Cheers - the 300s are coming
A few years ago, the 300cc class maxiscooter didn’t exist in the United States. Now we are starting to see a tidal wave of them. The latest offerings coming from Piaggio and KYMCO will give riders a far-broader array of choices and styles than was previously available.
The latest entry is the KYMCO Downtown 300i which began arriving in U.S. showrooms in the fall of 2010. Piaggio expects to deliver the BV 300 and its fourth three-wheeler – the MP3 City - late in the 2011 riding season. Despite fairly similar power characteristics, these three scooters differ quite widely in appearance and attributes. One thing is certain. From riders’ perspective on this side of the pond, the 300cc class is finally coming of age. It’s about time.
KYMCO Downtown 300i
Beyond much doubt, KYMCO has been upping its game lately by adding more modern technology and contemporary styling to its U.S. offerings. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the arrival of the four-valve, fuel-injected Downtown 300i. The totally new liquid-filled 299cc lightweight engine allows this well-equipped tourer to tip the scales at only 367 pounds, fully 40 pounds lighter than its smaller displacement brand mate, the Xciting 250. Predictably, this strong and light combo adds up to flashy initial acceleration, improved gas mileage, and highly responsive handling at low speeds.
A distinctive trademark KYMCO color, burnt orange, returns on the Downtown 300i. The model is also offered in two subtler tones, pearl white and silver.
The impressive features list easily qualifies this scooter as a capable midrange tourer. Amenities include spacious, lighted under-seat storage large enough to stow two helmets, a broad, high-visibility fairing featuring a striking lighting array, and a water-tight console compartment with a 12v electrical outlet for cell phone charging. Bottom line, a thoroughly modern feature set.
With a 14-inch front wheel and a 13-inch rear wheel, this middleweight maxi should feel right at home heading through the corners in just about any downtown. But its name can be a bit deceiving, as clearly this model was designed to be equally adept on the open road. Either way, as the lyrics to the 1960s Petula Clark song go, “You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares and go Downtown.”
Piaggio BV 300
In the U.S., we’re getting the modern version of Europe’s latest Beverly. Piaggio could have made a regrettable mistake and sent us the remaining Beverly Tourer 300s, but ScooterMaxi has confirmed that we’ll get the contemporary, sophisticated European ‘Nuovo’ Beverly - a consensus stylistic knockout. Not only that, but from a technical standpoint the new BV 300 is easily more advanced. Features include front fairing-integrated turn signals and daylight LED running lights accompanied by a high-visibility LED stop / taillight, an expanded under-seat, dual-helmet capacity lighted storage compartment that is 50 percent larger than the unlit Tourer version, a larger fuel tank, and an improved saddle for distance-riding comfort.
Swooping body lines, two-tone paint and the massive 300mm front disc are all part of the eye appeal for potential BV 300 buyers. Once home, further special attention will be required for cleaning the 20-spoke alloy wheels front and rear.
We’re especially impressed by common-sense changes where it comes to how the rubber hits the road. It’s hard to overlook the massive 300mm front disc brake, and the more-practical 16-inch front, 14-inch rear wheel arrangement. The Nuovo has the same high-torque 278cc engine as the slightly older Tourer design, but manages to shave off seven pounds - weighing in at a svelte 357 pounds.
Stylistically, it is quite apparent that the sporty KYMCO Downtown 300i diverges markedy from the modernized Euro lines offered by the Piaggio BV 300. Compared to the new Piaggio MP3 City, though, those two-wheelers might as well be considered as two peas in a pod. But why not really mix it up when it comes to the emerging 300 class segment?
Piaggio MP3 City
The advanced three-wheel design of the MP3 series qualifies as one of the top scooter technology achievements of the 21st century. These models not only are capable of handling difficult road conditions, but prove extremely nimble and responsive on smooth surfaces as well. Yet for Piaggio designers, totally integrating aesthetic success into the equation has been far more open to debate.
The earliest versions of the MP3 harkened vaguely to traditional Piaggio styling. Then came the aggressive MP3 500ie – actually a rebadged Gilera Fuoco 500 from Europe. While the 500 remains a design favorite of ours, we could see why some might not agree. If these scooters were porridge, you might say the 500 is slightly too hot, and the original a bit too cool. Now, the newest version - the MP3 City (introduced as the Yourban in Europe) - might well be just right.
Assuming a reasonable price point (yet to be announced) just a few hundred dollars higher than the original MP3, we wouldn’t be at all surprised to soon find the MP3 City taking a strong lead in three-wheeler sales figures.
Neither overtly aggressive nor passively laid back in its styling, Piaggio may have arrived at the “just right” look for the MP3 City.
Despite the overall success of the MP3, finding the right U.S. price point without sacrificing too much performance has proven a bit tricky. Our biggest concern with the MP3 250 original was the inescapable hefty curb weight carried by a relatively small-displacement engine. The extra torque provided by the 278cc Quasar engine (same powerplant as the BV 300) supplies an especially helpful boost compared to the earlier Piaggio 244cc design in the original MP3. That extra displacement is a good idea on a scooter weighing in at a robust 452 pounds before adding fluids and a rider.
Big SYM still a big mystery
We still don’t know all that much about the two SYM maxi-scooters that were announced in Europe late last year. We know that the MaxSYM 600 will come out first, followed by the MaxSYM 400.
As for U.S. entry, SYM-USA Marketing Director Pete McIntosh contacted us to point out that previews of the MaxSYM 600 in Europe have been getting “great reviews,” but no date has been set for sale in the U.S. “In the future I hope that we will have a shot at the Big Maxi Award of Distinction,” McIntosh said, referring to the annual honors announced by ScooterMaxi.com. At this time, SYM hasn’t marketed a scooter in the 400cc or larger class that qualifies as a Big Maxi. However, the SYM Citicom 300i did claim the 2009 Middleweight Award of Distinction.
MaxSYM 600 front view
We don’t know much about the specifics because SYM has provided only model names, photos and some marketing maxims. The photos do tell us quite a bit, though, such as the red “i” emblazed at the end of the MaxSYM 600 nameplate indicating fuel injection. An aggressive and attractive pair of front disc brakes bodes well for gripping power. We have no clue yet if either the 600 or 400 will feature a twin-cylinder engine configuration. SYM takes great pride in applying advanced technology to their scooter engines, so opting for a single rather than a twin 600 would come as a major surprise.
For many years, SYM was closely linked with Honda in the Asian market. Coincidentally or not, SYM is challenging the Honda Silver Wing duo which also happens to be offered in 600 and 400 versions (the latter not available in the U.S.). Of course, the Honda design has been around for a solid seven years. While the styling of the MaxSYM is very distinctive, a resemblance to the still-modern Silver Wing is hard to miss. We're not too sure about the reasoning for throwback rectangular chrome mirrors, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see at least one small styling change at introduction. As with the two Honda Silver Wing displacements, we expect to see both MaxSYMs sharing the same chassis and framework.
MaxSYM 600 on display at European show
It is never a quick proposition to get a new scooter model qualified through U.S. DOT. However, we have been impressed in recent years with how quickly new SYM models appear stateside after their initial announcement. Pete McIntosh apparently is hoping for sooner rather than later, and we’re sure many potential riders share that same sentiment.