Three-hundred cubic centimeters or so is a very good size for a scooter; fast enough to get you anywhere while keeping you out of trouble, small enough to fit into tight spaces and ensure you keep a real motorcycle in the stable as well so as not to have your man (or woman!) card revoked. Vespa’s been building the GTS 300 since 2009. For 2015, it was brought to the next level with ABS and traction control – both of which are more useful than you might imagine on a thing that’s built to run the urban maze’s various congealing, damp and greasy surfaces on 12-inch wheels. And while they were upgrading, they gave the Vespa a new multimedia platform to connect a smartphone to the bike so you can track torque output, lean angle, and where you left the GTS parked. The seat was restyled, new instruments now use wheel-speed sensors instead of a cable. Many styling details have been updated, and a new, more powerful ECU runs everything.
In our Six-Way Scooter Melee back in February, the GTS trounced all comers, including the very nice Honda Forza, winning by unanimous decision. A short wheelbase, the least weight (352 pounds claimed, with fuel) and the sportiest ride helped out. It’s not the most powerful scooter of the bunch (or the most reassuring at top speed, 80-ish), but the 22-hp (claimed) 278cc Vespa’s got that certain universally recognizable retro-Italian something that makes people who normally wouldn’t stop texting walk up and start a conversation. And not just crusty motorcycle people, either. Attractive people. Let’s all hop in the Trevi Fountain!
There’s a sensible set of commuters out there who simply don’t want or need a big maxi-scooter for their daily needs. And though they don’t need the biggest thing out there, a tiny 50cc scoot won’t satisfy their needs, either. All they want is a simple, reliable, economical and affordable scooter. Oh, and it should be freeway-legal, too. Enter the Yamaha SMAX. At $3,690, it’s an affordable scooter, and its 155cc engine sips gas – it’s practically impossible to get less than 75 mpg. Best of all, you can legally hop on the freeway with it and, if you’re patient, the SMAX can pull close to 80 mph – far better than its closest competitor. It’ll fit a full-face under the seat, with room to spare for a few groceries, and everything else you bought from the store can latch on to the bag hook between your legs. While the Vespa at the top spot of this category is definitely going to earn you style points when you cruise through the city, there’s an easy argument to be made that the SMAX is the more practical of the two.
Oh, and one last thing: it’s officially pronounced “S-MAX” not “Smacks.”