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Fabulous scooter for all situations; on two wheels.

Byline: By HARRIET RIDLEY

ONCE upon a time manufacturers had three popular engine sizes for scooters: 50cc, 125cc and 250cc. But now, the 250cc class seems to be giving way to a new breed of 300cc.

It all started with Honda and its SH300i and now they're all at it. Piaggio has a new Carnaby Cruiser 300, Aprilia has a new Scarabeo 300 and there's the scooter I'm riding - the brand new 2009 Gilera Nexus 300i, which replaces the trusted old Nexus 250.

This small capacity hike won't affect insurance, or the scooter's agility when it comes to scything through big city traffic. But it should give the scooter that little extra oomph for the open roads.

In reality, it doesn't feel much different to the old 250cc. Strict emissions regulations have strangled engines to the point of slowing them down. The increase in engine size ensures the new 300cc versions are at least as punchy as the old 250s. Hence the capacity hike across the board.

The Nexus 300i uses the same liquid-cooled, four-stroke Piaggio Qasar engine as the 250 it replaces, but with an increase in bore and stroke to up capacity, while power remains the same at 22.4bhp, torque is up and delivered lower down for a gruntier feel at the traffic lights and when filtering through heavy traffic.

The overall result is smoother power, decisive acceleration and a fuller throttle response. The Nexus is a dream to ride round town and a joy on the open roads where it will even perform the odd overtake - as long as you're not chasing a sports car!

The new 15-inch front wheel makes the Nexus feel even more stable at speed, which it already did thanks to the hefty tubular steel chassis. Unfortunately this big frame, which it shares with the 500cc version, also makes it rather heavy at 174kg dry. The saving grace is the low centre of gravity, which makes it feel super-light on the go and easy to manoeuvre at a standstill, even for a girl like me.

As well as a good, strong motor, the Nexus 300 is blessed with sharp handling - it's agile and responsive everywhere; in traffic, through the corners, it's pure fun to ride, just as a scooter should be. Meanwhile the plush suspension keeps it comfortable on the most potholed of back streets and stopping power is provided by front and rear disc brakes and is more than enough for the performance on tap.

Gilera is part of the Piaggio Group so get a Nexus and you're buying into brand quality. This is no cheap Chinese runaround; it exudes class, especially in the vibrant red, with a high quality finish and attention to detail.

The vast wraparound fairing shields the rider from the elements, with air vents at the front of the seat that channel warm air onto the riders legs. The smart screen is three-way adjustable to suit different weather conditions and rider sizes.

Speaking of which, the seat height is just 815mm, which you'd think would suit the shorter riders. Problem is, the scooter's rather wide so if you're anything under my 5'6", you'll struggle to get both feet on the ground.

The sporty nature of the scooter also means the seat's on the hard side with low-set bars, so it's not the most comfortable scooter out there over long distances. But pillion riders are kept happy with a wide seat, flick-out footrests and solid built-in grabrails.

What you certainly get with the Nexus is practicality. Underseat storage is vast, with space for a full-face helmet, cover and lock. There's also a light and phone-charging socket and pockets at the front to store bits and pieces. The dash has all the information you need including an analogue tacho, speedo and digital fuel gauge with trip, miles-to-fill-up and consumption - which averages at 30mpg.

The Gilera Nexus 300 is a fabulous scooter that devours both city streets and motorways. Is it worth the pounds 2,999 price tag? Have you checked the price of your season ticket now train prices have gone up again?

fast facts

Gilera Nexus 300

Price: pounds 2,999

Mechanical: 22.4bhp, 278cc Piaggio Quasar single cylinder four-stroke, electronic fuel injection

Chassis: High strength tubular steel double cradle frame

Suspension: (F) 35mm hydraulic telescopic fork (R) Double hydraulic shock absorbers, three spring preload settings

Brakes: (F) 260mm disc (R) 240mm disc

Tyres: (F) 120/70-15 (R) 140/60-14

Seat height: 815mm

Fuel tank: 15 litres
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Jan 30, 2009
Words:749
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