Vespa 250 GTS vs. Yamaha Morphous Review- Scooter Comparison Tests

4 Mar 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Vespa 250 GTS vs. Yamaha Morphous Review- Scooter Comparison Tests
Vespa GTS 250

Urban Beat Two ways to tackle the town: Vespa 250 GTS vs. Yamaha Morphous.

Photography by Marc Urbano

There are those among us who do not fully appreciate the modern scooter. Which, to be honest, is baffling. Scooters possess an ease of use that lets you go places you dare not tread in a car or an SUV or a truck or even on a full-size motorcycle.

Scooters elicit smiles. And waves. A six-pack fits neatly under the flip-up seat. Best of all, you can spin your little wheels all weekend on five bucks worth of gas.

As the high cost of fossil fuels continues to create headlines, the small-wheel set is garnering mainstream attention. Reporting last year on Piaggio’s recent return to profitability, The Wall Street Journal noted that the Italian firm’s scooters “were a favorite Hollywood prop.” Nicole Kidman on a Vespa? Can’t get much more mainstream than that.

Between Aprilia, Honda, Piaggio, Suzuki, Vespa and Yamaha, U.S. consumers can choose from more than two dozen two- and four-stroke models, ranging from campus-capable to freeway-friendly. Regarding the latter: Auto-clutch Continuously Variable Transmissions aside, anything with two wheels and an engine displacing more than 49cc is a motorcycle, at least in most states.

So, technically, the new-for-2006 Yamaha Morphous and the Vespa 250 GTS tested here are motorcycles, meaning they both require a two-wheel endorsement on your license. Beachside vacation rentals they aren’t.

Not that they don’t belong at the beach. Or in the city. Or just about anywhere in between. The GTS is the fastest, most powerful, most technically advanced Vespa in history.

And that’s not PR prattle; as scooters go, the thing is genuinely quick. The Morphous, with its Cadillac-like length and curious styling, draws slack-jawed stares wherever it goes. Behind the acres of plastic, there are no fewer than four storage compartments, all locking.

Both are fuel-injected 250s but arrive at their respective displacements differently. Bore and stroke on the liquid-cooled, dohc, four-valve, 249cc Yamaha is an undersquare 66.0 x 73.0mm, while the liquid-cooled, sohc, four-valve, 244cc Vespa uses a short-stroke 72.0 x 60.0mm combination. In terms of peak power, the GTS (15.9 horsepower at 7600 rpm) gets the nod, though the Morphous (14.5 hp at 6900) isn’t far off.

Throttle pegged, the Vespa zips from 0-60 mph in 12.9 seconds, 3.4 seconds quicker than the Yamaha. Chalk up the difference to weight: The GTS tips the scales at 345 pounds, nearly 50 pounds lighter than the Yammie. Quarter-mile times are closer, and top speed is dead-even at 76 mph.

Acceleration isn’t the only area where these two machines differ. The Yamaha, with its ultra-long 64.5-inch wheelbase and larger-diameter 13-inch wheels, is supremely stable at any speed. The Vespa, which measures a sportbike-like 55.0 inches between axles and rolls on smaller 12-inch hoops, always feels a bit jittery, as if it’s enjoyed one too many espressos. The tradeoff, of course, is instantaneous steering response.

Whereas the Morphous arcs gracefully through corners, the GTS darts toward apexes with puppy-like playfulness.

Part of the credit for the Yamaha’s gracefulness goes to its telescopic fork, which, like its hydraulically actuated disc brakes, works well and offers good feedback. In a nod to the past, the GTS, like other Vespas, uses a single-sided trailing-arm front end. Brakes are hydraulic discs.

As on the Yamaha, the right lever works the front, the left activates the rear.

The low-slung Morphous reaches its cornering limits quite early, hitting its sidestand and centerstand on the left and the centerstand on the right. Adding a passenger makes the situation worse, particularly since, unlike on the Vespa, the dual shocks are not adjustable to compensate for additional back-of-bike weight. The GTS will deck its centerstand, too, but doing so requires a much deeper lean angle.

Another difference: seat height. At just 25.5 inches—bumper height to most SUVs—the Yamaha’s sculpted saddle with its two-position backrest sits a full 6 inches lower than the Vespa’s. Keeping with the how-low-can-you-go theme, the Morphous’ tubular handlebar is angled down, resulting in a somewhat cramped cockpit, especially for 6-footers.

In contrast, taller riders feel at ease on the GTS, with its classic upright riding position. You sit atop the Vespa, as if at the dinner table, grasping the handgrips like a fork and a knife. With the laid-back Morphous, the ergonomics are more post-repast, what’s-on-TV La-Z-Boy.

That position may feel and look good in the dealer showroom, but on the road, with much of your weight concentrated on your tailbone and shock from potholes, pavement seams and other street imperfections shooting up your spine, it’s not comfortable at all. At least airflow across the low windscreen is smooth and free from buffeting.

Vespa GTS 250

There are no such surprises with the Vespa—what you see is what you get—though passengers struggle getting on behind the rider (as with the similarly broad-beamed Morphous), and the cool retracting footpegs are located so far forward that at stops, the passenger’s boots overlap with those of the rider.

Despite the Morphous’ immense size, storage isn’t all that great. As previously noted, there are four locking compartments, which Yamaha refers to in the owner’s manual as A, B, C and Trunk. A is the glovebox located below the handlebar on the left side of the dash. B and C are the two underseat bins.

The automotive-style trunk is at the rear of the bike.

Access to all four areas requires the ignition key. A is suitable for paperwork and a garage-door opener. B, the most forward and largest of the underseat compartments, is shaped to swallow a full-face helmet, just as long as it’s not one of the latest, spoiler-equipped designs. C is good for smaller, flatter items, such as a sandwich (6-inch, not foot-long), a pair of gloves or a T-shirt.

A switch located on the left side of the machine between the two bins activates a light for nighttime use. The light turns off automatically when the hinged seat is lowered.

The trunk is a good idea in concept. In actual use, though, despite Yamaha’s claims, it is too small and awkwardly shaped to be of any real benefit. Soft, pliable items—a rainsuit, for example—fit best.

In addition to the standard folding luggage rack, the Vespa has two locking storage compartments: a small glovebox and a large underseat bin. The latter can be pulled out for cleaning and easy access to the engine. Reaching the engine on the Yamaha requires removal of one or both of the underseat storage compartments, which are secured by three and four Allen-head bolts, respectively.

Finally, there’s price. When it reintroduced the Vespa brand to the U.S. six years ago, Piaggio set retail prices high, compared to models with like displacements, confident that buyers would pay a premium for the opportunity to own one of the fabled Italian machines. The GTS is no different, as it retails for $5799, some $600 more than the Morphous.

That is nothing to sniff at, but it also isn’t enough to cost the Vespa victory. The GTS is quicker, more comfortable and more fuel efficient. It has better cornering clearance and superior storage.

Most importantly, it’s more fun to ride. That’s something we can all appreciate.

Vespa GTS 250
Vespa GTS 250
Vespa GTS 250

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