Saving the planet - Vespa style
When you're the caretaker of a brand as iconic as the Vespa scooter, you have to be very careful about making radical styling changes - which is why the new LX 150 3V has all the classic Vespa styling cues, right down to the round headlight, chrome-plated mirrors and cute little sponsons on either side of the rear wheels that have always given the Vespa a distinctly feminine outline.
But under those sponsons there's a brand-new engine, developed in-house by parent company Piaggio at Pontadera specially to make this bike as clean-burning and as eco-friendly as it is possible for a 155cc internal-combustion engine to be.
It's just slightly undersquare at 58 x 58.6mm to maximise torque, with a very special single-cam cylinder head housing three valves (two inlet, one exhaust) and fed by electronic fuel-injection.
The engine only needs servicing every 10 000km, according to Piaggio, which quotes 9.5kW at 7750rpm and 12.8Nm at 6250, transmitted to the rear wheel by an automatic dry clutch with vibration dampers and a constantly variable belt drive.
Piaggio also quotes fuel consumption of 3.24 litres per 100km.
We'll take that under advisement until we've ridden one.
The rest is standard Vespa stuff, including the traditional, immensely strong sheet-metal monocoque chassis, stamped out in two mirror halves and spot-welded together in a production process derived from aircraft manufacturing techniques, years before it became the standard way of making cars.
It is however, considerably more costly to make than the tubular-steel J-frame and plastic body panels used by almost every other scooter manufacturer on the planet, which is one of the reasons why Vespas are extraordinarily expensive.
BUILDING AN ICON
The other, of course, is build quality; when you're building an icon, you don't just throw them together. Vespa fit and finish, and the quality of the materials used, will stand comparison with any two-wheeler in the world and most luxury cars.
That said, whether you can justify spending R52 950 on a small-capacity scooter is up to you; it's difficult to quantify the brand value built up by six decades of building the most stylish (and some of the most durable) scooters in the world, but for many people that's reason enough to spend the money.
Engine:155cc fan-cooled flat single.
Bore x stroke:58 x 58.6mm.
Valvegear: SOHC with three overhead valves per cylinder.
Power:9.5kW at 7750rpm.
Torque:12.8Nm at 6250rpm.
Induction: Electronic port fuel-injection.
Ignition: Digital electronic.
Clutch: Automatic dry centrifugal clutch with vibration dampers.
Transmission: Constantly-variable belt drive.
Front Suspension: Single-sided link arm with hydraulic shock absorber.
Rear Suspension: Hydraulic shock absorber adjustable for preload.
Front brakes:200mm disc with single-piston floating calliper.
Rear brake: Mechanically operated 110mm single leading-shoe drum brake.
Front tyre:110/70 - 11 tubeless.
Rear tyre:120/70 - 10 tubeless.
Fuel tank:8.3 litres.
Fuel consumption(claimed): 3.24 litres per 100km.
Price: R52 950.