Dec 22 2008 Harriet Ridley
Scoot out to beat the crunch in 2009
DESPITE the dire economic climate, the scooter market is thriving. And it's no wonder - scooters are the perfect antidote to the credit crunch.
They're cheap to buy and run, incredibly practical and will get you anywhere in no time.
There's a scooter for every purpose too: If you simply need to run around town then a 50cc is just the job, although a 125 will be quicker and safer on the overtakes.
If you're commuting long distances, than you're going to need at least 125cc powering your two wheels, although you could splash out on the plethora of bigger scooters that are gracing the dealers, from 250cc all the way to Gilera's insane 800cc monster scooter.
The continuing growth of the sector means manufacturers are investing in their ranges, the result being a load of both new and revamped models at the 2008 international shows.
First up the big boys: Piaggio was proud to introduce the Carnaby Cruiser 300. The Carnaby range in general gets several design improvements over the previous versions.
Big news however was the latest addition to the MP3 range, the MP3 LT. The bike has a larger front track of 465mm which means it can now be ridden by holders of a normal car licence, even though it's equipped with either a 250cc or 400cc engine.
Meanwhile, the latest MP3 125 now gets 'ride-by-wire' electronic throttle management; Piaggio claims it's the first 'scooter' in the world to get this. The entire 2009 MP3 range features a new car-look shield grille, blue tinted windscreen and a new passenger grab handle.
Last but not least, the Zip 50 2T is one of Piaggio's greatest successes and has been in production for more than well over a decade. Now it's back with a brand-new 50cc two-stroke engine.
It seems 300cc is the new capacity to go for in the scooter world. Gilera, also part of the Piaggio Group, displayed its new Nexus 300, which replaces the 250cc version.
The new Quasar four-valve engine features liquid cooling and electronic fuel injection, and new bore/stroke values for stronger torque. And to celebrate the company's centenary, all Gilera scooters, including the Fuoco three-wheeler, will carry a new logo in 2009.
The new design is an adaptation of the famous logo of the 1950s, with the Italian colours and the symbolic dates of 1909 and 2009.
In-line with the other Piaggio Group brands, Aprilia's Scarabeo range now also gets a 300cc version. Meanwhile Vespa, the Piaggio Group's most iconic brand, unveiled the new GTS 125 available in a sexy racing red, while the S 50 gets an all-new four-valve, four-stroke engine that meets emissions regulations as well as providing decent performance for the size.
Moving away from the Piaggio Group but staying with the great icons of the scooter world, and Lambretta has plastered its legendary name all over a very modern-looking, four-stroke scooter range. The Pato is available in 50, 125 and 150cc engine sizes and they look very sleek indeed.
Malaguti has unveiled its brand new Blog 125 scooter, but enough of the Italians. From Japan, Yamaha has the X-City 125 and 250 that now come equipped with adjustable windscreens as standard. Other changes in the Yamaha range include a restyled Majesty 400 and special edition X-Max models.
Big news from Peugeot is the new Speedfight 3 range. Also available is the French manufacturer's new high-wheel LXR200.
And then there's Kymco with its two brand new
There are several models among this section of the market that could easily be confused as being produced by more well-known manufacturers, had the badge not said otherwise. These are a good bet if you're not too bothered about brands, and simply want something dirt cheap to run you around.
Leading the charge is Sym, a Chinese brand that's becoming a regular fixture on our streets. Sym's latest model is the Symphony, a high-wheeled scooter with a compact body. There's also a new GTS 300 model which - surprise, surprise - replaces the previous GTS 250 version. Sym has also started producing a range of eco scooters, starting with the Robo, powered by a 48v/350W electric motor.
With such a massive range of scooters to choose from, travel cards are on their way out for 2009.