2023 Vespa GTS300 Review - First Ride

Evans Brasfield
by Evans Brasfield

Riding an urban icon in Rome

Although the word “iconic” is tossed around in marketing materials far too frequently, very few means of motorized transport find themselves deserving of the term. Vespa is one of those marques. Much like Xerox was, at one point, what all means of photocopying were called, there was an era in which all scooters were generically referred to as Vespas. While the market has advanced beyond that point, Vespa has had the foresight to retain its ties to the machines that first turned the world’s eyes. Case-in-point, the 2023 Vespa GTS 300 has a profile that is immediately recognizable as an heir to the Italian name.

2023 Vespa GTS 300

How do you update an icon? Very carefully, and you’ll reap the rewards of both history and current technology.

Editor Score: 81.75%


+ Highs

  • Classic looks
  • Most power of the Vespa line
  • Improved brakes and suspension

– Sighs

  • TFT seems out of place on the dash
  • Despite improvements, short suspension travel has its limits
  • I don’t live in Rome

For the 2023 model year, Vespa’s focus was on refinement – with a dash of technology thrown in for flavor. After all, four years is a long time between updates. When looking at the menu, we’ll see a selection of comfort and safety features along with some tasty technological bits added to this well-appointed classic.

LED lighting all around, and the famed Vespa necktie is still front and center.

The biggest news for the GTS line is the changes to the brakes and suspension. Braking is important – even on a scooter – and for 2023, Vespa turned to Brembo for the GTS’ system. In the front, a Brembo master cylinder feeds a Nissin dual-piston caliper to squeeze a 220mm disc, while the left lever also uses a Brembo master cylinder to massage a single-piston ByBre caliper on another 220mm disc out back. While you can already tell from the specs that the braking won’t be eye popping, the GT’s binders work fine for the load they are carrying and the speeds that the scooter can generate. However, in order to get the maximum out of the brakes, the rear lever provides much of the power because the placement of the rider and the engine puts a large percentage of the weight on the rear wheel. Whizzing around the busy streets of Rome, squirting between cars and pedestrians, gave me plenty of opportunities to become familiar with the brakes all the way up to the point of ABS intervention.

The ancient streets of Rome familiarized me with the benefits of the GTS’ other update: the front suspension retains its single-sided, trailing-link design that was originally sourced from aircraft front landing gear designs. For the new model year, the front suspension has four pivot points, which Vespa claims reduces the system’s friction and allows the front wheel to track better over pavement irregularities. The rear suspension retains its dual shocks, but they were revalved and feature four preload settings. The end result is a relatively short-travel suspension that is noticeably better at handling the bumps frequently encountered in urban settings. For example, many of the streets in the older sections of Rome are made of small cobblestones, and the GTS soaks them up. The word I would use to describe the suspension action is supple. However, the shortness of the stroke, and the tiny wheels, means that you will still feel potholes all the way up your spine.

Chief among the functional updates are the improved front suspension and a Brembo/Nissin pairing on the front brake.

Propelling the GTS through the spaces in traffic, like an indoor cat making a break for a cracked door, is a 278cc 3-valve HPE engine that Vespa claims to put out 23.8 hp and 19.7 lb-ft of torque, enough to motivate the 347-lb scooter in a sprightly manner away from a stop. The CVT works well once you get going, but as with many scooters, there is a slight lag between the initial twist of the throttle and the power actually getting to the ground. Once out of the crowded city streets, I saw an indicated 70 mph with a little more on tap.

In an environment where traffic laws appear to be merely suggestions, responsiveness is a clear advantage, and the GTS 300, with its 12-in. wheels and low center of gravity fits the bill. With a chassis constructed of sheet steel and the engine on the swingarm, the center of gravity is quite low, despite the 31.1-in. seat height. Still, for the ‘23 model year, the handlebar is wider, and in addition to making the GTS easy to control, the riding position is quite comfortable. Our test route combined extensive urban scooting with a nice afternoon trip out of town for lunch, where we sampled the twisty road handling. Combining the power delivery with the competent handling, I wouldn’t hesitate to take a passenger along in either of these scenarios.

Aiding in rider comfort is a new seat with a shape that makes for a shorter reach to the ground, though the step-through design of the scooter keeps the seat height from being an issue.

The Vespa’s design has had its lines updated slightly without changing the family resemblance. All of the lighting is now LED, which allows for the turn signals to be restyled, but the distinctive necktie between them is still there. Another modern convenience, the fob, makes starting the GTS a no-key affair. Simply press and turn the ignition switch, and you’re good to go.

There are four versions of the GTS 300, but they are all mechanically the same. The base GTS, the GTS Super, and the GTS SuperSport are identical functionally, with colors and accessories being the sole difference. The GTS SuperTech distinguishes itself with a 4.3-in. TFT display, which can take advantage of the Vespa MIA app and its smartphone connections. Unfortunately, the TFT looks out of place in the dashboard when compared to the standard sweep speedometer and stylish LCD screen below it. Unless you really need complete phone integration, the traditional instruments are a much better source of the information you need around town, since the SuperSport has limited MIA functionality (which is optional on the two lower models).

The standard instrument cluster is the most stylish of the two options.

Although my time with the 2023 Vespa GTS 300 was short, I learned a lot in the day’s ride. While I’ve always enjoyed scooters for their practical functionality and fun, I never really grokked them until I experienced the GTS in its natural habitat, the crowded streets of Rome. Here, riding a scooter was more about the experience, and the Vespa was an ideal mount.

The 2023 model year family photo.

With the MSRP starting at $7,799 and going up to $8,499, the Vespa GTS 300 is clearly for a buyer looking for more than just practical transportation. An appreciation of the style and history are probably factors. Nonetheless, the 2023 Vespa GTS 300 is an enjoyable, spirited mount that can be appreciated anywhere, but the streets of Rome add additional flavor.

2023 Vespa GTS 300 Specifications

MSRP$7,799 (Base), $7,999 (Super), $8,099 (Sport), $8,499 (Tech)
Engine TypeSingle Cylinder 4-Stroke I-Get, SOHC, 3 valves
Displacement278 cc
Bore x Stroke75 x 63 mm
Maximum Power23.8 hp at 8250 rpm (claimed)
Torque19.7 lb-ft. at 5,250 rpm (claimed)
Fuel SystemElectronic injection
Fuel Tank Capacity2.2 gallons
Emissions ComplianceEuro 5
Fuel Economy73.4 mpg (claimed)
Co2 Emissions (Wmtc Cycle)74 g/km
ClutchAutomatic Centrifugal Dry Clutch
TransmissionAutomatic CVT
ChassisSheet steel body with welded reinforcements
Front SuspensionSingle-sided link arm with coil spring and hydraulic monoshock absorber
Rear SuspensionDual hydraulic shock absorbers with coil spring with preload with 4 position height adjustment
Front Brake220mm disc, ABS
Rear Brake220mm disc, ABS
Front TireTubeless 110/70 – 12”
Rear TireTubeless 130/70 – 12”
System Voltage12 V
Length76.7 inches
Width29.7 inches
Wheelbase54.1 inches
Seat Height31.1 inches
Curb Weight347 pounds (claimed)

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Evans Brasfield
Evans Brasfield

Like most of the best happenings in his life, Evans stumbled into his motojournalism career. While on his way to a planned life in academia, he applied for a job at a motorcycle magazine, thinking he’d get the opportunity to write some freelance articles. Instead, he was offered a full-time job in which he discovered he could actually get paid to ride other people’s motorcycles – and he’s never looked back. Over the 25 years he’s been in the motorcycle industry, Evans has written two books, 101 Sportbike Performance Projects and How to Modify Your Metric Cruiser, and has ridden just about every production motorcycle manufactured. Evans has a deep love of motorcycles and believes they are a force for good in the world.

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2 of 36 comments
  • Weresquatch Weresquatch on Nov 26, 2022

    I own a '22 GTS. My Triumph 900 sits at home and I commute every day on the Vespa. It's practicality and fun on the commute are excellent not to mention it is just gorgeous. Just bought the wife an '01 Vespa ET4 to learn on. I can't see us getting rid of these.

  • MarkF MarkF on Sep 22, 2023

    This is a beautiful scooter. The weight and price go with the all steel construction no other scooter has. If I was a struggling 20 something I would get a used cheaper scooter for commuting but at this point in my life I like the finer things. I know it’s iconic but I’m surprised the wheel diameter hasn’t increased. Next purchase, perhaps.