• May 27th 2008 at 8:26PM
  • 18
Click above for high-res gallery of the Piaggio MP3 400 and 500

Piaggio's unique MP3 scooter, with its two wheels in front and one in back, has been turning heads since its introduction as a 250cc model a few years ago. After getting the chance to ride the latest 400cc and 500cc versions, we can confirm that it still causes its fair share of rubber-neckers. As automotive drivers, we wondered if Piaggio's entry into the growing maxi-scooter segment could be a viable car alternative for some consumers, and as motorcycle riders, we wondered how those two-front wheels would feel as we chucked it into some bendy-roads. We found all we wanted to know and more after two days worth of driving through both downtown New York City and the surrounding rural roadways all the way into Connecticut. Read on past the jump to see what we thought.

We'll get to the riding impressions in a bit; first let's take a walkaround. One major aspect to consider when deciding how practical a scooter will be is storage. The overall usefulness of the vehicle can be greatly impacted if there is not enough room for your objects. Consider, too, if there is a specific place to keep a helmet when you dismount the machine. In the case of the Piaggio MP3, the 400 and 500 versions offer differing takes on the storage conundrum. The 400 would be the obvious choice if you don't want to add any extra cases to your mount, as its under-seat space is ample for most helmets. If more room is needed, topcases are available for both the 400 and 500 models. The 250, which is the original model from Piaggio, offers just as much room as the 400, so keep that in mind when shopping.

How about wind protection? Both models come from Italy with a full front legshield and a small wind deflector. This proves adequate for around-town riding, but expect to feel a bit wind-blown at high speeds. Two optional windscreens were fitted to our test models, one of which looks much like the alien-head from the classic movie franchise. Though odd looking, the touring screen proved the most adept at creating a bubble in which to ride. That large screen also did wonders when we encountered a small patch of rain. The smaller optional screen also did a fine job of deflecting the wind, bugs and road debris that makes hard contact with your person when riding on the highways without a screen. A full-face helmet would be a wise addition if you plan to ride sans-screen.

Piaggio has seen fit to offer two distinct looks for the MP3. The orignal 250's appearance is carried-over to the new 400 model, which the mad-max style from the Euro-only Gilera 500 comes over intact on the 500. We favored the 500's appearance, to be honest, and we also preferred its onboard computer to the 400's. The 500 also offers more options when it comes to the good ole bungee, as its exposed metal frame features plenty of places to attach to. We detected a bit more mirror-shake from the 500, though both models were fairly decent for their 360-degree view. We preferred the instruments from the 500 as well. Either model garners plenty of attention from passers-by, so those who don't like attention might want to look elsewhere.

It's the ride that proved the most enlightening feature of the MP3. We got the chance to hop on the original 250 for a brief spin... to be honest, it proved plenty powerful, even on the highway. The 500cc engine offers noticeably more grunt than the 400, so if passing power is your priority, the choice is pretty easy. The 400 proved to be a tweener model in our eyes, as the 250 offers just as much practicality along with a bit more fuel efficiency. The 500 gets around 60 mpg. This section could be titled, "How I learned to stop worrying and trust the front-end." Those riders used to a single contact patch in the front may find some trepidation when it comes to leaning the MP3 deep into a corner. We found that there is no need to worry, as the deep scrapes from the center stand will attest to. Contact with the pavement from hard-parts proved extremely easy, though there is plenty of lean-angle. Another benefit to the dual front wheels appears when braking. We had no trouble at all locking up the rear brake, but it's the front set that delivers the real stopping power. As with most two-wheelers, braking through corners makes the MP3 want to "stand up," so set your pace before the entry point and power out the other end. We had a great deal of fun with this approach, and the MP3 does nothing but inspire confidence. When rolling to a stop, a button press on the right handgrip allows the MP3 to lock into an upright position.

In the end, the pick of the litter would have to be the 500. Though it offers slightly less storage, it makes up for this shortcoming with adequate power and great looks. We'd recommend adding a topcase to the rear and would also consider an optional windshield for touring use, though a full-face helmet would likely be enough for most circumstances. We can think of no better scooters for around town errand running, for the commute to work or for past riders looking to rejoin the world of two-wheelers (ok, three-wheelers). Nobody missed the MP3s on the roadways, as their size and unique presence makes them highly visible. As with all scooters and motorcycles, though, be sure to get the proper training and always gear-up with a good helmet and riding apparel. When ridden properly and under the right circumstances, the Piaggio MP3 seems to offer a compelling alternative to the maxi-scooter norm and even midsize motorcycles.

Our travel and lodging for this media event was provided by the manufacturer.

I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.

    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      that is the meanest best looking scooter ive ever seen. it looks like a smaller version of an ATV and it looks like it would be fun to zip around on.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Today i took my 1st test ride on a mp3 500! Vary nice ride!
      If they would have had one for sale, They would have made a sale!.
      The salesman didn't know when they would get more in.

      I'll try next year!.

      Missoula mt.

      • 7 Years Ago
      Luke, how ignorant of a comment.

      What next, they won't be able to pick up the bike if it falls over? I have sixty year old "little" women pick up a Goldwing. Its not size, its confidence. I have women friends who ride bikes I won't, like R1150GS ridden by a 5-4 young lady.

      What the MP3 gives is the ability to not worry about staying upright when stopped is good for anyone. If anything I think it opens the door to people with limited handicaps.

      Still considering the cost I would tell most people to just buy a used car. Not only will you be safer but I don't care how cool your bike looks, that guy in the rusty fairmont is drier in the rain and warmer in the winter than you'll ever be
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yes a car is generally safer thats obvious. But the MP3 is safer than any other 'bike'. I ride all year round and am bone dry & warm in all weather with the right gear. (Goretex and elec vest). My commute of 20 miles is half what it would take in a car. Running costs also significantly less.

        The handling and braking is confidence inspiring for begineers and fun for experienced bike riders.

        The 400 tops out at 140K or 85mph.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Okay, simple question for me is, does countersteering work?
      • 7 Years Ago
      I'm a woman in Canada and I have the 500. Awesome machine. Quality is evident. Yes it leans and coutersteets. It weighs nearly 500 pounds and the locking front suspension does help me maneuver when parking, etc. It's great in the rain - and snow tires are available. Maxes out at 89 mph (143 km/hr). Hope that answers the questions. Go take one for a test drive! :-)
      • 7 Years Ago
      Jason - countersteering works as normal, as with any two wheeler.

      • 6 Years Ago
      Picking up MP3 500 in a day or two and really hope this site shares a lot of "stuff" about the MP3s Never road a motorcycle so I think, from what I'm reading elsewhere, it is a little better learning curve since there isn't any "adjusting" from 2 wheels to MP3.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Dave, you will have a blast, but get plenty of parking lot time before hitting the neighborhood streets/traffic. While in some ways it may seem easier then a motorcycle but in other ways it is not. With a motorcycle each of your four limbs have to do something while maintaining balance. With the MP3 you have work both hands, balance, and pay attention to speed for the locking mechanism; but be prepared to put your feet out if the gadgets get confusing. I find the MP3 500 a lot of fun to ride but ride a Harley Fat Boy too. While riding a motorcycle is effortless to me; I find adjusting to the MP3 takes a couple minutes but in time it will be effortless; just different.
      • 7 Years Ago
      This is an obvious improvement for smaller people and people without much upper-body strength. Many women, for example, can't ride bikes that size because they can't hold them up when stopped.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Yo yo yo!!! What up out there ive been doing a lot of reading out there on how to make biofuels. To give yall a little background on my self i love cares an racing. To cut to the fat i live in the United States were Southern California to be exact. The price of fuels out here sucks azzz I mean this is some bull yo i wanna know the real facts about trying to make fuel bio fuel to be exact like ethanal our any kind of distilled fuel. Im tired of $100 dollar fillups every 4 days. Theres gotta be a better way yo plz email me with something. This is crazy its like i work just for my car. I had to get rid of the truck that was just a nightmare Plz Hlp.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Just by chance, I spent yesterday and today finding all of the information I could on the Mp3's. Talked to some locals who have owned the 250s for a while, and I think I am ready to head to one of the local dealers this weekend to get one myself. Might end up with 2, my stepfather wants one as well now hah.

      I am looking more at the 400, than the others. All I have talked to who own the 250 and have ridden a 400, say the 400 takes off a little slower on lights, but once you hit 30+ it shines. They also say it rides better on interstates here where the normal speed is 75-80 mph. I would have to ride on the interstate for long stretchs at a time(20-75miles) to get anywhere on a standard commute, but we have lots of back roads and twisties around that are popular with the motorcycles for just fun.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I'm a 65 year old male in north carolina and drive a 400. I can tell you, I drove for 45 years BMW's. After a hip-replacement i was unable to climb a regular motorcycle. So I bought th MP3 400. This was a good move. The only thing that I changed was a larger windscreen. I"m a happy camper.
      • 7 Years Ago
      @ editedby

      I think so too. But its engine size/vehicle weight and giving people what they want (powerful acceleration usually). A scooter like the Yamaha Zuma gets over 100mpg and a 250 bike like the Ninja or the Nighthawk claim around ~70mpg. Numbers like those should be what other manufacturers should be aiming for at the very least.
    • Load More Comments
    Share This Photo X