The first thing I noticed when I climbed aboard the Aprilia SportCity 250 is the scooter's narrow and compact build. Having just ridden Aprilia's new Scarabeo 200 it was a transition not unlike going from an Accord to a Miata. You just have to get used to the smallish proportions.
The next thing I noticed, after pulling away from the curb, was that this is a serious little machine, small-size or not. It seems that Aprilia has installed the correct-sized motor in the right-sized chassis. For someone who figures a commuting machine needs to be 250cc or above, the SportCity is the perfect little zipper. Of course, hopping aboard for a quick trip to Trader Joe's ain't so bad either.
By packing 16.5 horsepower and 15 foot-pounds of torque into a fuel-injected, liquid-cooled, four-valve single, and then using that to propel a 326-pound (dry) scooter at speeds up to 80 mph, Aprilia has created a scooter that easily slices through traffic and cruises with the commute. As mentioned, the entire package is a compact agile machine that's quite nimble and stable on its 15-inch wheels.
While around-the-'hood hits were a great way to get used to the SportCity's handling, I subjected it to my daily 26-mile commute to work to test it against the rigors of freeway riding and long stretches of surface street racing — in the most legal sense of course.
Pulling onto the 405 south morning traffic in anything short of a Hummer is always a daunting experience. I always feel like I'm being dropped into a slot car race in mid lap. On a scooter it's always that much more challenging, but with the SportCity's zip it was easy getting up to speed, which (thankfully, for times like these) is never that fast given the daily slog.
Slowing down for the off-ramp — or any other reason for that matter — comes quickly via the SportCity's triple-brake-disc setup. Out front are are two calipers grabbing dos 260mm stainless steel discs, and in the back is a single 220mm disc. Braking is immediate when it needs to be, another nice feature when dealing with traffic.
Given I'm in California, I have to lane-split to actually travel anywhere. The SportCity's narrow width (34 inches at the mirrors) makes it easy to bypass idling autos to get up to the front of the light. Its quick acceleration allows for breaking away from the pack. After cruising around town long enough on the scooter, I really started to enjoy its handling and feel. As a longtime scooter-guy-turned-motorcycle-guy who never lost his original love, I'm always giddy about how much fun riding a scooter is. While many of those responsible for nearly double scooter sales in the last year have come to the clique for economic reasons, I'm betting a big chunk will stay simply because they're fun to ride.
I was a grinning idiot after my first commute into work. I've tried to rationalize why riding a twist-and-go would be that much more fun than riding a motorcycle and the only thing I've come up with is the lack of a clutch and the riding position. How can that be? It's really a different sensation. Let's leave it at that. Whatever the case, I found myself hopping aboard the SportCity just to take quick, aimless 15-minute rides around the neighborhood.
So if we're talking scooters we have to talk about appearance. After all, the modern scooter scene (not the commuter scene) has roots in groups with a slavish devotion to style. The SportCity has style in spades. Aprilia's stylists carved the SportCity' front end into an assertive sneer while molding the rest of the chassis into sleek sexiness.
Cool features include the passenger pegs that fold discretely out of the way and a slim storage area built into the rear of the leg shield (this slot also includes a power socket for charging your electronic doo-dads). For extra carrying space, lift the seat and fill the hole with an open-face helmet, groceries, whatever.
Sitting at 32 inches high, the seat is just about the right height for most people. I'd hazard that it's a little on the tall side for some, but it's not too big of an issue. Maybe I just need some more leg.
It seems these days you can't talk about scooters without talking about mileage and fuel economy. After it's these very scootcentric traits that have converted many drivers into riders and some motorcyclists into scooterists. Saying the SportCity is economical at the pump is like talking about the fuel hoggishness of Escalades and the like. In other words, duh.
Between the SportCity's 2.6-gallon tank and its stingy gas usage, you're talking about 170 miles between fill-ups. Nice.
With scores of news reports about the high price of gas and the sharp uptick in scooter sales, the SportCity is a great addition to the fleet of auto alternatives. But there's more to it than that.
Depending on your level of cynicism you might wonder if the collective public's memory will fade, should gasoline prices drop from grand larcenous levels to merely larcenous. What will become of all those new or converted scooter riders? Will they revert back to their gas-guzzling ways, or have $5/gallon prices thrown a fatal scare into everyone?
I'd say if they've taken to the road on a SportCity, they'll stay for the fun after the penny-pinching is over.
Engine: Single-cylinder 4-stroke, forced liquid cooling, four-valve head with overhead camshaft
Bore and stroke: 72 x 60 mm
Compression ratio: 11:1
Maximum power: 16.5 hp at 8,000 rpm
Maximum torque: 15.4 ft.-lbs. of torque
Fuel system: electronic fuel injection
Alternator: 300 W
Gearbox: automatic torque converter
Clutch: centrifugal dry clutch
Final drive: gearbox
Front suspension: hydraulic telescopic fork
Rear suspension: engine unit acting as swing arm. Double hydraulic shock absorber with adjustable preload
Brakes: front — twin 260mm stainless steel discs
Twin piston floating calipers
rear — 220mm stainless steel disc
front — 2.75x15in.
rear — 3.00x15in.
Wheelbase: 53.5 inches
Seat height: 32 inches
Length: 78 inches
Dry weight: 326 lbs.
Tank capacity: 2.3 gal. (with .3 gal. reserve)
Colors: excalibur grey, shot grey, couture blue, moka black
Accessories: three differently sized top cases, large windshield, sports windshield, leg cover