The Genuine Stella has been around for over ten years and has become an icon in the North American scooter world. Based on the late 1970s Vespa P-series and manufactured by LML in India, the Stella has brought a generation of new scooterists into the “traditional” scooter world. Until a couple of years ago, the Stella was a 2-stroke 150cc machine. The realities of modern emission requirements brought us the 4 stroke Stella. Of course it was still a shifty, so buyers could enjoy their trip to scooter history while running cleaner.
Yes, until very recently, Stellas utilized the “typical” older scooter control configuration: Throttle on the right grip, front brake on the right lever, rear brake by the right foot, clutch lever on the left lever and shifter on the left grip. The clutch and shifter on the Stella raised a barrier that many new scooterists were not interested in crossing. Now, Genuine has given us a Stella that shiftyphobics can love.
Speedometer Reading/Speed/Fuel Economy
I installed the base for a GPS mount atop the front brake master cylinder, not my favorite attachment point, but it worked well on the Stella. Right off the bat, the new Stella Automatic (henceforth Stellauto) shocked and awed me. The speedometer reads…. pessimistic?!?! Don’t see the big deal? Read a few of my other reviews and you’ll see how rare this is. The VAST majority of scooters read optimistic, that is to say that the speed indicated on the speedometer is faster than the actual speed. The Stellauto was very close to spot on and a couple of readings were a tiny bit pessimistic. The speedometer indicated slower than the actual speed. The odometer was as close to right on the mark as any I’ve tested.
Top speed was a touch tricky. The Stellauto had a few miles on it, but was not fully broken in. It was also kind of windy when I was doing my tests. I did the best I could to find a level road that had some cross-wind but no headwind or tail wind. I saw 57 MPH on the GPS once. Going up a fairly steep hill, 45 MPH was the best I could maintain. Since I brought the Stellauto back to Scooterville, Bob Hedstrom (the owner) has put a small windscreen on the Stellauto and said he saw at least 60 MPH. I’ll also mention that I weigh 220 pounds and have a physique that does NOT contribute to the aerodynamic efficiency of this, or any other scooter. Bob is a scrawny Curler who weighs about as much as my left thigh. I would expect that after break in with a normal sized rider (165 pounds) the Stellauto should be capable of a little better than 60 MPH. This DOES NOT mean it’s a good highway scooter – more on that later.
During my review, fuel economy was 86MPG. Certainly not the 100+ MPG that Genuine claims, but very good nevertheless. Running the scooter hard, searching for top end and making a lot of 50 MPH surface road runs, mileage falls to about 65 MPG. Doing an extended parkway run (Grand Rounds) keeping things at 30MPH or less, I wouldn’t be surprised to see 90ish MPG.
Let’s begin covering the features of the Stellauto with a little more in-depth discussion of the scooters design and execution. Like the Vespa P-series it’s based on, the original 2-stroke Stella brought to the USA was built on a monocoque chassis. The body shell IS the frame. The new Stellatuo is a combination of a traditional front end and a new subframe back end. The cowls can be removed in the ordinary fashion (release levers under the seat) and then the entire back end body shell can be removed to give access to the drivetrain. Apparently, this resulted in less-than-optimal front frame rigidity as a brace was added, disguised as some kind of air intake.
The Stellauto is carbureted. However, because of the design of the new engine and CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) The main fuel tank is situated low and has a fuel pump. Did I say “main” fuel tank? Yes, I did. The carburetor is still gravity fed from a small fuel reservoir located ABOVE the carburetor. There is an ECU (Engine Control Unit) and an oxygen senor so it seems that the Stellauto is part-way to fuel injection as it sits. The fuel pump lacks the pressure necessary for fuel injection, but maybe there will be a few changes in future models to rid us of that carburetor.
What else is different about the Stellauto as compared to the 1970s Vespa P-series? How about brakes that work (see riding impressions), headlights that show the road at night, easy starting and smooth running. A “feature” that’s missing from the Stellauto would be a spare tire. There’s no room under the cowl, though there IS a fake spare tire cover peeking out from the bottom. The wheels are split rims and there are inner-tubes under those tires. There are plenty of accessories that include a way to externally mount a spare. One can also carry a new tube and a few tools and deal with most flats right on the spot. As the Stellauto comes from the factory, there is reasonable storage in the glove box. Part of the fun of a Stella (or Stellauto) is accessorizing and I’d likely add a rear rack pretty quickly. Oh, and some legshield guards, ooooo and a front fender chrome guard, and one of those little windscreens with the checkerboard lowers and…. that’s just me though.
The control layout is different from other Stellas, and a touch different from most other automatic scooters. To begin with, there’s no clutch lever. The left lever is for the rear brake. Yes, there is a small dimple just opposite the left handgrip in the place that the gears (one through four) WOULD BE on any other Stella. That’s because the manufacturer is utilizing the same parts.
Also on the left hand control is the horn button and a switch for selecting high beam or low beam headlights. Like all modern USA configured scooters, there is no “off” switch for the headlight. The front brake lever is on the right as well as the electric starter (there is also a kick-starter), engine kill switch AND (unlike most scooters) the turn signal indicator switch.
The dash display of the Stellauto includes a speedometer, odometer, fuel gauge and several indicator lights. The fuel gauge sits above the speedometer and I found it to be more of a yes-you-have-some-fuel devise than a precise measurement of exactly how much fuel was in the tank at any given time. The speedometer is bias toward miles (kilometers on the inner part of the display) and, as mentioned earlier, is astoundingly accurate. The odometer sits in the middle of the speedometer display. There are indicator lights for high beam and low beam headlights, turn signals, brake light and the ECS control system. When starting the Stellauto, one should turn the key to “on” and wait for the ECS light to go out before pressing the starter switch. Most everything worked just fine during the review with the exception of the fuel gauge that seemed to “wander” a bit.
The bench seat is long enough for two and well padded, a little TOO padded for my taste, but that’s an easy modification. Below the front of the seat is a luggage hook…. and nothing else. On a 2-stroke Stella, the oil tank sight glass would be here, along with the choke lever and fuel selector lever. Not needed on the 4-stroke automatic. Press the release button on the back and lift the seat and you’ll find the fuel filler cap.
I’m sorry to say that I had the opportunity to see how the Stellauto starts up in the cold. Yeah, April is STILL winter in Minnesota, at least this year. The scooter fired right up, warm or cold, and ran perfectly during the time I had it. One of the big advantages that the Stella had over the 70s Vespa P-Series was braking power. The front disc brake was stronger, easier to modulate, and much more fade resistant than the drum on the Vespa. The Stellauto is also disc front (drum rear) and is even better than the Stella 2-stroke. I’m not sure why, the set-up looks very similar, but the Stellauto brakes are the nicest I have encountered on this type of scooter. This is probably a good time to mention, strictly for the benefit of old Stela/Vespa riders, that the rear brake control is at the left lever and NOT on the right side of the floorboards. Bob Hedstrom from Scooterville mentioned that he stomped on the floorboards once or twice and I found myself doing the same thing. I am VERY proud to say that I did NOT lock up the rear brake thinking I was grabbing the clutch lever. I think that riding different machines as one ages is a good way to exercise one’s brain and maintain mental focus. During some past group rides that involved switching scooters, I’ve had to adjust my responses, especially going from vintage to modern scooters. Other than getting used to the right-side turn signal controls, the Stellauto is controlled just like most every other modern twist-and-go scooter.
The Stellauto does not, however, handle like most every other modern scooter. The P-series Vespa and older Stella had a rear-heavy, lopsided feel to them. It wasn’t bad, and one got used to the “feel” very quickly. With the weight of the engine on one side and just a spare tire on the other, those older machines do not offer symmetrical distribution. The Stellauto doesn’t feel lopsided but it does feel rear heavy, or front light if you prefer. Not difficult to accommodate, but different from, oh, say, a Genuine Buddy.
Acceleration off the line is adequate. Roll-on from about 20 MPH to 45 MPH is a bit more than adequate. Getting from 50 MPH to the top end takes some patience. The ride is VERY smooth compared to an older 2-stroke Stella – very, very smooth. The ergonomics are excellent – proof that Vespa got it right in the 1970s as nothing much has changed in the ergonomics department from then to the Stellauto. The seat is tall at 32 inches, but even with my 30 inch inseam I didn’t have a problem. My wife Beverly also rode the Stellauto and found the ergonomics very workable.
Bev has owned/ridden a couple of motorcycles, a Yamaha Vino, SEVERAL Genuine Buddy scooters, a Genuine Blur, a Yamaha Morphous, a Vespa ET2, A Vespa GTS 250, a Honda Elite, and a Kymco People but never a Stella or vintage scooter. She found the turn signal indicator switch awkward, but otherwise liked the Stellauto. The very first thing she said at our first photo-break after riding was, “it’s really cute”. I asked her how it rode, “Huh? Just fine. It’s really pretty!” From that, I gather that the Stellauto’s idiosyncrasies are minimally intrusive.
The Stellatuo did commuter duty just fine as long as no highways were involved. At speeds up to about 50 MPH (it strikes me that the drivers on the Pierce-Butler route view the 45 MPH limit as a mere suggestion) the Stellauto keeps up and handles just fine. Expecting regular highway use out of the Stellauto will lead to disappointment. This scooter is made for, and excels at, surface road riding. A couple of hours of parkway cruising was an absolute joy, while ten inch wheels and a light front end resulted in nervous highway runs. Carrying a passenger around town is not a problem at all. The Stellauto seat has lots of room and the engine can easily handle two people at city speeds.
Fit & Finish
Like a lot of components of reviewing the Stellauto, one has to make two comparisons: first to other modern scooters and second to other Stellas. The fit and finish on the Stellauto is not as good as on top tier scooters like Honda, Kymco and even the other Genuine scooters. The paint is nice, the red and blue choices are especially attractive, but not all that heavily or evenly applied. Compared to other Stellas, the Stellauto is a step up in fit and finish. Overall I would call the fit and finish on the Stellauto OK-but-could-be-better.
Genuine Stella Automatic vs. The Competition
Just exactly who (or rather ‘what’) is competition for the Stellauto? No other offering combines the 1970s retro look AND feel with an automatic transmission and metal body. The Genuine Stella 4T is a manual shift scooter. Those buyers are getting that Stella BECAUSE it shifts and is a retro machine. The other incredible success story from Genuine is the Buddy line of scooters. I’ve ridden and reviewed all of the Buddy iterations and have owned most of them. They are awesome scooters. Of course they are NOT traditionally laid out metal scooters like the Stella/Stellauto. I’ve also included the modern Vespa LX 150ie because it is a metal body automatic scooter.
Other than price and fuel injection on the Vespa, there’s not Grand Canyon wide differences between these three scooter so far as the specifications are concerned. The Genuine Buddy 125 is the least expensive and, frankly, the best performance of the three. The Vespa is modern, has fuel injection, stellar ergonomics and it’s, well, a VESPA! It’s also pretty pricey – $1,200 more than a Stellauto. It’s been my experience that Vespa buyers aren’t really that interested in any other brand of scooter, so I don’t know exactly how much “competition” there will be from the Stellauto in that respect. The Buddy 125 is a member of the Genuine family and I believe that previous Stella scooters have resulted in a LOT of Buddy sales. New riders come into a dealership to see the “cool” Stella, realize it’s a manual shift, and leave with a new Buddy. I do believe that there will be some Stellauto owners who would have otherwise been Buddy owners.
The new Stella 125cc automatic was a machine I had really been looking forward to seeing in the flesh. I’m impressed with the engineering and design work that went into creating a new powerplant and CVT that would fit in the confines of the traditional P-series body/chassis style. I’m a touch apprehensive about the carburetion and the “removable” rear body section, but only time will tell us how well this combination works out. While I still think the Buddy is probably a better scooter from a technical standpoint, the Stellauto is more appealing on a gut level. The Stellauto is gorgeous, metal, and had no glaring deficiencies in operation. It has a look and feel that fulfill the image most people have of what a scooter should be.
Again, a big THANK YOU to Bob at Scooterville in Minneapolis for providing the scooter used in this review.
Stella Automatic Update & Rear Luggage Rack October 2014
I was at Scooterville the other day and left my Moto Guzzi for Bob Hedstrom to ride. He offered up the Stelauto demo scooter for my use. This is the same scooter I utilized for this review. It now has about 800 miles on it AND I got to install a new rear luggage rack on it. The rear rack is from Prima and will work on Stellas, including the new automatic, and Vespa P-series scooters. Some drilling may be required on some of the P-series scooters. It was a quick and easy install on the Stellauto and I was impressed with how well the rack fit with the seat – sometimes an issue with other rear racks.
MSRP is about $120 which I think is a fair price. I bungied my man-purse (large briefcase) on the rack and took off. When I got home I tried loading the rack with some bigger stuff and it worked just fine. It would also make a very good platform for mounting a topcase, trunk, milk-crate, whatever, on the back of your Stellauto. I also this this rack looks better than some other options. This rear rack is just one more example of what a good job Genuine does of recognizing the value of high quality accessories to scooter riders. Too many scooter brands in the USA just don’t pay attention to the accessory market. A LOT of scooter riders want & need things like windshields and luggage racks. Genuine has a history of making decent stuff available for their machines and I believe it’s one of the reasons they have done well with both dealers and riders.
It was fun to ride the Stellauto again, especially with a few miles on it. It was running even smoother than when new and is the easiest-starting Stella I’ve experienced. A couple of days on the Stellauto confirms that Genuine has found a solid combination of old-school look and feel with a more modern CVT powertrain. Damn my tiny townhouse garage….