At a time when motorcycle sales have hit their lowest level in years, Piaggio is focusing on its traditional core business: scooters and mopeds. Piaggio has always been very good at that, starting in 1946 when it created the Vespa. In fact, the Italian outfit is the leading European group in the motorized two-wheel business (okay, two and three wheels, given the MP3). The newest addition to its line of economy/utility people movers is the vastly revised Liberty moped in 125 and 150cc displacements.
The Liberty belongs to the step-through frame, large-diameter wheels, “full-dresser” class of scooters, which are appreciated in large part by young women because of the ease of accessibility and reassuringly stable feeling over the not-so-friendly tarmac found in many Italian cities.
The major evolutionary aspect of the Liberty is represented by the adoption of the sohc, three-valve fuel-injected 125/150cc Single that was specifically developed to further cut fuel consumption and emissions. This engine is built at Piaggio’s plant in India and was introduced last year on the Vespa LX 125/150. Cooled by forced ventilation and mated to a CVT, this incredibly efficient unit returns a whopping 140 miles to the gallon at a constant speed of 30 mph. The 150cc edition, with its claimed 11.7 horsepower and 9.6 foot-pounds of torque, should offer smart performance through city traffic.
Also, the chassis has received a few evolutionary touches. The wheelbase now spans 52.9 inches, three-quarters of an inch longer than the previous version, and the front wheel has been reduced from 16 to 15 inches and is shod with a narrower 80/90-15 tire replacing the previous 90/80-16, the taller shoulder aimed at improving comfort on bumpy streets. Equally, the rear tire is narrower: a 100/80-14 in place of the original 110/80-14. Piaggio says slightly narrower tires further reduce fuel consumption and enhance agility. The braking system is based on a single 240mm front disc and a 140mm rear drum.
In addition to its protective bodywork, the Liberty now includes as standard equipment a large windshield and a top trunk that makes this model even more practical and all-weather effective. Price in Italy for the Liberty is 2220 euros ($2970) for the 125cc model and 2350 euros ($3153) for the 150cc version.