Twist and you're off. But Susie Mesure finds this upgraded scooter could do with more solidity for its power

Engine: 96cc single cylinder, four-stroke, air cooled
Starter: electric and kick
Brakes: Front 175mm disc; rear 110mm drum
Transmission: 'Twist and go' throttle, automatic clutch, continuously variable
Running weight: 95kg
Tank capacity: 7.5 litres
Price: from £1,299

For speed demons on a budget, Piaggio has come up with a gem. The Italian scooter marque has souped up its cut-price Zip, launching a new 100cc version. Light to handle, easy to ride, the Zip 100 takes nipping about congested city streets to a whole new level.

But be warned: scootering freedom comes at a price, and not just the monetary kind. Piaggio invented the Zip to tempt first-timers on to the roads. Its Zip 50 is the cheapest of its kind, making it perfect for a scooter virgin. (I should know; my first scooter was a shiny red Zip 50 and I was lured in more by its price than its looks.)

The Zip 100 is also a bargain, retailing at £1,299. So, double the power, but not double the cost. Yet, in my book, that makes the Zip 100 twice as dangerous. The flip side of its agility is a machine that feels flimsy and, worse still, encourages its rider to take unnecessary risks in the name of shaving a few seconds off the journey.

The Zip 100 is certainly quick. The "twist and go" throttle is very responsive, which is handy for shooting off from the lights ahead of a bus or truck. The extra engine-power also means that, unlike on the Zip 50, you can pull into the right-hand lane and overtake slow, smelly lorries. Driving around London meant I did not get to test its top speed of 52mph, although I briefly touched 40mph in between the speed cameras on the Embankment.

One bugbear on the example I tested - brand new, with less than 50 kilometres on the clock - was its temperamental electric starter. However many times I tried, and however gentle I was with the throttle, the engine would just splutter and die once started. There was no chance of getting it to idle. I had to develop a tactic of wheeling the machine on to the road, pointing it in the direction I wanted to go, and being ready to zoom off by applying the throttle at the same time as I pressed the starter button.

Distinctly hair-raising. Piaggio confirms that they're not supposed to do this. And the wing mirrors also appeared to have a life of their own, forcing me to investigate the small tool-kit that lurks underneath the seat. Sadly, the requisite-sized spanner was not there, so I had to resort to tightening the screw by hand.

The Zip 100 comes in royal blue, bright red and black and has a full range of scootering accessories to help buyers jack up the total price. A windscreen, top box and rear rack are all available to improve the joys of commuting - or the ease of shopping. There is room for plenty of supermarket goodies under the seat (although I couldn't, as promised, use the space to store my helmet). Anyway, the flat footrest area makes it easier to carry the shopping on the bag hook.

Another plus, according to Piaggio, is the fact that the seat is adjustable to three different heights, which could explain why my other half declared that the scooter was only fit for kids, as he found himself having to crouch down to peer in the wing mirrors. How you move the seat is anyone's guess. Another job for the tool kit perhaps?

If you want plenty of bang for your buck, then the Zip 100 probably can't be bettered. You won't find much around that's faster, or cheaper.

But if you're looking for speed, I'd strongly advise opting for another breed from the Piaggio stable, such as the Vespa LX4 125. The extra weight - 111kg to the Zip 100's 95kg - gives the scooter a firmer grounding on the road, minimising skids and spills. That's the hope, anyway.

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