With Auckland’s roads becoming more congested and public transport not an option for many, people are considering downsizing to something smaller, more manoeuvrable and much quicker to get around on.
Piaggio has always had a way of making interesting alternative forms of transport. Take the Ape, for instance. It has three wheels and a big tray, and for a long time it has been the cheap, easy, workhorse of Italy. Fast forward a few years from when the Ape first broke cover and we have this, the MP3 Yourban 300, a three-wheeled scooter which, despite its name, doesn’t play music.
Now you may be thinking, why would I want to go through the rigmarole of getting a motorcycle licence to ride a motorway-capable scooter?
And here’s the answer: any everyday office worker can ride to work on his or her regular car licence.
The MP3, like its similar yet smaller competitor the Yamaha Tricity, doesn’t require a motorcycle licence to operate, which makes it worth the $11,990 price tag. You might normally expect a three-wheeled vehicle to look like the tricycle that a certain famous Scottish comedian is known for touring round on. The MP3, however, is a tricycle in reverse. Because its two wheels are at the front, rather than the rear, it sits in a legislative grey area. It is not a motorcycle, not a car, and not a scooter.
This leaves its registration in the hands of the beholder.
Powering the MP3 is a 287cc water-cooled single cylinder engine that produces a respectable 16.7 kW.
While this doesn't sound like a lot, it is more than adequate to propel the MP3 to motorway speeds with ease.
A CVT transmission takes care of transferring power to the rear wheel so, unlike a motorcycle, you don’t have a set of gears to worry about while riding the MP3. This ensures the engine is running at the optimal rpm while providing the rider with an ease of use most motorcyclists can only dream of.
Under the seat is a large, lockable, storage box that is large enough to store a full face helmet and riding gear, or the weekly shop for a small household.
Piaggio says that it will accommodate two open-face helmets too, if taking a passenger is on the cards.
One of the MP3’s party pieces is the high tech front suspension. Unlike a conventional scooter, which has suspension more like a motorcycle, the MP3 has essentially a set of single-sided trailing arms linked by a set of alloy arms.
This tricky system mimics the Macpherson style suspension we’re most used to in a car, yet allows the lean and counter steering of a regular scooter. While it sounds complicated, the reality is that the MP3 is easy to ride and incredibly stable.
Even in the wet, the two front wheels provide excellent stability and make for a confidence-inspiring ride, exactly what novice riders need.
A cool bonus to the three-wheel setup is a mechanism which can lock the front suspension in place under 11km/h or at a stop. All it takes is the flick of a switch on the right handlebar.
This means that the MP3 can be stopped in traffic lights without the need for you to put your feet down and balance the bike for long light phases. Whatever officialdom decides to call it, vehicles such as the MP3 that are easily accessible and cheaper than a car provide one of the more practical answers to Auckland’s traffic woes.
Best of all they’re fun, in stark contrast to sitting in a car by yourself for hours each day.
PIAGGIO MP3 YOURBAN
278cc single cylinder, 4-stroke
Can be ridden on a car licence, can do 100km/h easy