The Chinese scooters with retro mod style

To the purists, nothing will ever topple the mighty Vespa and Lambretta – the original and enduring scooters of choice for style-conscious mods.

And while that’s unlikely to change any time soon, the steep rise in classic scooter prices, the relatively high cost of a new Vespa, and the launch of an all-new Lambretta still mired in mystery have all left the door open for a new breed of cheaper alternatives barely distinguishable from the real thing.

Most of these modern scooters with retro styling are made in China, and all pay homage to the two classic brands that inspired them.

And while some die-hards continue to dismiss them as cheap copies, scooters like the Scomadi (soon to shift production from China to Thailand), Indian-made LML, and the Chinese-built AJS Modena and Lexmoto Milano are gaining in acceptance and sales.

Indeed, many scooterists are keeping hold of their cherished classics and adding modern scooters to their collections as reliable daily riders with up-to-date mechanics beneath a style that mirrors the original mod scooter – and all for a fraction of the price.

We take a look at the cheaper 125cc scooters challenging the big two:

Scomadi TL125

Scomadi TL125

Photo by kind permission Iggy at ScooterLab

The secret behind the success of the Scomadi is that you’d have to look closely to tell it apart from the classic, Bertone-designed Lambretta GP.

And while Vespa fans can still buy a new PX125, those who love the Lambretta’s more rakish looks have no new product to buy – at least until the much-delayed arrival of an all-new Lambretta, now scheduled for summer 2017.

The TL125 boasts a modern, four-stroke automatic engine beneath that familiar body – which rides a little higher than the original GP – while modern touches like disc brakes, LED indicators, electric start and digital speedo are what you’d expect on any new bike.

Price: £2,800

LML Star 125

LML Star 125

If the Scomadi is the modern Lambretta, then the LML Star is a Vespa by another name, built using tooling left behind from when the Indian-based company built the Italian marque under licence.

Metal-bodied like the original, the Star comes with either a 2 or 4-stroke engine, in manual or automatic, and has been on the market for quite a long time now.

Apart from the badge, the tail light and seat, it’s pretty much indistinguishable from the Vespa PX125, and its popularity has resulted in a thriving owners club, which provides useful support.

Price: £2,199

AJS Modena 125

AJS Modena

A funky, retro design inspired in parts by both Lambretta and Vespa, the AJS Modena is Chinese-made and backed by a full UK dealer network.

Lightweight and with a low seat height, the Modena boasts a 4-stroke automatic engine and its low price makes it an attractive entry-point for 17-year-olds looking for style with ease of riding and maintenance.

Price: £1,249

Lexmoto Milano

Lexmoto Milano

Lexmoto is a big name in Chinese imports, and the Milano bears more than a passing resemblance to the Modena. Another good entry-point backed by a dealer network, the Milano is an increasingly common site among younger riders.

Price: £1,299

Neco Abruzzi ‘65 125

Neco Abruzzi

Leaning heavily on the early, classic Vespa shape, the Neco Abruzzi is one of the prettiest of the Chinese scooters on the market, with its retro twin-seat and mudguard-mounted headlight neat touches.

Powered by a fuel-injected, GY6 engine borrowed from Honda, the Neco boasts disc brakes front and rear and a digital dash, plus plug-in diagnostics.

Like all these retro scooters, it provides classic charms without the hassle of maintaining a 50-year-old machine.

Price: £1,699

Baotian Monza

Baotian Monza

Although it has some similarities to a Vespa, in truth you’re more likely to find the Monza trundling to and from work than at a scooter rally on the Isle of Wight.

It has the usual 4-stroke automatic engine, but it doesn’t have the genuine retro styling that most of its rivals on this list possess.

Price: £1,399

WK Retro Sport 125

WK Retro Sport

The cheapest of these imports, the WK Retro Sport echoes Lambretta styling – it’s very similar to the now defunct LN125 – but perhaps lacks a little of the character of some of its competitors here.

Powered by a 4-stroke automatic engine, it has front disc and rear drum brakes.

Price: £1,099

Royalloy GT125

Royalloy Lambretta
Spot the difference: Lambretta Li150 Special and the new Royalloy

Things have recently got very interesting in the retro scooter market, with Hanway – who have made scooters for Scomadi in China – set to launch their own range of scooters following Scomadi’s decision to decamp production to Thailand.

The first pictures of the latest Lambretta clone have now been released by importers Moto GB, and there are subtle differences to the Scomadi, with an option of two-tone side panels harking back to the Lambretta Li125 / 150 special of the 1960s.

Royalloy is also planning an all-aluminium GP125 for just under £3,000.

Quite how this will play out is unclear, but it’s worth keeping an eye on ScooterLab for the latest on the clone wars.

Proposed price: £2,471

Zündapp Bella

Word reaches us of a famous old German scooter brand re-entering the market, but with a machine bearing little relation to its heritage and merely a clone of a 21st century Vespa Sprint.

The Zündapp Bella was one of the best-selling scooters of the last century (that wasn’t a Vespa or Lambretta) and featured on the cover of Oasis’ Be Here Now album. The name may be the same, but as our friends at ScooterLab report, the new model is a standard 4-stroke, Chinese-built Twist and Go. Here’s an old Zündapp – shame they haven’t taken some cues from this classic for the new one:

Zundapp Bella

So, with the price of a new Vespa PX125 just under £3,600, going Chinese (or Indian) can save you between £2,500 and £800 on a new scooter that looks, in some cases, just as good as the original.

It won’t have quite the cache as the Vespa, and even less than a genuine classic, but more and more are choosing to save money, cut maintenance hassles and opt for one of the classic retro scooters from the far east.

Do you own one of these scooters, or are you thinking about buying one? Let us know, and if you want to read more, check out our roundup of the best Chinese 125cc motorcycles.

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August 8, 2023