Vespa GTS 300 HPE review: Scoot ahead

Vespa GTS 300 in Singapore

The GTS 300 HPE is the most powerful Vespa around. Put a bandy wristed writer on top of one, and hilarity ensures…

SINGAPORE  — There are a hundred reasons to ride a Vespa (comfort, turn-on-a-penny maneuverability, having something to match your ACF Fiorentina jersey and so on) but performance probably isn’t one of them.

Ah, but here comes the GTS Supertech 300 HPE to re-wire our perception of Vespas, along with our general perception of space and time.

There’s been a GTS 300 before, but the “HPE” bit makes all the difference here. In typically straightforward Italian fashion, it stands for High Performance Engine, which is a bit modest seeing as to how this is the most powerful Vespa ever.

Come to think of it, maybe some modesty is in order, after all. You get a mighty 23.8 horsepower and 26 Newton-metres of peak torque from the 278cc single cylinder that thrums away under your backside, which is itself perched on top of a new seat with firm padding.

That might not sound like a lot of oomph, but it’s 12 percent and 18 percent more than before respectively. The HPE uses less fuel, too, averaging a claimed 31km per litre (instead of 29.4km/L).

For the extra hp sauce you can thank a new piston design, along with a revised cylinder head — the cam profile is different, the cam followers have rollers for less friction, and the intake and exhaust ports are wider, so the valves are 3mm bigger. 

But never mind what’s on paper. In practice the GTS 300 is a blast to ride, with an eagerness to get going that’s almost playful, sort of like what would happen if you took a cheetah and hypnotised it into thinking it was a puppy.

Twist the throttle, and the Vespa leaps into action with a suddenness that can catch you out, especially when all that torque makes the front wheel pop up for a tiny moment.

Adding to the hilarity is the fact that, if you keep the throttle pinned, the Vespa has you at three-figure speeds in no time, banishing your rivals in the traffic light grand prix to the round mirrors.

People think owning a Porsche or Lambo is a sure way to lose your licence, but it seems to me you’re just as likely to end up in the soup if you ride a GTS 300. It’s so infectiously lively that you’re bound to try it on, every chance you get.

Maybe one of the things that will help keep you honest is the electronic speedo. In Supertech spec (a S$500 option) as tested here the Vespa comes with a 4.3-inch TFT display that’s actually pretty easy to read, both at night and in bright sunlight.

You’ll be able to see your speed clearly and dial things back accordingly, but the real benefit is that it enables a bunch of connectivity features via Bluetooth and a companion app on your phone.

A tiny thumb-operated joystick lets you execute simple commands for the trip computer, but if you have a helmet intercom you can also operate your phone (the Vespa’s screen lets you see who’s calling), read texts (though why you’d want to while riding is anyone’s guess) and Spotify yourself to your heart’s content.

Check out our quick run-down of the VespaMia connectivity features!

There are also displays on the app that let you peek at your Vespa’s performance and fuel consumption, keep track of service appointments and so on.

All that connectivity on the Vespa is fine, but really, the enjoyment comes from riding the thing.

There’s nothing quite as zippy as a scooter, and the GTS 300 doesn’t disappoint there, pulling off single-lane U-turns and fast direction changes with ease. The saddle isn’t actually that low to the ground, but the Vespa itself is light enough that it’s a breeze to shove around in the car park and keep upright at a red light.

The wheels are still pretty small (12”) so if there’s a pothole looming you’d best use the maneuverability to swoop around it, and the bar stool riding position sometimes feels a bit precarious on the highway, but the Vespa is otherwise a lovely place to sit. 

In typical Vespa fashion it’s also handy, with a glove compartment that I literally used to stow my riding gloves (above), a nice bag hook that you can use to take curry with you, and some underseat storage.

You won’t get a full face helmet into the compartment under the saddle, alas, which is probably why you always see Vespas with a top box.

On the less traditional side of things, the headlight is now a super bright LED (below), the way the transmission works is noticeably smoother than before, and there’s even traction control and ABS (both standard), both of which are worthwhile safety features.

It’s nice to see that you can update a classic without veering from its essential appeal, and overall the GTS 300 HPE is a lovely example of how Vespa has kept the Italian scoot fresh but faithful. Add that to the many reasons to ride one.

Vespa GTS 300 Connected
EEngine 278cc, 4V, single cylinder
Power 23.8hp at 8,250rpm
Torque 26Nm at 5,250rpm
Gearbox Continuously Variable Transmission
Top Speed 125km/h (estimated)
Seat Height  790mm 
Agent Mah Pte Ltd 
Price S$12,238.05 without COE
Available Now

Think you need a big adventure bike to explore the world? Juvena Huang — hero to us all — did it on a Vespa!

about the author

Leow Ju-Len
Leow Ju-Len is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 23 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.