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2008 Vespa S 150 Scooter Review

Friday, August 14, 2009
Fire Red is just one of many colors available.
Rather than go for the 60's vintage style, on the S 150 Vespa goes for a slightly modern retro look pulling styling cues from the '85 Vespa T5.
In my head there exists an awards ceremony called “The Scooties” and each year my brain nominates contenders for the best in a variety of categories. There’s no red carpet, just me as the orchestra, audience, comedic host, judge and presenter. One of the most prestigious categories is “Best Aesthetics”. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a whole lot of competition for 2008, and since I’m also the Joan Rivers of the ceremony I can let you know that at this year’s “show” the award for “Best Aesthetics” went to a hot newcomer, the 2008 Vespa S. “Can we tawk?” sorry I couldn’t resist.

There’s something about this tiny scooter that really sets it apart from the rest. Sure, it’s a Vespa, so you’d expect it to be visually appealing, but this baby is different. I think what sets her apart is the fact that it was designed to evoke not just the classic Vespa style, but more precisely a specific model - the Vespa Special 50. I even think it has some resemblance to the Vespa that’s in my garage, the T5. I’ve included photos of the two, so you can judge for yourself. The rectangular headlight is a bit unusual on a Vespa, but it’s the coolest in my opinion.

The ride feels very similar to a model produced earlier, the Vespa LX 150. The suspension feels a bit stiffer, but it has the same engine, same weight, length, fuel capacity and wheel size. As a matter of fact, some have said it’s little more than an LX 150 with a new body kit. I see the similarities under the “hood”, if you will, but the Vespa S is so much more; or to confuse things, so much less. The sportier, low profile, single passenger corsa (racing) seat is a style that hasn’t been seen on another modern Vespa until now. It’s a style that must have received a warm welcome because it’s also been included on the new Vespa Super 300 as a two passenger version. There is also an optional “touring” seat available if you like to have more seating options (shifting toward the front or back of the seat) or would like to comfortably carry a passenger.

The US version of the S requires flashers to be mounted on the headset.  The indicators on the body are now just driving lights.
The US version of the S 150 requires flashers to be mounted on the headset. The indicators on the body are now just driving lights.
Also on the topic of “less”, the price of the Vespa S is less than that of the LX 150! It was a pleasant surprise to see an MSRP of $4,099; that’s $200 less than the LX. We were taken off guard when they announced the price difference, but it could be due to the LX having a bit more metal on her than the S. The S has a plastic front fender, headset and upper half of the floorboard.

Continuing the “less is more” theme, I’m pleased to see the return of the thinner leg shield as well. Unlike the others in the Vespa line-up, the Vespa S trades the bulkier glove box for a thin profile leg shield and a pair of catch-all trays. You might not miss the removal of the locking glove box they replace because there’s a good amount of storage under the seat. I was actually able to hang my helmet on the under seat hook and store my gloves, armored jacket and reflective vest under the seat. That’s about all the storage I need to run around town. In the event that you need to haul something bigger, you can always add a luggage rack and top case accessory from Vespa, designed to match their scooter paint scheme. A backpack is also a good option, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your riding ability.

Speedo  fuel gage  clock  and warning lights all packed into a busy  chromy  cluster.
Speedo, fuel gage, clock, and warning lights all packed into a busy, chromy, cluster aboard the S 150.
The dazzling chrome looking bits are a beautiful touch, but also one of my few complaints. When the sun was high over my shoulder, they were in such a position that they dazzled me as well. Not good when riding through busy intersections at 40 mph. My other complaint is that the seat has its own separate lock. It cannot be unlocked from the ignition switch unlike most of her siblings. Remove the key from the ignition, unlock the seat, pull your stuff out and drop the seat. Next you put the key in the ignition and start her up realizing you forgot to put away your rented DVD. Turn the key, remove it from the ignition, and unlock the seat. Mostly an annoyance, but remember if you have more than one key on the key ring and drop the seat with the key in the seat mounted lock you stand a great chance of scratching up your paint. So be careful.

150cc Piaggio LEADER engine.  Low Emissions Advanced Engine Range.
The 150cc Piaggio LEADER (Low Emissions Advanced Engine Range) engine powers the Vespa S 150.
The “twist and go” Vespa S is running on its proven LEADER (low emissions) 150cc, 4-stroke, air cooled engine that produces a claimed 11.7 hp at 7750 rpm. That means you’ll get a top speed of just under 60 mph and very respectable fuel economy of around 60-70 mpg. Air cooling is the norm for scooters with displacements of less than 200cc. You can usually expect a little lower torque out of an air cooled engine but the simplicity of air cooling means not having to worry about the related radiators, pumps, hoses and coolant leaks.

At 225 lbs the Vespa S is one of the lightest 150cc scooters available; even 4-lbs lighter than the 125cc Yamaha Vino. It handles well on the city streets and the 30.5-inch seat height helps the rider see and be seen. It has the smallish tires (10-inch rear, 11-inch front) you’d expect on a Vespa, great for darting around obstacles and down crowded city streets. Braking is provided by a relatively large (8.66-inch) hydraulic disc on the front and a drum brake on the rear. My demo unit was still pretty green, probably explaining why my brakes were a little soft, but at no point did the ride feel unsafe.

Looks fast standing still.
The Vespa S 150 - Looks fast standing still.
The Vespa S is a bit more expensive than other 150cc scooters with an MSRP of $4,099 ($100 more for 2009), but when you buy a Vespa you’re also buying desirability and collectability, which means that if you keep her in good shape you’ll have a scooter with a solid resale value should you ever decide to part with it.

The Vespa S comes with a one-year factory warranty and 24-hour roadside assistance with a two-year factory extended warranty available. Oh, one more thing. Vespa colors are known to have pretty limited runs, so if you see one in a color you like you should probably make your move before they discontinue it. I’m especially fond of the new orange Vespa S. It’s the only one with orange colored stitching in the black seat; a very nice touch. Must… fight… desire to put… down… deposit.
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scooterstock.com -chinese scooter parts  October 4, 2009 11:29 PM
Sure, it’s a Vespa, so you’d expect it to be visually appealing, but this baby is different. I think what sets her apart is the fact that it was designed to evoke not just the classic Vespa style,
SAMXRL -Shootout at the "Slow-K-Corral"?  August 16, 2009 08:44 AM
Hey, How about a shootout "scooter style" using some of the big competitors in the scooter arena. Lets see-- this Vespa against a Kymco Super 8 vs Honda Sh150 vs Yamaha Zuma 125 vs Piaggio Fly 150. Throw in an Aprilia and some Chinese alternatives (like a Vento)and see how they stack up as well. As for me, I'd take a Kawasaki Ninja 250R over these scoots because it's potential exceeds these rides. The scooters do kick but in the ease of operation and storage category though.
MCUSA -Scooter Reviews  August 14, 2009 03:19 PM
2010 scooter reviews are forthcoming... Bear with us. Until the new models come, we intend to build up our database of scooter reviews, including these recent batches from Steve Guzman.
Me -Better late than never?  August 14, 2009 10:17 AM
How about a 2010 review?
Headset looks like cheap plastic
Desmolicious -Another old bought review - lame  August 14, 2009 09:52 AM
Read this a year ago on another site.

Love the bike, but this site has to either test stuff themselves, or if they rent hired guns, make sure that the tests are current.

Ross Weitzner -Little (if any) progress in 22 years  August 14, 2009 07:46 AM
Unquestionably, the suspension and brake components of modern scooters is decidedly, well... Modern. That seems to be where it ends. I have a 1987 Honda CH150 Elite. Aside from the third-world-country suspension arrangement, and brakes shared with youth dirtbikes, it's no worse than some of these modern offerings. In fact, it's a lot better in many ways. Certainly, the Elite isn't as clean-burning as the modern stuff, but it gets the same 65-75 mpg, depending on how you ride it. It will hold a GPS-verified 59 mph on flat ground -- which is somewhat wind-dependent, but you can count on 55 mph+. The best part for me is that mine was a barn-find in late 2006. All up, including a replacement carburetor, new fuel tank, tires, and a speedo cable, I have less than $300 in it. The most egregious offender seems to be Honda. $4500 for the new SH150i? Let's see, would I rather have a used NSS250 Reflex and save $1000, or a new SH150i? The decision seems easy to me...