A scooter for the urban spaceman

Sleek, silver, smooth and agile: Aprilia's new Sport City 125 is a childhood dream come true for Tim Luckhurst
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Indy Lifestyle Online

SPECIFICATIONS
Model: Aprilia Sport City 125
Price: £2,099
Engine: Liquid-cooled, single-cylinder 124cc four-stroke
Maximum power: 15bhp at 9,500rpm
Maximum torque: 11Nm at 8,250rpm
Gearbox: Fully automatic
Brakes: 260mm front disc; 220mm rear disc

SPECIFICATIONS
Model: Aprilia Sport City 125
Price: £2,099
Engine: Liquid-cooled, single-cylinder 124cc four-stroke
Maximum power: 15bhp at 9,500rpm
Maximum torque: 11Nm at 8,250rpm
Gearbox: Fully automatic
Brakes: 260mm front disc; 220mm rear disc

When I was a very small boy, one of my fictional heroes was Kemlo, a boy from the future who lived on Satellite Belt K and served in the Space Scouts. Kemlo, the son of a rocket-ship captain, was determined to follow in his father's footsteps. He spent every spare moment riding his space scooter, a vehicle with limited performance but a delicious capacity to spark adventure. EC Eliott's novel, Kemlo and the Star Men, left the precise design characteristics of these intergalactic mopeds a little vague, but I was sure they were sleek, silver, smooth and agile.

The moment I saw the Aprilia Sport City 125, I fell childishly in love with it. It is, of course, just a scooter, one of dozens manufactured in Italy, which is, in addition to being the world capital of style, the land where scooters thrive. But among the little two-wheelers that whirr around Tuscan villages like wasps around treacle, the Sport City is distinctive. It is so modern and pretty I felt sure it must, in some time- warped way I cannot explain, be the mechanical forerunner of Kemlo's space scooter.

The version I rode came in mirror-silver. Aprilia also supply the scooter in "darkness black" and "titanic grey." Silver accentuates the modernity of the Sport City's looks to sublime effect. The chrome-edged leg shield and angled dual front headlights, borrowed from bigger, meaner motorcycles, conspire to make this little machine the epitome of urban chic.

Twist the throttle and the Sport City does not disappoint. Its 15bhp single-cylinder engine generates as much power as a "B" licence-holder is permitted, but if that makes it sound bland it comes as close as any 125cc machine can to escaping that fate. Acceleration from standstill is brisk. Instantly noticeable is the degree of comfort afforded by huge (by scooter standards) 15-inch wheels and high-profile tubeless tyres.

Few scooters are genuinely comfortable, certainly not to a 14st male. But this Aprilia comes close. The forks can travel 100mm to absorb the shocks delivered by manhole covers, cobbles and rutted roads. On 50 miles of rutted and patched carriageway in northern Italy I endured little discomfort. The twin disc brakes were reassuringly positive, even under heavy use.

The Sport City has inherited handling characteristics from Aprilia's larger sports bikes. The result is a scooter that can corner with confidence and keep up with traffic on open stretches of rural trunk road. No 125cc bike can be fast: the law no longer permits that. But the City Sport will bowl along at 55mph, even on slight up-slopes. Top speed is well over 60mph, even though the scooter takes 22 seconds to get there. Most impressive is its capacity to maintain speed while climbing. Even ridden two-up, the City Sport is geared for local commuting as well as inner-city riding. Its capacious seat really is built for two and incorporates sturdy grab handles to keep a passenger firmly attached.

This is a scooter, not a motorbike, but even the most committed large-capacity biker will be impressed by its practicality. The Sport City's large wheels dictate slightly reduced luggage capacity, but the footplate is capacious enough to carry several bags. There is room for a couple more on the bag-hanger built into the front shield. This also includes a tiny lockable compartment just capable of holding a map and purse, with a socket for charging a mobile phone. There is another space under the seat and, although it will only accommodate a small open-face helmet, it will easily fit a handbag.

The briefest visit to Italy confirms that Italians consider scooters in the way their medieval ancestors considered mules. For all its glamour, the City Sport maintains that tradition. This is a beast of burden and a rear luggage rack, capable of carrying a matching top box, confirms it. Aprilia offer a stylish set of panniers as an optional accessory. A rider using all of the City Sport's carrying potential could easily do the weekly shopping for a hungry couple. Students in Bologna are said to organise fleets of scooters to facilitate moves between flats.

Climate does, of course, play a part in making the scooter ubiquitous in France, Spain and Italy. Aprilia have incorporated a charming touch for riders who endure colder British climes. Two air outlets from the radiator can direct a stream of hot air towards the rider's legs. The facility was unusable in Pisa in October, but could be invaluable in wintry England.

The Aprilia's faults are minor, but grating. Incorporating the rear indicators into the red strip that houses the brake and rear light has rendered them almost invisible in sunlight. The temptation to augment them with hand signals was overwhelming, particularly when a car followed too close behind. The mirrors should be larger and adjustment was limited. The conventional flick-and-press indicator switch is small and flimsy. But the City Sport's instrument panel is a clever mix of analogue and digital technology with the speed displayed on a conventional dial, and fuel, voltage, time and mileage digitally displayed beside it.

Modern scooter riders are spoiled for choice and, beyond looks, the Sport City 125 offers little that is not available on several competitors. But, for stylish urban mobility at a very affordable price, this scooter is a real contender. It is the urban spaceman, baby, a ride of class for a generation unwilling to tolerate the jarring reality of traditional, small-wheeled scooters.

motoring@independent.co.uk

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