Piaggio MP3 350 Scooter Review - Different Kind of Triple
Piaggio’s MP3 three-wheeler has been around since 2006 and it has gained itself quite a following. One could even argue Yamaha has fallen a little bit in love with it or at least the idea of a three-wheeled commuter. Its TriCity has done well in the sales game and the Niken is hitting Kiwi roads now in a bid to bring three-wheeled goodness to the performance area.
Since ‘06, Piaggio has updated and beefed up the MP3, giving it a larger 330cc single-cylinder engine and an increase in physical size. That means even more stability in the front end, more space for the rider and passenger and a storage area beneath the seat large enough to fit a couple of bags of groceries. There’s also a large windscreen to keep the bugs out of your teeth, a glovebox with a USB charging point and soft-touch materials in front of your knees.
Even better, you can register the MP3 as a car and avoid paying the hefty motorcycle rego fees. You still need a helmet, though, and you can’t use bus lanes.
Keeping with the powerplant briefly, the increase in size means more power and torque, up now to 22.5kW and 29Nm. Paired with a CTV transmission motorway cruising is easy. I saw well over the legal odds before my nerves overpowered my throttle hand but the MP3 didn’t feel too bothered by the higher speeds.
That’s largely due to the added stability of two wheels up front, both of them of the standard 13-inch variety. That means they use normal scooter tyres, no bespoke rubber needed here. The grip they offer is uncanny - it took about ten minutes of riding for me to get used to the different front-end feel. But when you get there and you get the confidence, the MP3 is startlingly good. It’s not that the MP3 is hard to ride, it’s more a matter of convincing yourself the extra grip is there.
I got so confident that I really took my life in my own hands and rode one wheel over one of those normally-lethal metal drain covers on the road. Lo, the MP3 barely blinked. It’s easier to liken riding the thing to a car without a roof or doors. You’ve still got the thrill of open-air riding but the added security of twice as much front-end grip.
Braking is handled by ABS-infused single-piston calipers biting on petal-style discs up front, with a single disc at the rear. They work well, too, operated, as is usual for a scooter, by the left and right levers. Unusually, there’s also a pedal at your right foot which engages all brakes the MP3 has to bring you to a halt quickly. It’s kind of a panic button in truth. The pedal has some initial resistance that makes it better suited to a heavy stomp than delicate feathering. When someone pulls a surprise U-turn in front of you, you’ll be grateful it’s there. Don’t ask how I know.
The party trick of the MP3 is its suspension system. We already know how it allows for big front-end grip and feel but it can also completely lock out at the flick of a switch, negating the need for a sidestand. You can hit the switch at low speeds before a set of lights, keeping your feet off the ground as you coast to a halt. A dab of throttle releases the suspension lockout and permits normal riding again.
It’s an eye-catcher of a scooter, with that brawny front end and long wheelbase. Personally, I quite like it, although some may find it a bit alien. The extra wheel also makes the scooter wider than normal, which can reduce lane-splitting effectiveness somewhat.
However the biggest hurdle the MP3, as with Niken, is the price. A brand new 350 will set you back $14,990, which is a big ask for a scooter. But, for those who want a quick, luxurious and large scooter with an additional layer of safety as well as an easy talking point at parties, the MP3 is a class act.
Don’t care for the third wheel but still want in on the megascooter game? Aprilia offers the SRV850, a barnstormer of a superscooter powered by a 56kW/76Nm 839cc V-twin for $15,990. BMW has the C 400X with a similar powerplant to the MP3 for $14,490, and Suzuki will sell you the parallel-twin-fed Burgman 650 for $15,995.