Say what you will about Piaggio’s handling of grand brands Derbi, Gilera and Moto Guzzi, but Europe’s largest maker of two-wheel transportation knows how to build a scooter.
Consider the 2009 BV Tourer 250. This freshly restyled step-through, with its punchy fuel-injected engine, 16-inch alloy wheels and upright ergonomics, narrows the gap between traditional scooters and entry-level motorcycles, particularly for those riders who commute in and around congested urban areas and favor the simplicity of an automatic clutch and transmission over their manual counterparts.
That engine (called QUASAR, for QUArter-liter Smooth Augmented Range) is the same liquid-cooled, sohc, catalyst-equipped, 244cc Single that powers the sportier (but nearly 20 percent pricier) Vespa GTS 250. A claimed 22 horsepower at 8250 rpm and 15 foot-pounds of torque at 6500 rpm propel the 328-pound BV-T quickly ahead of traffic to an indicated top speed of 85 mph, all the while delivering nearly 40 mpg.
Those large-diameter wheels (the Vespa GTS rolls on 12-inch hoops front and rear), along with 110/70 and 140/70 Michelins and a motorcycle-like 58-inch wheelbase, endow the BV with stability usually reserved for larger-displacement scooters. Dual discs and hydraulically actuated twin-piston calipers—the right handlebar-mounted lever controls the front brake; the left lever handles the rear—make for quick, consistent stops. The fork and twin shocks, however, could use better damping control—an area in which scooters have long lagged behind motorcycles. As is, the ride is a tad harsh.
Earlier BVs were similarly windscreen-equipped, but the clear screen on this latest model is shaped differently than its smoked predecessor and does away with the turned-up lip. It’s an effective wind-blocker that doesn’t obstruct field of vision. An easy-to-use centerstand is also welcome; the sidestand doubles as an ignition cut if deployed when the engine is running.
Scooters often have excellent underseat storage. Not the BV. Full-face helmets don’t fit in the double-dished molded-plastic well; same goes for most open-face lids. Larger items will fit in the optional locking 36-liter top case with matching backrest pad ($300). Up front, a central glove box hides release levers for the hinged seat and fuel door.
Another criticism: The fuel filler, located behind a plastic door in the foot well, is narrow and takes a sharp turn just below the opening. As a result, riders intent on topping off the 2.6-gallon tank may find their Levi’s spattered with Premium.
Minor quibbles, really. Bottom line, the $4899 BV Tourer 250 makes a strong argument for the smaller-wheel set. Were all scooters this good, we would likely see a lot more of them on the road today.