Piaggio MP3 400 ie

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On Monday, Piaggio officially announced their MP3 400 ie three-wheeled scooter. Coincidentally, on Saturday, I finally got to ride an MP3 250, so finally, I can write about the MP3 with a bit of first-hand experience.

Piaggio claims 150,000 MP3s were sold in the last nine months. It appears only a small fraction of those sales were in the U.S., where a $7,000 (MSRP) 250cc scooter is a hard sell, especially with a well-publicized 400cc version on the horizon. Even a tech-junkie with a fat wallet would be happy to settle for a Vespa GTS until the MP3 400 ie arrives. Sadly, Piaggio’s 4-stroke, 4-valve Master engine (with liquid cooling and electronic injection) is not currently available in any U.S. models, so it’s unclear if and when we can expect the 34 HP 400cc version here (though we can still be thankful we’re not stuck with the seemingly-pointless 125cc version).

The 400cc model appears to utilize the same frame as the smaller models. The Gilera Fuoco, a 500cc version with a sportier body, is also in the works — but even less likely to be sold in the U.S.

I had the opportunity to ride the 250cc version this weekend, and I was suitably impressed. It’s certainly an attention-getter, even in Henry Ford Black, Corporate Fleet Silver, and Executive Maroon, the less-than-a-rainbow of colors provided for the U.S. market. While riding along with Phil from Pride of Cleveland Scooters, dozens of drivers and pedestrians asked about the extra wheel, and many more rubbernecked as we passed. At the Lake Erie Loop campground, it was the center of attention despite the wide range oddities present.

After a brief lap of a parking lot, I had the chance to take the MP3 250 for a spin. As a vintage scooter lover recently introduced to the marvels of modern scooters via the Genuine Blur, I’m a fan of smaller bikes in the 150-250cc range. The MP3 felt large and heavy compared to other 250s I’ve ridden, such as the Kymco Bet and Win 250 (which is no longer made). Ergonomically, it was well-designed, and it had a huge storage area that ran from under the seat and out the trunk. This area could store a three-year-old and perhaps some lumber, but surprisingly not a flip-up full-face helmet.

Once on the road, I rode conservatively, not wanting to drop a $7000 scooter, but it did seem to hug the road admirably. In the “unlocked” mode, it handled like a scooter, which is what it’s supposed to do. It’s easy to believe that the extra wheel gives you more grip and allows you to push the envelope a bit, but in most situations, it doesn’t feel different. That’s a plus, I guess, but a little hard to justify the price. As I’ve stated over and over since the MP3 was unveiled, it’s not a trike, and it can be dropped on it’s side just about as easily as a regular scooter if you aren’t properly trained and experienced. In an earlier story, I described the “locked” and “unlocked” hydraulic modes, but I now realize they were described to me a bit wrong. The “locked” mode does not automatically level the bike and lock the suspension as you slow down, the button must be pressed as you slow down to do so. This action, and watching for the warning light to tell you to press the button, sort of seemed like unnecessary extra steps to someone accustomed to putting his feet down. Still, it’s a neat feature.

On the highway, the bike was much faster, and infinitely more stable than my Blur, but I’d imagine most 250cc bikes would be. Still, I think the extra wheel and weight contributed some piece of mind. It did not feel underpowered at all, considering the size and weight of the scooter. Interestingly, I noticed that at higher speeds, the usually-subconscious act of countersteering was suddenly hyper-conscious, the only way to get it to turn was to push the opposing handlebar, firmly. Braking and suspension felt great, it was a clean ride with tight stops when needed. Controls and mirrors were well-placed.

The extra wheel is a welcome novelty and could accurately be described as a “benefit,” but is that benefit equal to the cost, weight, and technical complication? I’d think most people would be happier saving their cash and looking at other options in the same displacement range. While Piaggio marketing suggests that beginners could benefit from the locking feature, I’d think beginners would do best to learn on a standard bike and perhaps choose a more disposable bike as their first (can you imagine the cost of a front-end collision repair?). I see the target market of this scooter as tech-savvy well-capitalized types (already being a scooter fanatic couldn’t hurt) who must have the latest and greatest (and the attention that comes with it.) It’s a comfortable bike that would make a good commuter, or weekend tourer, but the price seems too high for most people, with many more-or-less comparable bikes priced much lower. The locking feature could be a big selling point for older riders or riders with leg-strength issues, but even they will find they still need to put a foot down now and then. Time will tell if the MP3 is ahead of its time, or just an expensive gimmick.

18 thoughts on “Piaggio MP3 400 ie”

  1. The MP3 can store a full-face helmet in the trunk – you just have to store it on it’s side. I can fit a Nolan N-102 modular in the trunk on it’s side. Additionally, you can fit another full-face helmet in the trunk if you put it in nose-first.

    I didn’t buy my MP3 for the novelty of the extra wheel. I bought it because 3 brakes are better than 2 (shorter stopping distance/more stopping power), and because the two front wheels make it less likely you will lose traction from things like hitting a pothole in a curve, etc. Safety is the number one selling point of this machine, and it’s worth the price.

  2. I certainly have to agree with your point about price.

    The MSRP of 7000 is in excess of 50% markup on Piaggio’s standard 250 scooter. I can certainly understand the need to charge more for the engineering that went into the design. But, when that markup makes it cost 10% more than it would cost you to double the engine size.. it just leaves me baffled.

  3. ct, I agree that it’s (to some degree) safer than a “regular” scooter. I honestly think it’s a great scooter and a great idea, I just don’t think it’s worth quite that much money. Even being a huge safety nerd like I am, you have to apply a cost-to-benefit ratio to any product, and in my opinion (and my budget) , I don’t think the safety benefits balance out the price. I think of it like helmets or stereos and anything… there’s a point where the cost rises exponentially vs the improvement. The more expensive product is undeniably better, but you’re paying a premium for brand name and/or novelty and/or engineering expenses, for a somewhat proprietary product that may influence all products to come, or may turn out to be a technological dead end. If you can afford those ‘better’ products and enjoy being on that cutting edge, that’s fine, but it’s just not for everybody. The scooter market is so small, that it’s really going out on a limb to make such a product, and that’s admirable, and there IS a market for it, but it seems like they put a lot of eggs in the MP3 basket, and that may not have been a good idea.

  4. I’d like to see the worldwide data in 5 years comparing the crash rate of the BV v the MP3. Then I’ll believe it’s a safer product. I’m all for the 3 wheel expansion into the ‘motorcycle’ market. But I think there’s lots of talk to sell bikes with not as much data to back it up yet. If the rationale of 3 wheel stopping better than 2 is a good idea, why not extend it to 4 and just get a convertible.

  5. Convertibles fare very poorly in rollovers compared to hardtops.

    Time for everyone to buy Volvos!

    Seriously, I know where Bryan is coming from. It may possess “safer” technology but if you aren’t practicing defensive driving or the “safer” feel luls you into making “riskier” choices, then the benefits are nil.

    It’s a cool bike but too expensive. That said, if I had the money I’d probably buy one after I’d bought about 10 other bikes I want more. Anyone holding onto a grey-market Peugeot Jetforce 125 compressor they want to let go of?

  6. Umm, the blur is a jetforce clone. just find yourself one of them mini turbos and call it a day!

  7. I dunno, I have always thought the idea of a scooter is a small, light, nimble device. The MP3 is not small or light, and while the many videos show it to be quite nimble for its size, it probably would lose a slalom contest to something like a Blur or a Buddy.

    As for the idea of appealing to the beginner, I would imagine there’d be an awful lot to un-learn if one were to make the transition to two wheels. And what if said beginner failed to negotiate the learning curve re: getting it into “locked” mode at a stop? It’s be awfully expensive to fix.

    I tend to think the MP3’s mission is that of a “halo” bike. In the car biz, a “halo” car is something that attracts attention and creates buzz, the main purpose being to get people into the showroom. The Corvette has been doing that for Chevrolet forever, the New Beetle did that for Volkswagen.Surely the MP3 was born from a bunch of scribbles on cocktail napkins after many glasses of wine, and that after crunching the numbers made it pencil out financially, it was discovered enough of a market existed for an oddity like the MP3 to make it worth doing.

    If you want one, I’d suggest you wait a couple of years. Once the early adopters and the collectors all have theirs, the market will soften considerably. Or else you’ll be able to find them on Craigslist with

  8. I found that the 250 MP3 handled more like my Blur than any other scooter I’ve ridden – and the Blur has been described as the best handling scooter available in America. Even with its extra bulk the MP3 responded smoothly and precisely to my body english, doing exactly whatever I intended it to do. Yes the MP3 is a little steadier and smoother – thus less ‘responsive’, but for more nimble than any other maxi class I’ve been on. The MP3 I was on had a speedo set in km/h, with mph in tiny hard to read numbers on the inner dial – I wound it up to 120 Km/h under easy control without realizing I was going 70mph – That never happened on my Blur. A 400cc MP3 might be dangerous simply because you could go 95mph without enough due caution. Perhaps it should have a warning about being too stable at high speeds.

  9. orino: Yes! it’s the dictionary definition of a “halo bike.” good call.

    blue mark: the mph were’nt hard to read, they were utterly illegible, it was like reading the bottom line of an eye chart at 65 mph with a dirty visor, but yeah, 120 kph was the ‘sweet spot,’ for sure, and not even WFO. I really don’t think it had much left on top of that though, maybe 80 but I doubt 90.

  10. The Blur is pretty stable, even compared to many 250cc scoots I’ve ridden. However, that extra wheel allows the rider of an MP3 to lean hard at ridiculous speeds. It’s not idiot proof, because the world always makes better idiots, but it works very well and is basically a more stable scooter/motorcycle.

    I like the 250, but wouldn’t mind more power. That said, I bet there is a weight penalty, which I’m not as keen on.

  11. Yes, the price is too high.
    And I totally understand those who think a scooter should be small and nimble.
    I’ve been dreaming of a serious touring scooter for years though. Unfortunately, riding stance is more important in my personal definition of what makes a scooter, and I don’t like what you are forced into with the japanese maxi-scoots.
    I agree that the MP3 design is probably not the best thing for newbies, especially if they will later branch out to other 2-wheelers. But for an experienced scooterist I think the design has some significant advantages in braking power and stability.
    I’m really interested in the 400cc model and the Gilera Fuoco. These seem to really have great potential for long range scootering and all-year daily riding. I’m still not sure about the weight issue, but I really think Piaggio is on to something here.
    I’m saving my pennies…

  12. Honk, the seat position was good (and the seat was comfy, though there wasn’t much room to move around on it) but I thought the floorboard space was tight, I couldn’t find anywhere to put my feet that would allow me to really keep my knees tucked in. Then again, I’m used to vintage scooters where you have pretty much an entire dancefloor at your disposal.

    I do think the 400 would make a great touring scooter if the cost wasn’t much higher and the new engine wasn’t ridiculously heavier. I’ve never felt more stable on the highway on a scooter, especially one with a scooterlike riding position.

  13. When I sat on the MP3 I felt a little hunched up. With the backrest and small floorboards I saw no ability to stretch out a bit. I’m 5″9″ with short legs. Frankly, my Stella has a better riding position for me. Yes, three brakes are better than two but, with the $$ they want for a scoot I can’t see distance touring on, I’ll pass. For a touring scoot I’m seriously considering a Kymco Xciting. That scoot fits me to a T.

  14. About a month ago I had several hours to kill at the dealer while my Blur was being worked on. I spent much of that time doing a scientific survey of stationary scooter dynamics … ie: dropping my big rear end on a variety of seats. I found most of the traditional Maxi’s to be too sculpted – they are bucket seats made for smaller rear ends than mine. The big Vespas were about the best, and allowed a good bit of sliding to change position. But I found the MP3 seat to be just about perfect – maybe because I’m used to the Blur, the MP3 seat is very similar, only larger and wider – more befitting of my lard butt. If money were no object, I’d pick the 400cc MP3 as my first choice for long distance cruising.


  15. I can’t believe I wrote “Piaggio claims 150,000 MP3s were sold in the last nine months” without pointing out that in the past, Piaggio has apparently counted scooters as “sold” when they hand them off to dealers. So it’s possible 149,000 of those “sold” MP3s are sitting in dealer showrooms, the dictionary definition of “unsold.” Still, word on the web is that they’re selling pretty well in Italy and, to some degree, the rest of Europe.

  16. Mark, I liked the seat better than the Blur, though you couldn’t scooch back as far. I hated the foot positioning and found it hard to keep my toes pointed forward or in, and thus my knees went all over the place (and created wind drag), whereas on the Blur, I can keep my knees together easily.

  17. I had a go on a MP3 250 today, while waiting for an MOT test on a 2-wheeler.
    Dampish/greasy roads stopped me going crazy, but it felt really stable.
    I’m really interested as a commuting tool and general ‘fun machine’ the for wife and I on a weekend, for she lost confidence on here bike after our daughter took a spill on slippery roads and hasn’t ridden since.

    Next time I take a test ride, it’ll have to be on a dry day when I can really try the deliberate use of counter steering to get the best out of the cornering.

    Has anyone out there owned one for a while, who can advise what comsumption they give. I’m interested in either the 250 or 400cc. The mean-looking 500cc that was also on show today is really not my style, with the ‘bullbars’ and rugged off-road appearance.

  18. I’ve been riding since 1970, started on a Honda 90!–the MP3 is the most stable bike (or is it trike?) I’ve ever been on. I’ve had mine (a 250cc) up to 80 on the freeway, but I’m not a speedracer, and I don’t know if it’ll do more. I do know it didn’t waver in its stability at all, and I’ve never felt more comfortable on the freeway on a scooter. The biggest issue for me is that less-experienced riders may take chances (due to its stability) that they shouldn’t. It’s not a panacea for new riders—you should definitely learn first on two wheels in my opinion, because the basics of riding, even on the MP3, are such that you need to know how and when to use your feet. The speedometer was an issue for me at first, but I just memorized the equivalents rather than try to read the dial; [if the speed I want is 50, I go 80k; if it’s 35, I go 60k, etc.] It takes a little effort to do the memorization thing, but it’s lots easier than trying to read the dial. I’ve got about 2500mi on mine now, and I’m getting about 70mpg. I haul my wife on the back whenever we’re going somewhere in good weather, but I ride to work rain or shine.

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