Aprilia SR 150: Road Test Review
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The Aprilia SR 150 is definitely the hero we asked for. Is it the one we deserve?
Almost right from the start of human civilization, the Italians have enjoyed a special niche in history as purveyors of fine things. Be it art, science, architecture or food and drinks, they have enjoyed status as connoisseurs, a nation of people who really know how to enjoy the finer offerings of life.
For us petrolheads in the here and now, this obsession with design and flamboyance is nowhere as apparent as their machines – both the four-wheeled and two-wheeled kind. From teeny weeny daily runabouts to million-dollar hypercars, the Italians have perfected the art of crafting exotic, desirable machines. And, thankfully, this art has percolated down to what we have here today, the Aprilia SR 150.
Up until now, when somebody mentioned the Aprilia marque, the first thing that we would associate it with would be something fast and ferocious like the RSV4 and Tuono – firebreathing exotics designed to duke it out with the best that the Japanese big four have to offer. But the modern global two-wheeler economy is a funny thing, and every brand is scrambling to offer products that appeal to a much wider customer base, not to mention wallets. And if the brand’s original enduring appeal as an arbiter of high-end machines is diluted a bit in the process, so be it.
The Aprilia SR 150, though, manages to straddle that fine line between commercial selling-out and staying true to its original ethos. Sure, it is a 150cc scooter, made for a country that still sees them purely as workhorses or for the staider and elderly, but it is still an Aprilia, and it looks the part and rides the part very well.
As you probably know by now, the SR 150’s engine is based on the Vespa 150 duo that are also sold in india. That is because the Piaggio Group owns both, as well as a bevy of other Italian brands, and so, a bit of product sharing is bound to happen.
In contrast to the retro-chic styling of the Vespa, what we have here is the sporty styling and paintjob that is reminiscent of much bigger Aprilias. Our test unit came clad in gunmetal grey with sporty red graphics that also extends to the pillion seat. This, and the scooter’s general appearance, turned a lot of curious heads in the nation’s biking capital of Pune, where the bulk of our road test happened. Another factor could be that this is an all-new offering, and outside of the 2016 Indian Auto Expo attendees earlier this year, not many would’ve seen the SR 150 in the flesh yet.
Where the Vespa employs a monocoque chassis, the Aprilia uses a tubular underbone structure, part of the secret of its motorcycle-like characteristics, but we’ll get to that later. The dual headlamps are mounted on the front fairing, with the indicators on the handlebar and the front disc brake reservoir neatly recessed into it. Aprilia has provided a pass light among the switchgear but we were disappointed to see the absence of a brake lock on the SR 150. Fit and finish levels and are pretty good, although not as close as what we’ve come to expect from the more mature Japanese offerings. That said, the paint job is rich and lustrous, and is many notches higher than other scooters’.
There’s also an USB port underneath the seat for charging mobile phones, but some might be taken aback to hear that the side stand is being offered as a compulsory accessory. The footrest is on the smaller side and the pillion’s footpegs are recessed into the bodywork, making them nearly impossible to take out on the move. The cost-cutting is apparent in small details, like the seat that doesn’t pop up when you turn the key and the bland analog instrument console done up in white with carbon-fibre accents. Underseat storage is good enough for a half-face helmet but that’s about it.
But the real proof of the SR 150’s pudding lies in the performance, and we are happy to report that it doesn’t disappoint - it is an Aprilia after all.Like we said before, the SR 150 employs the same 154cc air-cooled four-stroke engine as its Vespa siblings, and still produces 11.5 PS of power and 11.5Nm of torque. Although the Piaggio boffins wouldn’t reveal the tweaks they’ve made to the engine in their bid to make the SR the fastest scooter in India, they do confirm that the crank case has been lengthened to adapt it to the new chassis. The variator has also been recalibrated to keep up with the bigger wheel sizes at both ends.
No surprise then that the SR 150 delivers. It pulls cleanly all the way to 80 kmph, which is where most scooters in the country would simply run out of breath. From thereon, the acceleration gets a tad sedate but given enough road, it is still possible to see north of 100 kmph. There is a fair amount of vibrations through the handlebars at idle, which subsides once you gather some speed. Like most scooters, the SR 150 felt the most comfortable between 40-50 kmph, where it will happily chew up the miles with nary a strain from the engine. The SR 150 took 7.2 seconds to go from standstill to 60kmph and 29.6 seconds for 0-100kmph. The VBox data revealed a top speed of 101.3kmph.
Fuel efficiency isn’t exactly the forte of a scooter as sporty as this. Under test, the SR150 delivered 37.88kmpl in city traffic while a highway run threw up 51.45kmpl. Overall mileage is 44.66 and coupled to the 7-litre fuel tank, it should be able to go almost 300 kilometres on a tankful, which is good enough for what is unarguably the fastest scooter in the country today.
The Aprilia SR 150 rides on telescopic forks up front and a single shock at the rear. Even more importantly, it rides on fat 120/70 14-inch rubber at both ends, manufactured by, ahem… Vee Rubber, an Indonesian company. But don’t let the name put you off, for these tyres, mounted on snazzy split five-spoke alloys, make the SR 150 one of the finest handling scooters in the country ever.
More akin to a motorcycle than a scooter, the SR is quick to turn in and even easier to hold a line with. Even if you mess up a corner, it is easy to get back on track with a bit of countersteering. As my confidence kept increasing with every kilometre on the odo, I found myself taking corners faster and harder, even though it had rained earlier in the day, rendering Pune roads a thin layer of mud-soaked film. This is, by far, one of the best handlingscooters in the market today, and it isn’t even funny how far the goalposts have been moved forward in this department.
The downside of this breathtaking handling is the ride quality. The SR 150 is stiffly sprung – an inevitable compromise in the ratio between ride and handling. The telescopic forks up front will let you count the number of pebbles you’ve rode over, and it can get a tad tiring when all you want is to just cruise in peace to your office. It is also on the taller side for scooters in the country. The rear, thankfully, is more pliant and the ride quality gets marginally better when the SR is ridden two-up. But hey, that’s the price you pay for sportiness, right?
Finally, there’s no simpler way to put this: The Aprilia has got the best braking setup we’ve ever encountered on an Indian scooter. The 220mm disc brake up front and the 140mm drums at the rear might not amount to much on paper, but they’re exceptionally well-tuned for this 122kg machine. From 60kmph, the SR 150 comes to a dead halt in a mere 2.59 seconds, covering a distance of 18.72 metres. No matter what speeds you’re doing, the bite from the front is progressive and smooth all the way to a dead halt, and the Vee Rubber holds up well as well.
Unlike most scooters that are sold firmly with convenience and comfort in mind, the SR 150 stands out by being true to its brand’s heritage of fun and performance, albeit in a much smaller package. While it can handle the mundane everyday tasks with aplomb, it is really in its element when it comes to spirited riding. If scooter racing were more widespread in the country, this is a no-brainer, seeing as how it looks like it escaped from a MotoGP paddock. College-going teenagers and brand-conscious enthusiasts will probably not even need to read reviews to zero in on the SR, such is its appeal.
With an introductory price of Rs 65,000 (ex-showroom, pan-India), the Aprilia SR 150 is also great value for money. If you’re willing to overlook the lack of some modern-day features, the harsh ride, and the lessened fuel economy, this is the scooter to get, no doubt about it. Out of nowhere, Aprilia has stepped up to the task and answered the call of Indian enthusiasts for a scooter that can play ball with motorcycles. This SR 150 stands tall, in a league of its own.
Photography: Eshan Shetty