I have watched with interest all the speculation leading up to the launch, and read with interest the opinions of the lucky people to first get their hands on the BV 350.
Well, thanks once again to my friends at Vespa Marietta, I was given the opportunity to judge for myself whether the machine lived up to expectations. Let’s see…
Specifications at a Glance
- 330 cc 4-Stroke liquid cooled engine producing 33 HP at 8,250 RPM. Max torque: 32.3 Nm at 6,250 rpm. Electronic ignition.
- Top Speed: 86 MPH.
- Clutch: Multi-disc centrifuge in oil bath. (Not your traditional scooter clutch).
- Frame: Twin cradle tubes in high tensile steel.
- Brakes: Disc brakes front and rear.
- Weight: 390 lbs dry.
- Gas Mileage: 65-70 MPG.
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 3.4 Gallons (US)
- Seat Height: 31″.
- Warranty: 12 months unlimited mileage.
- MSRP: $5,499
Fit and Finish
It seems that there are two main factions when it comes to scooter styling: those who love the traditional look of the Vespa and similarly-styled machines such as the Genuine Stella – and those who lean toward the more modern-looking machine.
I must admit to being in the former category. I love the rounded, sensual lines of the traditional scooter. I do ride a Vespa GTV 250, after all.
Despite this, there can be no denying that the BV350 is a very nice looking machine indeed. The overall body shape, I feel, tries to find a middle ground between classic and modern styling – with limited success in my opinion.
However, as soon as you examine the machine in greater detail, it seems to exude a refined luxury that is very hard to ignore.
Whether looking at the black version – as seen here, or the only other available option right now – silver, what dominates is that beautiful deep Burgundy red saddle which is coordinated with trim for the front storage compartment, and even the handlebar shroud.
As mentioned above, this machine really does project an image of quality, and even my careful inspection of the fit and finish did nothing to convince me otherwise.
If there is anything that could let the side down, it could be the cover for the gas cap, which, when unlocked, simply comes off with the key as a flimsy piece of plastic – just asking to be lost.
To be fair, I think this is a design compromise due to the location of the gas tank. Because it is directly in the tunnel where you will swing your foot through the machine, were it to be a hinged affair, I think it would only be a matter of time until it was kicked off.
It may be better to be completely loose to avoid that potentially expensive repair.
Under-seat storage is ample – despite the various bulges intruding into the space. It also has a handy courtesy light.
Crucially, it passed the full-faced helmet test. I was able to fit it inside and close the seat.
That’s a real bonus when you’re parking where you’re less than confident it would be still there when you returned.
There is also storage in the front tray. It seems a little cluttered in there, but Piaggio seem to have done the best job given the little space available.
Nothing far from the norm here.
The left switchgear contains main/dip switch for the headlight. I was pleased to find that it also incorporates a momentary switch when you press down – enabling you to flash your lights without having to rock the switch back off again. A nice touch which I miss about European machines.
Beneath the light switch is the turn signal switch. Push left or right to signal. Push in to cancel. Underneath that, you will find the (typically anaemic) horn, and a button to electronically unlock the seat and gain access to the under-seat storage. This is a nice touch and, of course, will only work when the key is in the ignition.
The right switchgear contains the engine kill switch, the electric starter (brake must be applied to start the engine), and the mode switch for the various functions. These function include two trip meters, odometer, battery voltage and outside temperature.
There is a digital clock permanently displayed.
While on the subject of clocks, one thing you will have to get used to on current models is that the primary display is in Kilometres, with MPH shown in the smaller, inner dial. All digital displays can be changed to read either in metric or imperial measurements. I found the clocks to be a beautiful design, including the pleasing “dance” they do when you switch on the ignition. They may as well be easy on the eye if we’re going to spend so long looking at them, right?
So, all in all, this adds up to a well appointed machine with plenty of typically Italian flair to boot.
Only time will tell how that gorgeous red trim stands up to the ravages of the sun and inclement weather.
So, what’s it like to ride?
Well, up until this point, I’ve been trying to keep this review quite low-key for fear of appearing too enthusiastic, but, I have to say: This scooter is a joy to ride!
There, I’ve said it.
Being a motorcyclist as well as a scooter rider, the holy grail for me would be one vehicle that could combine the best of both worlds. This machine is the nearest to that ideal I have ridden yet.
As far as engine sizes, this 350 – with the performance that it returns – truly lies in the “sweet spot”.
With extremely impressive take-off from standstill that will leave all but the most committed performance car driver in the dust, and a top speed more than capable of earning you a very hefty fine on the freeway, one has to ask the question: “What more could you need?” This engine truly is a winner.
Engine braking is more apparent than you may be used to with traditional CVT transmission. To me, that is a good thing as I use engine braking quite extensively (see Throttle Sense).
Remember that this scooter sports a new design of multi-plate wet clutch.
The suspension seemed a little on the stiff side for the city, but, given the performance of this scooter, it should make for better handling when you’re having fun in the twisties – something this scooter is more than capable of.
The 16″ front and 14″ rear wheels should add to the stability as well.
Braking is excellent with plenty of feedback. It feels more like a motorcycle than a scooter in this respect.
I am very, very impressed with this scooter. Everybody’s needs are, of course, different. For me, this really is the perfect match of performance and economy. It is a scooter that works perfectly in town, yet I would have no reservations taking it touring on journeys that would previously have been the domain of much larger scooters and motorcycles.
The one thing which would make this perfect? ABS. The european version comes with ABS and traction control. Yet again, we find that the US version doesn’t have it. Why, oh why? Do American riders not deserve these crucial safety enhancements? Excuse the rant, but I’d love to have someone explain to me why US versions of scooters rarely get the ABS that the other countries get. My GTV 250 even has an ABS light on the dash. Sadly, it’s just there to taunt me. Oh well…
Did I mention that engine is outstanding?
The MSRP of $5,499 in the US doesn’t make it a cheap option – especially as it doesn’t sport the prestigious “Vespa” badge, but its understated elegance, solid build quality and impressive performance goes a long way in convincing you that you would be getting your money’s worth.
If it were a car, it would be a sporty little Audi. Something with a hand-stitched steering wheel and an iPad on the passenger seat. I love it.
Until next time, Scoot Safely!
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