Once again, the Vespa appears to be the design inspiration for the Korean manufacturer's People 150. The housing for this air-cooled single is rounded, its coloring a pleasant sherbet green. The finish just isn't as nice or as consistent as those of its competitors. Kymco has been selling scooters in the U.S. for eight years. It offers seven different model families and six different displacements, from 499 to 49 cc, but the scoots in its socialist-sounding People lineup are its bestsellers.
At 152 cc, the People 150 is legal on the freeway, but I don't recommend taking it there. I found it more than a little unsettling, especially on grooved pavement where the tires danced around trying to find their line. The People is equipped with large, 16-inch wheels front and back, but the tires' treads are just one step up from a bicycle. Skinny.
So is the under-seat storage area, which was the smallest of the minis I tested. A half helmet or purse is pretty much all that will fit.
The Maxis: 400-650 cc
2008 Yamaha Majesty: Best for . . . living large while protecting the pocketbook.
The Majesty is the largest of Yamaha's six scooters, which explains its name. But compared with the rest of the Japanese mega-scooters on the market, it's a minimalist. The Majesty got the best mileage of the maxis I tested (60 mpg), and it was also the cheapest ($5,899).
At 395 cc, it was the smallest displacement of the three maxis. It wasn't as quick off the line as its larger competitors, but I didn't find it lacking for overall speed. The Majesty's single cylinder cruised comfortably at 80 mph.
The main reason buyers choose a maxi over a mini is size and power. For one thing, their ride won't be as easily dwarfed by surrounding traffic. And larger folk are more likely to gravitate toward a maxi because they won't dwarf their ride. I found the Majesty's cockpit to be spacious enough for my 34-inch-inseam legs, but of the maxis I tested it had the least legroom.
Storagewise, all three maxis offered comparable space; the Majesty's 16-gallon, under-seat storage area was different in that it had two sections that flowed together rather than one cavernous space.
In its bargain-basement, stock version, the Majesty is a good, all-around, no-frills maxi-scooter. It can be souped up for touring or errand running with various after-market extras, but each accessory adds to the price.
Being Japanese, of course, those accessories don't cost much. Adding a grocery-
capable top case, for example, will increase the Majesty's price by $280, but still keep it almost $2,500 below the next-largest Japanese maxi on the market.
2008 Honda Silver Wing ABS: Best for . . . a safety-conscious and smooth ride.
With each bump up in displacement, maxi-scooters don't just get a boost in power but a little more storage space and leg room, as well as a larger complement of features. Such was the case with the 582 cc Silver Wing, which was equipped with antilock brakes. In my opinion, the additional $500 premium for this safety feature is well worth the money since many people who are making the move to scooters may be new to two wheels.
I found the Silver Wing to be a great all-arounder. The 29.7-inch saddle was only marginally lower than the other maxis I tested, but it felt the shortest. And the suspension was the most adept at soaking up the bumps. It was well balanced and nimble enough for street commuting but also stable and comfortable at freeway speeds. I was especially impressed by the tall and narrow windshield, which flowed the air so I felt like I was getting a slight push from behind.
The down side to the added power and the additional bells and whistles of a larger maxi such as the Silver Wing is that you're hauling some extra weight, which tends to reduce fuel efficiency. Even so, the Silver Wing's fuel economy was a respectable 46 mpg.
No luggage is available for the Silver Wing, but there's about 15 gallons of roomy, under-seat storage and a pair of cubbies in the front shield.
2008 Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive: Best for . . . the comforts of a car on two wheels.