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2009 Aprilia Sportcity 250 i.e.

February 12th, 2009 · No Comments

SCOOTERS HAVE ENJOYED a resurgence in the last few months, due to record gas prices. As a result, Piaggio’s scooter sales in 2008 have grown more than 90% over last year’s, according to a company spokesman. FYI, the Piaggio Group owns Aprilia, Vespa and naturally the Piaggio scooter brands. The Sportcity 250 i.e. rounds out the middle of Aprilia’s six-scooter lineup in the US. It has several features that make it well-disposed to commuting, including lots of torque across the low end of the powerband, a comfy seat with a no-slip texture and larger wheels than most scooters for greater stability.

The Sportcity is powered by a four-valve SOHC 244cc single, and is among the first scooters to use electronic fuel injection to clean exhaust emissions and improve mileage. With its continuously variable transmission (CVT), all you have to do is twist the throttle and go. But this simplicity takes a bit of getting used to if you’re like us and are accustomed to a motorcycle with a manual transmission. We quickly learned to never grab a handful of “clutch” when it felt like it was time to shift or slow, since on this machine, the left handlebar lever is the rear brake!

The little scooter is fairly light at just 357 lbs. wet, so its modest power gives plenty of pep, maintaining a steady pace even going up steep grades. The bike’s torque curve builds in a linear manner until it peaks at 12.71 lb.-ft. @ 6750, which is where the CVT likes to keep the engine rpm, smoothly and automatically changing ratios to match the road speed. But there is a limit, and the power begins to fade at about 60 mph indicated. On surface streets, this limited capability is fine, but on the highway, it often struggles to keep up with high-speed traffic.

The Sportcity handles surprisingly well, and it is actually quite flickable, bending quickly into smooth corners, thanks to its 15″ wheels and motorcycle-like steering geometry (25.5° of rake and 3.7″ of trail). But its underdamped suspension limits the amount of fun you can have on a bumpy canyon road, as it allows the scooter to continually bounce through the corners—which does nothing for your sense of control. The bouncy suspension is probably due in part to the machine’s rear-biased weight distribution (40.7% front and 59.3% rear unladen). Its short suspension travel doesn’t help either: a skimpy 3.2″ rear, front only 3.9″. And the feet-forward riding posture means that you can’t lift yourself up on the pegs to help cushion an impending big bump—although perhaps you could learn to stand on the passenger pegs, which fold up almost directly under the rider’s seat. Another gripe: The narrow front tire with its circumferential siping seemed to enjoy tracking rain grooves on the freeway, and pavement seams posed an even bigger chal- lenge, especially when they ran at a shallow angle to the lane. However, the Sportcity’s double-disc front brakes are strong and easy to modulate, even from high speed. Plus, the hand-operated rear brake can be used very sensitively, once you’ve adapted to the design.

The step-through layout demands an upright seating position, which feels natural, with one’s arms extended a comfortable distance to the handlebars. If it weren’t for the shocks delivered by the weak rear suspension over poor roads and the lack of wind protection, it would remain comfortable. It fit our 5′6″ tester well, but much taller riders may find the ergonomics a bit cramped. Our tester found that despite the 31.6″ seat height and her short inseams, getting her foot on the ground was not difficult, due to the slim profile of the front of the seat.

The instruments are very readable, with a huge analog speedo and large digital clock. It also has a fuel gauge and a coolant temp gauge—but during our time with it, we did not find the fuel gauge accurate. After 80 miles, using a little over half of the tank’s 2.4-gal. capacity, the gauge was still showing the scooter’s tank as full. However, the low fuel light is supposed to come on when the rider has reached the reserve level of 0.4 gal. It did, at about 140 miles, which is just about right. Two tripmeters, an odometer, and battery voltage round out the instruments. The usual idiot lights for high beam, turnsignals and oil pressure are included, along with a useful service reminder light and a check engine light

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