What is it about scooter photos that tend to make the bikes look so... average? I've seen pictures of virtually every kind of scooter and from time to time I've found shots of scooters that I've lusted over, but much of the time scooter pictures just don't do much for me. Then I finally see the scooter in real life and am blown away (or am at least duly impressed). This happened before I got my Kymco Super 9 and it happened again this past week when I test-rode the Piaggio BV200.
I called up Darcie at the Vespa Boutique a few weeks ago to inquire about testing one of their new Piaggio scooters, preferably either the BV200 or the LT150. Darcie was eager to arrange a machine for my ride and set me up with their big scooter, the BV200 with a 198-cc engine. I was expecting this scooter to be awkward or bulky or just too darn big, but in real life, this scooter looks really nice and has great proportions and style. Some of the plastic (glove box door, fuel flap) seemed a bit too "plastic-y" but in general this is a very nicely designed and built scooter.
The first thing that caught my attention when I picked up the scooter was the seat. What a glorious piece of work! This seat kicks ass. Seriously. Seats on the old Vespa P200's were crude benches of metal and padding. The new Vespa ET seats are a nice improvement, but follow the same idea. I suppose the BV200 seat is somewhat akin to a seat from any long-distance cruising type of scooter (the huge ones) or motorcycle, but in the world of smaller scooters this seat is like advanced technology from a future utopia. Sitting astride the BV200 is darn near perfection -- feet at a comfortable position, legs with plenty of space, booty cradled just right and the handlebar in the most natural spot. Where some scooters are cramped or too stretched out, I'd say Piaggio got the ergonomics of the BV200 dialed in with extreme accuracy.
I've never been one to recommend people take their scooters (the usual smaller ones) out on large highways or freeways, but with a scooter supposedly capable of 75+ miles per hour and large 16" tires I headed straight out to I-94 and took the freeways home. It took a few miles to acclimate to the speed, traffic, and wind but I soon felt quite comfortable and was pleased to find that single-cylinder 4-stroke 4-valve liquid-cooled engine was up to the task of maintaining traffic speeds. The power is very smooth and there when you need it. You won't get any great bursts of speed out of the BV200's automatic engine when you crank on the throttle, but it will accelerate happily. It is not too much, nor is it too little. A slight drawback, and this would hold true for any scooter I believe, is that you are sitting upright and tend to get buffeted by the wind. But the BV200's large tires and 360-pound weight keep the scooter riding smooth and straight. There is very little bouncing or drifting on this scooter and the hydraulic shocks are very adequate.
So just how quick and powerful is the engine in the BV200? In my testing (which involves an assistant, a stopwatch and the calculation of averages) the BV200 is a solid performer. It should be noted that during the speed tests I had to deal with wind and a very slight incline in the road. That said, the zero-to-40 mph test came in at right around seven (7) seconds and the zero-to-60 mph test came in at approximately fifteen (15) seconds. Personally, I would have thought the scooter would reach 60 mph much quicker, and it felt quicker, but time and time again I wound up with the same results. Still, I found nothing lacking in the acceleration. A speed test wouldn't be complete without a top speed trial and when I took it back out on the freeway the speedo topped at 81 mph! The manual claims a top speed of 76 mph, so I was quite pleased with my results.
Riding two-up on the BV200 is also a pleasure. The scooter handles two riders with ease and I found I barely noticed any difference in riding with a passenger on back. According to my assistant, the seat was very comfortable but it took a few minutes of adjusting to get used to sitting up slightly higher than the driver. With the sculpted seat, there is no crowding of the driver and riding position does not change in the least. Have I made it clear that I love the seat?
Did I have any complaints with the BV200? As I briefly mentioned above, a few parts feel a bit wimpy and I would prefer more under-seat storage. The seat compartment can hold two open-face helmets but I'm a full-face helmet guy and I'd like to have that amount of space under the seat. The turn indicators get washed out in full sunlight and there is no auditory clicking or beeping of the signals, which means it is easy to leave the blinkers on. Since owning the Kymco Super 9 I've come to prefer the auditory feedback. The unit I tested also had some very slight squeaking noises that appeared to be due to the scooter being brand spanking new and too tight in either the front axle bushing area or the connection on the speedometer cable. I would guess the sound would clear up after a few miles.
Nice features include a security system with the key coded to the engine. Thieves won't be able to start the engine without the key. Of course, thieves probably don't know this fact so the scooter also includes an "anti-theft ring" attached to the frame so you can chain up your machine to a post or rack. The LCD digital display is nice and easy to read and shows time of day, ambient temperature, total kilometers and trip kilometers. The gauges are sized nicely and the backlighting is smoothly subtle but bright enough to read the information. When you open the seat compartment the storage space is lit up by a small light and in the back is also a 12-volt lighter-style socket which can power up to 180-watts of electronic gear. Throw your cell phone, PDA, iPod or GPS unit in and go! But wait, there's more. A super nice safety feature, in my opinion, is an engine kill switch that engages when you put down the side stand. I always get nervous when people leave their automatic scooters running and sitting on the side stand so I love this feature. Finally, the fuel door is located along the middle floorboard between the driver's feet. Why don't other manufacturers locate this potentially messy area here instead of under the seat? Spill a little on the floorboard and just wipe it up. Spill a little under your seat and perhaps damage what is stored in the compartment.
Based on my limited testing, I'd say that the Piaggio BV200 is one spectacular scooter, powerful enough for long-distance and freeway riding but still small enough for just running about town to work, the store or just for fun. The weight and large tires make for a super smooth ride, the engine is quiet and powerful and the seat is heavenly for single or double riders. I like this scooter. Contact the Vespa Boutique to check out the BV200 for yourself. Their website is http://www.vespamn.com/ or give them a call at 612-455-6666.
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