee Mike Gay Comment ???  August 29, 2010 07:58 PM
A real man cares not what anyone else thinks about "Looking Gay " or whatever and doe's what he chooses as he is comfortable with his man hood and not lead around by sillyness ... Many Harley riders I've known confessed to having a Vespa in the garage also or recalled the fun of riding one in his youth and very much still respects them and those that choose to do as they please like a man should !.
Rich -GTS 250  March 24, 2010 12:44 AM
I own an 08' gts 250, I shopped around before I chose this bike. HArleys I always kept hearing coworkers talk about the repairs and so forth kind of a discouraging factor for me. Some even sold their harley for goldwings. I liked the look of the scooter. I am an average guy, married 2 kids home. 5'10 210lbs I don't think I look gay. And I could care less if others think so. It is a great ride and freeways speeds of 75mph is not something to be embarrased of. To those who have a larger bike take a test ride. It was worth it to me. I place my full face on the tabs with the d ring extension under the seat. My jacket in the topcase gloves for winter and summer bungee cords and a cover under the seat. plenty of room in my opinion.
Tom 2007 GTS -5000 mile report  June 3, 2009 08:29 AM
I had an 2001 ET4 for 10,000 miles. I now have 5000 on my GTS even though I live in wintry Chicago. I get better mileage on my GTS than I did on my 150cc ET-w... Gas mileage typically in the 60 - 70 mpg range. If I do highway driving I can definitely get 70+ mpg. Always starts right up... sometimes runs a little rough if started after cold, but weather is warming up. Shutting off and restarting seems to reset the fuel injectors and then runs like a top. Maybe I'll try stable more frequently. The suspension is phenomenal... very important now that there are potholes everwhere in the city and burbs. The GTS does have a peg on the seat so you can leave your full face hanging and at least marginally secure... been doing this for years in even big bad Chi-town and no one seems to mess with the helmet. It cost a few bucks to own, but I figure every mile I use the GTS is one less expensive mile I put on my way more expensive SAAB 9000 (with 160,000 miles on it). I am a math tutor by trade and carry lots of books on the rack and hook and can park anywhere in the city. I don't need a Harley to establish my gender identity... The GTS is just plain cool (and quiet and fast).
Mike Cooper, 07 250gt 8200 miles -Vespa250  April 26, 2009 03:56 PM
I enjoyed your test, however I take exception to the fuel economy. I check every tankful to date worst 66 mpg, best 73 mpg. Most tankfuls usually result in 68-69 mpg. You can also use reg, mid grade or hi test. Other than the helmut issue, i'm surprised you didn't comment on filling up the gas tank which can be a challenge it you are not very careful you will have gas all over the place. I don't know about the latest model you tested but the speedodometer is 7mph fast. I know this sounds like a real bitch session,but it's not. I think that all things considered this is the BEST scooter you can by. thanks
larry 2009 vespa 250 gts -florida round trip, 1750 mlies, 2weeks, march 2009  March 21, 2009 07:22 PM
I live in california and thought it would be fun to see florida by vespa. It was a blast. picked up my new gts in tampa, rode south along the coast, across the bottom, down to key west, then up the east coast to daytona, and back. loved the ride and ease of operation. 60 mph was like buttah, 70mph all day long, 75mph with side winds and 80 mph trucks was white knuckle. I bought the tall windshield and it was super. I did 250 miles one day and 9 hours riding an other. not bad at all. comfy seat, great wind protection, strong power. shipping it home now. looking forward to short and long trips, it's all fun.
richard 250GST - 2007 Vespa -millwaukee mike - scooters  February 9, 2009 06:11 AM
After 55 years in the saddle of more real motorcycles than you have probably ever seen, including racing in the old AAmRR racing association. And wrenching on same,my hips gave out.Rather than quit riding,I needed to go to a step through design. There is non better than the Vespa. If I was to choose a truly American built motorcycle, it would not be a bike with only a few token built parts, as Harley has chosen to do. In my opinion the one to go with is the Riddly. When you have ridden as long as I have then your opinion might just bareley hold water.
richard 250GST - 2007 Vespa -Side cars  February 7, 2009 09:17 AM
Does anyone know of a web site that has information on the application of a side car to a GST 250? I need to find out how the car attaches to the bike and if it is easily removed.
richard 250GST - 2007 Vespa -Why ride a Vespa  February 7, 2009 09:13 AM
If Millwaukee Mike had bothered to read some of the other comments further down the list he most likely would not have made the silly comment that is typical of most Harley riders.Evan if I could still straddle a motorcycle it most certainly would not be a Millwaukee shaker. I enjoy riding too much to spend all of of my time picking up parts that have been shaken off. But why argue about it the Vespa is the Harley of motorscooters except with better quality and just as big a following.
millwaukee mike -scooters  February 4, 2009 02:24 PM
I just don't get it. Just why would a real man want to ride a scooter? Saving money on fuel is a good thing but, just about any HD gets better mileage than a Prius. And riding a Harley won't make you look like you might be gay.
M Mugnani ( WI) -GT200  February 2, 2009 09:14 PM
I've had a 2006 GT200 for three years. I also have a couple of Harleys, and I would trade/sell both of them before I'd part with the Vespa! I use it primarily for in-town and short country trips. I can park it anywhere, it's very capable in power and handling, it's so quiet that I can hear the crickets, it never fails to put a smile on my face and always gets questions and compliments. The only problem I've had is that a little bit of bad/old gas can occasionally upset the fuel flow and cause rough idle problems, but an ounce of gas stabilizer once a month seems to clean it out and keep it running just fine. As to price, I've found the materials and quality to be far above any of the less expensive scooters I've encountered and, let's face it, a Vespa is really a piece of classic Italian scooter history/art on wheels -- the anti-Harley/speed bike!
Richard -Vespa GTS 250  January 17, 2009 03:04 PM
I just took a test ride on a 2009, black colored, Vespa GTS 250. I gotta say that I loved it. Out of all the scooters that I have owned, this one was by far the sexiest. It had great acceleration and just looked awesome. The engine was quiet and vibration was almost non-existent. Steering was sharp and the seat height doesn't bother me. I just can't get over the price though. They wanted $7,400 out the door. Ouch! Gotta look in the used scooter market if you want a good deal.
Tadpole -2008 Vespa  January 16, 2009 03:32 AM
I bought a LXV 150 last year. I love it, it gets me to where I need to go. I bought it to ride thru the country roads here in Indiana. Averaging between forty-five to fifty-five miles an hour. My average gas milage has been sixty-five plus miles per gallon. One day i had to take a detour, because of some road work being done on my regular route. Had to go five miles on a US Highway. For the five short miles I was on there. I had my LXV short frame all the way to the top speed of fifty-nine miles per hour. Ever since that day this past fall, I have been saving for my next Vespa. A GTS 250. You might say on that day I was bitten by the speed bug. I feel the need for Speed on a GTS 250 long frame. Vespa you rock!
richard 250GST -2007 Vespa  January 15, 2009 10:56 AM
Bought two of the little gems, one for me and one for the wife. Both of them get over 78 mpg in the commuter mode and over 70 in the high speed mode. I installed motorcycle wind shields modified to fit. The mpg mentioned above is after windshield installation and is about 18% better than before, and the bugs are fewer. Mpg is after 1500 miles on each bike. My wife and I both have bad hips and cannot straddle a motorcycle anymore so the scooter is our only way to ride.
Bruce -Keep in mind...  December 9, 2008 05:06 PM
...that Vespas are *urban* vehicles! Notice the mileage reports from someone doing hops at <45mph speeds versus the article's reported #s from wringing the poor thing's neck on the SoCal freeways! Unfortunately, Piaggio has chosen to place the Vespa as a luxury product, so they suffer in price comparisons. Long gone are the days when a Vespa was the low-cost entry point into the motorized marketplace: nowadays, the well-heeled only need apply! This leaves the Vespa a niche market, as even in times of $4+/gal gas, you can find a less expensive alternative that will justify the purchase in gas savings; hard to do that at $0.10/mi; you'd have to travel 60,000 miles on the thing before you broke even! And that's not even taking into account the absurd prices we motorcyclists pay for tires & other upkeep costs. I think I'll wait for the wealthy dilletantes to move on to the next big thing & pick up my Vespa on the used market, thank you very much!
Natanael Ari -Vespa  December 9, 2008 04:53 PM
i have an old 1964 Super Vespa. I still use it, although there are many new small motorcycle out. There is no complain .... Is the new GTS provide the all thing that her grandpa's give ?
Don Willis -Vespa Scooters  December 5, 2008 04:26 PM
I have ridden the Vespa scooter and found it exceptional. I showed up to buy one and they tried to overcharge me well over the list price. I walked out and bought a Suzuki 650. I paid 2k less and found it better. At the 6k price, they are overpriced. There are many better ways to spend your motorcycle dollars. Ps. I get approx. 60 mpg with the Suzuki.
Phil -MPG  December 4, 2008 05:00 PM
While a very nice review I have to take issue with the reported gas mileage of 59.8 mpg. I've been carefully measuring mine for six months now (since new) and have had an average mpg of 75.1 mpg over 8 fill ups. (My low was 66 mpg and high was 81 mpg) I used my GPS to confirm the speedo accuracy in the process. I'm in Tucson and had some steep climbs to deal with but no long highway stretches in my rides. As they say in Detroit, "your mileage may vary".
RED600RR -Vespa  December 4, 2008 07:49 AM
I remember riding Vaspa's (and lambretta's) back in the early 60's. The "gear shift" was a rotating device that worked in unison with the clutch lever and took a bit of getting used to. They were peppy and fun to ride but now, at $5999, a Ninja 250 would be my first choice 1st. BY FAR! I still like the canyons!
Steve -Vespa  December 4, 2008 07:24 AM
When I was a kid back in the long ago 60's, there was this life guard, she had long blond hair and rode a red Vespa even though I was only 8 or so I found the combination mesmerizing.
Steve -2007 Vespa  December 3, 2008 06:51 PM
I remember riding Vaspa's (and lambretta's) back in the early 60's. The "gear shift" was a rotating device that worked in unison with the clutch lever and took a bit of getting used to. They were peppy and fun to ride but now, at $5999, a Ninja 250 would be my first choice 1st. BY FAR! I still like the canyons!
Trent aka 2007 GTS -Full-faced helmets do have a home  December 3, 2008 04:58 PM
If you lift up the seat you will find two pegs where you can attach the D-ring on your helmet and then close the seat. This will allow you to hold 2 helmets or they can also be use for grocery bags if you run out of room. Excellent review. "Storage on the GTS is decent, with one glaring exception – there’s no space for a full-face helmet."