Sunday, May 3, 2009

2009 Gilera Fuoco Road Test Review


Gilera’s innovative Fuoco blends scooter convenience with added grip and stability.

With the cost of fuel, city traffic congestion and an increasing awareness of global warming, commuters are exploring alternatives to the humble car in ever greater numbers.

And if you ever wanted a clean, green commuter with low running costs, convenience and head-turning appeal, Gilera’s futuristic, three-wheeled Fuoco fits the bill.

The Fuoco (which is Italian for ‘fire’) has been quite a hit with the Aussie public since its debut, and Aussie distributor, Piaggio Australia, says it shifts around 20 of the avant-garde machines each month.


Piaggio, who owns the Gilera name, went out on a limb with its three-wheeler format, first releasing the MP3, now available in both 400cc and 250cc versions, then the Fuoco – the latter under the sportier Gilera badge. All three share the same technology platform, with two wheels forward, one wheel aft, but the Gilera we’re looking at here boasts a punchier 492cc engine, and more aggressive styling.

The concept is really quite simple. Retain the user-friendly and fun nature of a normal scoot, but give it extra stability and grip – and therefore extra safety – by adding a third wheel.


The really clever bit here is how it steers. Utilising a ‘parallelogram’ front end with cantilever suspension, both front wheels lean together as you corner – so it handles rather like a conventional scooter, just with the extra reassurance of a second front contact patch.

Each front wheel lifts independently of the other, and at rest both can be fixed in place using an electro-hydraulic locking system, activated by a handlebar-mounted switch. This means you can park it on an uneven surface with ease, while the lock disengages when you move off down the road.


The Fuoco is powered by a 492cc, four-stroke, four-valve, single-cylinder engine. Piaggio says it complies with strict Euro 3 emissions regulations, and while its 29kW engine produces plenty of go to get its 244kg claimed dry weight zipping along, it’s a relatively frugal performer too.

You can expect over 5.4 l/100km from the Fuoco, which makes good sense at the bowser – especially if your other major form of transport is your typical big Aussie six. I know what I’d rather be filling up.

“…that third wheel gives you the confidence to attack corners with gusto.”

And don’t think that just because it’s economical, the Fuoco isn’t fun to ride. After a day that took in city traffic, open highways and winding mountain roads, I can say that extra wheel has hasn’t adversely affected the fun factor.

It does initially feel a little strange when cornering – like that front end is moving around a little – but you quickly adapt, and in no time you realize that third wheel gives you the confidence to attack corners with gusto.

The suspension does a decent job of soaking up the bumps, while the three disc brakes are more than up to the task of hauling the thing down from its quoted 143km/h top speed.


And if you lock up that front end under brakes – a move that’s often a precursor to a conventional two-wheeler tumbling down the road – you’ll cop nothing more than a squeal of rubber and a bit of a shimmy at the bars as you continue on, upright and unscathed.

The Fuoco remains as slim as a regular scoot despite the extra wheel, and with its weight carried low it will still thread its way through traffic congestion with ease.

At a shade under $13,000 the Fuoco isn’t as cheap as most traditional scooter offerings, but you’re certainly getting some smart technology for your money. Throw in a gorgeous finish and the Fuoco is the full package.

If you’ve been eyeing the scooters zipping past you in traffic with envy, but have been put off by the thought of toppling over should things to wrong, the feisty Fuoco could well be the machine to truly light your fire…