Being proved wrong is almost never a nice feeling but this case is the exception. When we first saw the racy Aprilia SR 150 at the 2016 Auto Expo, we instantly assumed it would be positioned above the Vespa 150. With that badge and those looks, how could it not? But Aprilia sprung one of the nicest surprises of 2016 by announcing the SR 150's sensational Rs 65,000 ex-showroom price. Now, we've had a couple of hours with the scooter and can answer the all important question: Does the SR 150 live up to the hype?
Visually, it's a clean knock out of the park. This is an awesome looking scooter, one that won't be out of place dicing its way through the streets of Milan. The design is edgy, sharp and unique in a great way. Aside for the mirrors, there are very few extrusions in the design. The footpegs fold away into the bodywork, and even the front brake oil reservoir is neatly recessed into the cowl.
What immediately grabs the attention up front is the big 14-inch tyre wrapped around a gorgeous wheel, easily the best looking in the business. The wheel is sprung by a pair of telescopic forks that look a bit spindly but then you remind yourself this is just a 150cc scooter. The main headlamp is housed in the fairing and the SR 150 uses DC lighting. It has separate 35/35W bulbs for low and high beam. Both do not come on simultaneously, but illumination in the dark is quite good. Housed in the top cowl are the indicator lamps. Facing the rider is a simple analogue gauge that features a speedo with kmph and mph read-outs, an odometer and a fuel gauge. It's easy to read, but the spartan layout gives you the feeling that the money was saved for more important bits. Plastic quality and fit and finish are up to the mark, and there are no glaring cheap areas. For the price, you couldn't ask for more. If I were to nitpick, the mirrors could show more. There's also no brake lock clasp.
The riding position is pretty traditional and you sit as you would on any other scooter. Unlike the Vespas, the SR 150 has a fully flat floor with two recesses in the front to house your feet. I'm 6ft-1inch tall and fit on it comfortably without any issues of my knees fouling with the handlebar. In fact, short riders will find it a bit tall. A friend who's 5ft-4inch tall says he found himself on his toes at a standstill. The seat is firm but my bigger issue is that it slopes, which gets uncomfortable and should take some getting used to. Underneath it lies a decently sized stowage space as well as the fuel-filler cap.
A range of accessories is planned to launch along with the scooter and among these will be a USB charging socket. The rear section is also well executed with grab rails that fit within the body work. I only wish the exhaust didn't hide the lovely rear wheel. I'd also probably hack half the rear fender off as soon as possible. The SR 150 comes in a white/black/red and a grey/black/red colour combination. Both feature the wild graphics scheme that makes this scooter such a standout. To my eyes, this is both the most unique and the best looking scooter on sale in India today.
Thumb the starter and the SR 150 starts with a familiar thrummy note. This isn't unusual because the Aprilia borrows the 154.4cc engine from the Vespa. The air-cooled single engine makes the same 11.6PS and 11.5Nm at identical rpms, and it is also carburetted. For the SR 150, Aprilia has tweaked the engine. Aprilia won't say how, but we assume it involves changes to gearing among other things. Whatever it has done, the result is a much more eager and responsive feeling engine.
The motor is peppy at low speeds and gets to 80kmph with the same ease it takes most scooters to get to 60. Even at 90kmph, the sense of acceleration doesn't back off and I saw 110kmph on one long stretch. I have no doubt that with enough room, you should be able to max out the 120kmph rated speedo. That's amazing performance for a scooter, but what really impresses is how smooth and stress-free the engine is at high speeds. There are some vibrations at idle, but it quickly smoothes out at speed. This scooter has enough poke for quick overtakes in city and even highway cruising shouldn't be too painful.
What we were most eager to see, however, was how the 14-inch wheels boosted handling. It quickly becomes apparent that this Aprilia has great stability, both in a straight line and around corners. Despite the larger wheels, turn-in is very quick, and by feathering the rear brake, you can carry some serious speeds through the bends. Overall, the wheels give it a sense of confidence that other scooters would be very jealous of.
While the SR 150 uses plastic bodywork against the metal-bodied Vespa, SR 150 actually works out to be about 2kg heavier than its sibling at 122kg. That's fairly hefty for a scoot, but the Aprilia masks its weight incredibly well and you'd never guess it weighs so much. In fact, at no time does it come across as heavy or unwieldy at all.
Also contributing to the SR 150's exciting handling is its suspension set-up. Ride quality is on the firmer side, but it feels more motorcycle than scooter and doesn't crash through bumps like many scooters tend to do. The front forks don't bottom out on potholes, and while you can't call the ride plush, its firmness has a sense of purpose that makes it understandable. Without this set-up, the SR 150 wouldn't handle the way it does, and I believe that Aprilia has found a reasonable balance between handling and comfort, handling being the priority. At no point did any of us feel that the ride quality was a deal-breaker, but everyone agreed that it was fairly firm.
Special mention must be made of the brakes. The 220mm front Bybre disc is larger than the Vespa's and offers much more bite and power but with a progressive feel. Ham-fisted riders will lock up the front, but I found that combined use with the rear drum produces exceptional stopping performance, easily the best in the business. The grippy Vee Rubber tyres from Thailand (no one currently makes this size in India) definitely contribute here. Aprilia is looking to localise the tyres shortly, and hopefully they will be able to offer similar performance.
The Aprilia SR 150 is a superb scooter. It looks brilliant and offers performance way above any of its rivals. What truly amazes though is its price. The Rs 65,000 ex-showroom tag is introductory, but we don't expect it to go up by much more than Rs 5-7 thousand. Even then, it makes great value. The SR 150 will be retailed out of Vespa showrooms and Piaggio Motoplexes across the country, and the scooter should be launched in the next 20 days with deliveries starting soon after that. We can't wait to run our full range of tests on it, but I can already tell you this - the SR 150 is an awesome scooter.
Images by Anis Shaikh