Rome, Italy - Piaggio, the Italian scooter giant that gave the world the iconic Vespa, has unveiled a revolutionary three-wheeled scooter from which it will be almost impossible to fall.

The Piaggio MP3 has two front wheels to provide stability - and it doesn't need a parking stand. Piaggio also claims the linked braking system with three 240mm discs and better front-end road holding reduce braking distance by 20 percent over the best of the rest.

Piaggio chief Roberto Colaninno said: "It's an absolutely new product which, we hope, will excite customer interest."

He wants the trike to be a big hit on the streets of Europe as well as in Asia and the US as the price of oil soars to record levels.

A 250cc model will go on sale in Italy in June for about €5 000 (R38 750). Export models will have a 125cc engine.

The MP3's frame is welded up from high tensile-strength steel tubing and the parallelogram suspension is anchored to the frame. The tilt mechanism has four cast-aluminium control arms with four hinges fixed to the central tube and a guide tubes on each side of the parallelogram, connected to the arms via suspension pins and ball bearings.

The tubes enclose the steering stems in a classic single-sided set-up as used on the nose-wheel of most light aircraft.

The MP3 uses 12" rims with large tyres - 120/70 front, 130/70 rear, that can handle a tilt of up to 40°, says Piaggio, while the parallelogram suspension also ensures stability when going fast.

There's a conventional single-sided suspension at the rear with two adjustable hydraulic shock-absorbers.

The MP3 is only 420mm wide and can be registered as a normal motorcycle.

Computer-aided design

The front styling was shaped in a wind tunnel and owes more to car design than motorcycle practice; the headlights and fairing are a single, shock-resistant unit and splashguards will protect the rider and the trike.

The 65-litre under-seat storage area can be accessed either via a body-colour lid or by lifting the seat - each activated by a remote button on the ignition key.

It will hold two full-face helmets, a small bag or objects up to a metre long. It also has a courtesy light and a seat cover for use when parking in rain.

The seat has generous padding and a built-in backrest and is only 780mm high; a slight "king-and-queen" step to the pillion seat and built-in grab rails ensure passenger comfort.

Lock-up parking

To park the MP3 the rider simply presses a switch on the handlebars to activate a system that locks the tilt mechanism with a central clamp and generates hydraulic pressure to lock the suspension dampers.

The system only operates if the scooter is travelling at less than 10km/h, the throttle is closed and the engine running at less than 3000rpm and is automatically disengaged if the throttle is opened, engine revs rise or forward speed rises above 15km/h.

The parking brake is operated by a lever inside the front shield so the MP3 can be safely parked on a slope, even on a side slope of up to 30 degrees.

The fascia has a speedometer, fuel gauge, coolant temperature indicator, clock, odometer and tripmeter, fuel and oil-pressure warning lights low and high-beam indicators, seat or boot lid open warning and an immobiliser LED

Engines

The MP3 will be available with a choice of two engines, the 250cc fuel-injected Quasar engine and a 125cc Leader engine already used in several conventional Piaggio scooters.

The Quasar 250ie is quad-valve, liquid-cooled, four-stroke single with closed-loop injection, Lambda sensor, three-way catalytic converter electronic ignition control system. Piaggio quotes 16.5kW at 8250rpm and 21 at 6750rpm, for a top speed of 125km/h.

In this application the Leader engine is good for 11kW at 9250rpm and 12Nm at 8500rpm and tops out at 103km/h, according to its parents.

Each engine complies with Euro 3 emission standards and Piaggio quotes the same fuel consumption - four litres/100km - giving a theoretical range of 300km from the MP3's 12-litre fuel tank.

The 250cc MP3 will only be available in Italy; the rest of the world will have to make do with the 125cc.

Accessories

Piaggio catalogues an impressive list of accessories for the MP3, including:

  • A winter pack for riding in sub-zero temperatures, with an extra-large winter windscreen, hand protectors, thermal winter tyres, a heated leg cover and heated waistcoat.

  • Satellite navigation with Bluetooth link and 90mm LCD screen.

  • Bluetooth intercom helmets.

  • Disc lock with siren.

  • 48-litre rear top box, giving a total storage capacity of 113 litres.

  • Rear rack with flip-down plate the makes it possible to use the rear boot lid even with a topbox fitted.

  • Windscreen with built-in hand protectors.

  • Remote-controlled electronic anti-theft device.

    The Piaggio MP3 will be available in four metallic colours: sky blue, red, grey and graphite black.

    Price: €5 000 (R38 750) - motoring.co.za, Reuters