Peugeot Speedfight 3 Scooter: Toot sweet, it's a hoot of a scoot
Jacqui Madelin discovers a great way to zip around town
It's not often a scooter attracts as much attention as this Speedfight3, but its Peugeot badge caused a Mexican wave of double-takes wherever it went. Yes, Peugeot's car dealers now stock scooters, with four 50cc models on offer, all of them rideable on a car licence.
Kiwis who associate the French brand with cars should know it launched with coffee mills and bicycles in 1810, motorcycles arriving in 1898 at the Paris Show - with a concept model using a De Dion-Bouton motor, mounted on the rear wheel, that never made it into production.
A three-wheeled steam tricycle launched the following year and the first car arrived in 1890, using a Panhard-Daimler engine.
So there's plenty of history to two-wheeled Peugeots, and innovations, too. Peugeot says it built the first scooter with plastic bodywork in 1982, the first electric scooter in 1996, and the first with a supercharged engine in 2005.
It now sells 14 different variants from showrooms in just about every country bar Australia, the US and India.
Here, distributor Sime Darby Automobiles is testing the water as part of an "all of life" philosophy aimed at putting students on board these scooters, before they step up to the smaller cars, then buy vans for their business and SUVs when they start a family, followed by scooters for the kids as they get mobile.
Thus far we can choose from a $2199 Kisbee, a $2299 Kisbee RS and this $2799 Speedfight3, all of which are powered by air-cooled two-stroke 50cc single-cylinder engines, with the pricier and very slightly more powerful liquid-cooled 50cc Speedfight3 Sport atop the range.
The Speedfight3 is certainly handsome, with an edgy-looking body, gaping "ram-air intakes" to the rear, and instruments that include a fuel gauge and clock. It's light, at just 97kg, with a low centre of gravity thanks to a fuel tank that literally sits under your feet.
Oil is topped up beneath the seat, the two-stroke mix thankfully automatic, accessed behind the space for a modest helmet, books or shopping, and there's a handbag hook between your knees, too.
The compact little engine fields just 3.2kW - a whisker more than the Kisbee and less than the Sport - a figure which makes the average lawnmower look powerful.
The start button revealed the traditional two-stroke "ring-a-ding-ding" soundtrack, with an accompanying aural urgency that didn't initially translate as I wound the throttle open.
I lost a few traffic-light wars, but was pleased to find it picked up the pace briskly enough to hold its own round town right up to the 50km/h limit on the flat, and it felt nimble enough provided I kept the throttle open and avoided long, steep uphills.
The disc front and drum rear brake were more than adequate to haul it up, and the very modest suspension did a reasonable job over most round-town surfaces. Bumps were a different matter, the minimal suspension travel and 12-inch wheels not best suited to uneven tarmac, as you'd expect.
Whisking through rush-hour traffic, running errands, and parking in the smallest of spaces were all grist to the Peugeot's mill. There's a bit of character to that engine and unlike most reasonably priced mounts, its sharp looks and that instantly recognisable badge attracted friendly pavement conversations.
All that said, my preference is always for a more conventional bike for its better handling, and for anything with a sidestand - as I live on a hill sufficiently steep to render even the best-balanced centrestand set-up (and this one's super-easy to use) somewhat awkward.
If Peugeot's gamble of punters after a scooter works, expect a 150cc version to join the local ranks.