Susie Mesure tests the MP3

It's the scooter that won't topple over, but would Susie Mesure swap her Vespa for this urban wide-boy?

Three-wheeled vehicles don't get the best press; just think Trotter Independent Trading's Reliant Regal van.

But that could be about to change with the arrival of Piaggio's MP3, the bike that thinks it's a trike. Only instead of having the pair of wheels at the back, the Italians have chosen to double up at the front.

It's best not to take too close a look at what's there. Extra braking power there may be, but that doesn't negate the fact that, seen head on, the MP3 looks more like a moon buggy than a stylish accessory to city commuting.

Once astride it, though, everything changes. Even though it is a mere 125cc machine (a 250cc engine is also available), I was taken aback by the feeling of riding a decent-sized bike. Never on the A2 have I felt less like the Susie-scooter filling in a truck sandwich.

Piaggio designed the MP3 hoping that it would tempt potential but nervous scooter-owners. As gimmicks go, it deserves to work. As well as the extra wheel, which gives extra stability, the bike has two natty parking-brakes - one that stops it toppling sideways and one doing the same job as a car handbrake.

I particularly liked locking the leaning mechanism while waiting at the lights and sitting there with my feet up. But you have to be careful because one touch of the throttle and it moves off, which takes some getting used to. I also almost had a couple of nasty moments when I thought I'd flicked the required parking switch when I hadn't.

The flip side of such a big bike - its running weight is 199kg - is that there is a lot of it to manoeuvre. Unlike the electric Vectrix (the only other large bike I've ridden), the MP3 has no reverse. The turning circle is lousy. All that makes getting in and out of the sort of crowded motorcycle bays dotted around London something of a nightmare.

The extra weight also means that the MP3 is not as nippy as most 125cc machines. It is also that much fatter, which limits the potential for squeezing between crowded lanes of traffic, although some may count that in its favour.

If you decide to splash out £3,999 to take home the 125cc model (an extra £300 will double its engine size), be prepared to be the centre of attention. "That's serious," was the verdict of one kid on the backstreets of east London. On balance, I'll stick with my Vespa.

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