A&R’s EICMA 2012 Best in Show: Vespa 946

11/16/2012 @ 5:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

It is no easy feat in picking the very “best” from a wide array of motorcycles, like we have to do here with the 2012 EICMA motorcycle show in Milan, Italy. How do you compare an adventure-touring bike to a sport bike, and then declare one better than the other? As you can imagine, the comparison is very much an exercise in measuring apples to oranges.

If our metric of choice was simply based on how much buzz was generated here on Asphalt & Rubber, and on the various social media networks as a whole, then the clear winner would be the KTM 1290 Super Duke R Prototype. With a bored-out RC8 R motor that makes 180hp, the KTM surely performs as good as it look, and it looks quite delectable indeed.

Maybe the best bike of the show should go to the now water-cooled Ducati Hypermotard, or its touring variant the Ducati Hyperstrada. Doing away with the air-cooled DesmoDue design of Pierre Terblanche, the 2013 Hypers are a new chapter for Ducati, and just further proof that there are no sacred cows in the Borgo Panigale factory. Speaking of Panigales, we also have to consider the Ducati 1199 Panigale R, of course if that conversation is to occur, then we have to also include the Aprilia RSV4 Factory ABS.

You see it is no easy feat to pick the “Best in Show” at EICMA, and in even our short thought-process above, there are names that are glaringly omitted. What makes the process possible however is when a new model comes along, and clearly outshines everything else — such is the case with the Vespa 946.

A nod to the WWII-era Vespa MP6, it might not be hyperbole to say that the Vespa 946 has the dubious honor of having to build off one of the most iconic scooters to come out of Italy, and maybe even the world. That being said, the lines of the Vespa 946 are a nice blend of the MP6’s style, with a firm touch on the modern — this isn’t a modern take on an old design, but more of a modern design that gives appropriate credit to its predecessors.

Even this hardened sport-biker can’t help but enjoy the aesthetic that the Vespa 946 brings to the table, but it is the technical bits that sets the Vespa 946 truly apart. A true steel monocoque chassis designed with aluminum accents, the Vespa 946 has as much technical prowess as it has visual appeal. So, it makes it only more interesting that a bike with an 11hp motor should tickle our performance-oriented fancy so intently.

Using a 125cc, four-stroke, three-valve, single-cylinder engine design, the Vespa 946 is good for nearly 130mpg, making it a very practical choice for the urban commuter. Lighting is produced by a full-LED headlight system, a major new trend in the motorcycle industry, and our first glimpse of the technology on a Piaggio Group product. However, the real-game changer here is the Vespa’s inclusion of ABS brakes and an ASR traction control system on the Vespa 946 — the first adaptation of those technologies in this class of scooter.

A beautiful, efficient, cost-effective, and safety oriented machine for zipping around the city, it is hard not to make grandiose claims about how the Vespa 946 will change the urban-commuting landscape. Pricing will be key of course, as the Italian brand has often commanded a premium when compared to the more competitive options from Japan. However, out of all the new models we saw at EICMA this year, the Vespa 946 has the potential to bring the most change to the motorcycle industry.

It raises the bar significantly in the scooter segment by offering maxi-scooter features at the traditional scooter level. Additionally, the new Vespa also brings an appropriate design aesthetic that is universally appealing. However most importantly, the Vespa 946 has the greatest potential to bring mainstream appeal back to two-wheeled vehicles.

The most likely candidate for the motorcycle we will still be talking about a decade from now, the Vespa 946 isn’t built for motorcyclists to enjoy by either show-stopping performance or advanced technical specificatoins. It is a scooter built to woo the average citizen with product lust and common sense. More importantly, it is proof that the motorcycle industry can sell cool again to the mainstream.

Source: Piaggio Group

  • Sean in Oz

    That’ll look UGLY with a top box on it!

    Will the style trump the loss of practicality in the marketplace?

  • JoeD

    Will it be able to overcome the stigma associated with Scooters in general?

  • Does it matter?

  • Doctor Jelly

    I’m torn between agreeing with you because it is aesthetically pleasing and appeals to my sensible side, and ranting about how it’s still a scooter and the Duke is a stomping BMF!

  • Good choice. Beautiful aesthetics.

  • jackie

    Hear hear. That’s a beautiful little rolling piece of art.

  • pooch

    Much as I don’t like the fact a Scooter took out best in show…. that looks like a little jewel.

    Bet it looks really awesome in the flesh.

  • MikeD

    Best in show… ? NAH (i can’t get over the crappy choice of wheel design it ended with), too much RETRO-ness is not cool with me…

    I would rather slap that title on the MG California or the SuperDuke 1290R Concept (that everyone here thought it was a single on crack, LMAO).

  • David

    How in the hell can this be best in show without the required HOT CHICK posing next to it?

  • Russ

    Having owned a motorcycle and currently a Honda Elite 110 scooter, I can tell you that my ENTIRE decision to purchase a scooter was based on practicality. I can fit about 4 bags of groceries inside, on top of, and in the footwell of that Honda, and I get about 95mpg. It is a beast for errands in the urban environment that I live. Unfortunately, even though this Vespa may beat the crap out of my Honda in the styling department, it doesn’t even come close in practicality. A true scooter rider will tell you that this Vespa would be as worthless as tits on a boar. You might as well get a crotch-rocket.

  • Russ

    I would also like to add that since this scooter is 125cc, it is technically a motorcycle and not a moped, and thus, in most states you have to park it like a car and not a bicycle. Can someone please explain to me who will buy this? I bet the price will be about $2900, which is more expensive and has less practicality than just about everyone else. I wouldn’t be so down on this scooter if the author of this article wasn’t basing his entire decision on his opinion that this will bring the masses to the motorcycle industry…because it won’t. It will bring the once-a-month, “look at me, I’m urban-chic” wannabes who wobble around on two wheels and make the road more dangerous for the rest of us. Period.

  • KSW

    I have to agree on this one. As it has the same storage as 90% of motorcycles made that doesn’t bother me, got back pack? College kids do and adults do to especially all over the world. IF you have a car for shopping and need a stylish hip way around for lunch with friends, visiting a friend, a meeting in an urban environment this thing works and well. I don’t see LEO’s walking up to check and see if the scooter taking up the same space on the sidewalk as a bicycle is more than 50cc. I also see quite a few MadAss 125’s in my travels and they have equal storage.

    Form really does draw in customers even those whom just never liked scooter style and this puts them over the edge to buy. Ladies and gents, there are 80 year old’s in Asia and all over the world who could out ride you and your motorcycle on that scooter in an urban environment.

    When it comes to unique styling beyond a new plastic wrapping on the same old thing this is much more than a HyperMotard with new plastics and headlight. That new Mini is really doing horrible in the market place, Not.

  • This is beautiful, just fantastic.

    HOWEVER – Where is the storage?…. :-(

  • Gutterslob

    I’m curious. What’s this stigma some of you refer to. In the circles I keep, everyone loves scooters. Heck, some of my friends keep a sccoter as a second bike, partly for the convenience, but also because they can be downright fun without having you break any speeding laws.

    As for this Vespa; I think it looks alright. Maybe not as practicle as some others, but definitely nippy.

  • meatspin

    its a nice looking scooter. I’d love to own one.

    there is a stigma here for scooters, as DWI drivers who have their license taken away have to ride em. Google “liquor cycles”.

    most scooter people i see are either younger people or people who need subsistence transportation. As a motorcyclist, I can understand the passion for riding thing, but I dont meet too many of those types of riders.

  • TexusTim

    um..theres not much storage I guess you wear a backpack…Id RATHER HAVE A 125 enduro with a rack on the back,lights and street tires…that might cost less and be more universal …gravel road if you need to…just more practical than a little scooter…. the little thing might good for college kids that live in a dorm near school and work.

  • TexusTim

    but why in heck do you even need traction controll on an 11 hp bike..cmon thats a gimmick abs maybe but even thats a bit overblown.

  • Wet man hole covers come to mind.

  • AGP

    Complaining about the storage is completely missing the point of this machine.

    The original Vespa didn’t have any storage. What it had was a shield to protect the rider from the elements, a seated position that allowed women to ride in a dress (yes, this was very important in post WW2 Italy), it was frugal, reliable and easy to maneuver on the mostly unpaved roads of the war ravaged country. There were no helmets, so underseat storage for one was not a necessity. Amenities such as a storage box under the handlebars came later.

    This is a show bike, a tribute to the iconic original and its aesthetic and historical significance, and as such it is just about perfect.

    helmets were non existent (hence no need for under seat storage for it)… The original was a revolution in post WW2 Italy because it provided simple, affordable transportation while allowing the legs to be protected by the full shield, women to ride in a dress (yes, it was important at the time),

  • AGP

    Sorry about the messed up and duplicated paragraph – my iPad must have been acting up. :)

  • MikeD


    WRONG…this is no show machine. This is the final product. People will get what they see here…hopefully.

  • Mr.Truth

    Errrrrrrrr, WRONG!

    Best of the show was the new MV Agusta Rivale 800, AND RIGHTLY SO!