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Genuine Stella 4-stroke: The same, only different

March 15, 2011
Eric's Stella 4-stroke

Eric’s Stella, before the chrome kit installation (Eric Almendral photos)

Eric Almendral became the first private owner of a 2010 Genuine Stella 4-stroke about a year ago. As it turned out, until very recently he was the owner of the ONLY Stella 4-stroke in private hands in the U.S. (they’re finally starting to arrive in dealers). He’s put 3000 miles on it, and published an extensive review on Modern Buddy, the forum he runs. Following the jump, Scootin’ Old Skool presents the Reader’s Digest version, which includes a link to Eric’s MB post.

Few scooters in the U.S. carry as much emotional baggage as Genuine’s Stella 4-stroke. It comes with the stigma of common perceptions of Bajaj 4-strokes as slow, with quality issues. It’s got a lineage that can be traced to the Vespa P-series but, as many people will complain, it’s not a Vespa—it’s built by LML in India. As enthusiastic as some people are about the long-delayed arrival of a 50-state version of the Stella, others question whether there is a need or demand for such a thing. Others pre-judged it long before even seeing it in person.

The 2-stroke Stella was never sold in California, the largest scooter market in the U.S., due to that state’s strict emissions standards. Similarly, emissions standards have been tightening in Europe and Asia, so the 2-stroke version eventually would have been regulated out of existence. The new 4-stroke engine reduces emissions, but necessitated some design changes. It’s a whole new Stella, but it’s not. Sort of.

Here's the difference

Comparisons to the Stella 2-stroke are understandable. Comparisons to the Vespa PX, inevitable. But as much as it resembles these models, the Stella 4-stroke deserves to be judged on its own merits. I’ve got just over 3,000 miles on mine, more than enough to give it a fair shake.

Full disclosure: I got the scoot through an arrangement with my local dealer. It had been used as a demo model and I got it with 250 miles on the odometer. It had a couple cosmetic blemishes from having been lightly dropped a couple times, and had been sat on by a couple hundred people, all of whom made “vroom vroom” noises while cranking the shifter. 🙂 I took possession when the original Stella 4-stroke shipment (the ones that got sent back —Ed.) arrived in the U.S. No one could have known it would be a year before a new batch finally arrived at dealers.

In terms of physical appearance, the Stella 4-stroke is nearly identical to its 2-stroke predecessor. The most easily-spotted differences are the louvers in the engine-side cowl and the star-shaped wheel hubs. The seat and rear cowls are a touch longer, but will still accommodate most accessories with a little modification. I have the complete Vespa PX chrome kit on mine and all it required was a couple of notches under the upholstery of the seat bottom. No one would notice with the seat closed.

Stella duocoque

A harder-to-spot difference is the 2-piece chassis. This is a huge departure from previous versions, an accommodation for the new engine. You have to look pretty carefully to notice that the monocoque is now a “duocoque” with a tubular subframe at the rear. It’s completely unnoticeable while riding.

Fit and finish are good; arguably better than previous Stellas.

The Stella 4-stroke works just like the 2-stroke, right down to the idiosyncrasies. The fuel gauge is inaccurate; I haven’t calculated how inaccurate yet. Some initial comparisons with GPS readings indicated the speedometer and odometer are accurate—more so than my other scoots. I’m still testing this.

The Stella 4-stroke starts easily, a first-kick scooter using the kickstart. It’s cold-blooded though, and takes several minutes to warm up after a cold night. I never had any problems with this in the warm months.

The first reaction of many scooterists to a 4-stroke shifter: “It’s going to be slow. Bajaj 4-strokes were slow.” Yeah, maybe, but that’s kind of like saying “All cars with 4-cylinders are slow.” Not all engines are created equal. The Stella 4T isn’t slow; it’s certainly faster than the Bajajs I’ve ridden alongside.

My first impression of the Stella 4-stroke: Plenty of low-end torque. Enough to pull a really big wheelie my first time on it!

It doesn’t scream off the line but it’s powerful enough for lane splitting and pulling away from traffic. I do find myself creeping into the crosswalk and getting ready to pull away when a light turns green more than on my other scoots. It accelerates nicely in 2nd and 3rd.

As can be seen in a widely-viewed video from UK LML distributor Eddy Bullet, the Star 4T (what the Stella is called in Europe) actually beats both catalyzed and derestricted, rejetted 2-stroke Stars off the line.

Once the engine’s broken in, the performance only gets better. While there was little to no gain in top speed, acceleration improved and the engine took on a slightly deeper rumble. It’s still pretty dang quiet while idling—more than my other 4-stroke scoots. When I first started riding it, I had to tweak the throttle at lights occasionally to make sure it was still running.

Overall, the Stella is agile. It feels light and nimble. It doesn’t pull to either side. The lean angles aren’t as acute as on some modern scooters, particularly those with taller wheels. The Stella’s somewhat more likely to scrape bottom on very tight/fast curves but doesn’t have a protruding center stand or exhaust like most modern scoots. In general, it’s very capable, but required some adjustment in riding style.

Stella, with rack

I wasn’t keen on the Sava whitewalls that came with my Stella. Even properly inflated, they felt a bit squishy, a little slippery. For whitewalls, I think the Maxxis tires (stock on Buddy 150s) are better. I eventually switched to Michelin S1 blackwalls before the Savas expired, partially to gauge the difference. While not dramatic, I find them to grip better than the Savas, especially on wet surfaces.

The Stella’s brakes aren’t spectacular but they’re adequate. As with most scooters, most stopping power is in the front brake and the front disc is comparable to stock discs on most other scoots. The rear drum brake is a bit softer. I’ve learned to give myself a bit more braking room and distance between myself and other vehicles.

Many potential buyers may wonder if the Stella 4-stroke will make a good first scooter. Their primary concern will likely be shifting. All I can say is this: For 50 years, the majority of people who learned to ride scooters did so on shifters like the Stella.

To sum up, the Stella may be right for you if…
• You want a vintage-style shifter with the support of a warranty and reliability of a new scooter
• You really dig the style
• You’re looking for a unique or different riding experience from automatic scooters or other PTWs
• You’re looking for a high-MPG, low-emission vehicle

The Stella may NOT be right for you if…
• You need a scooter that will go over 60mph
• You’re not physically up to the task of shifting

—Eric Almendral

Thanks, Eric! You can read his full review on Modern Buddy by clicking here. UPDATE: You can read my review here. Favicon

Plus: Now (finally!) available everywhere, still the Stella we know and love (more or less)

Minus: Continental Zippy 1s ditched for cheezy whitewalls, no BLACK?

The details

MSRP: $3,599
Built in: India
Construction: Pressed steel “duocoque” w/rear subframe
Curb weight: 256 lbs (116 kg)
Front susp: Trailing link w/single hydraulic damper & coil spring
Rear susp: Swing arm w/single hydraulic damper & coil spring
Front brake: Hydraulic disc
Rear brake: 6-inch (152mm) mechanical drum
Front tire: 3.50-10
Rear tire: 3.50-10
Engine: 147.55cc carbureted single cylinder 4-stroke, air-cooled
Transmission: 4-speed manual w/multi-plate wet clutch
Power/torque: N/A
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2 Comments
  1. Charlie permalink
    March 16, 2011 11:34 pm

    Hi. Great post about the Stella 4 stroke. I am going to buy a Stella 4 stoke and the dealer has the slate blue and the creme colors. This’ll be my first scooter and I will be using it for my primary means of transportation. I like the creme colored one that u have but I was wondering if it shows dirt very easily and if u have to wash it quite frequently?

  2. March 17, 2011 1:08 am

    Pretty much, yes and yes! It shows dirt pretty easily. I didn’t realize how much until I saw the new creme ones at my dealer last week. I gave it a long overdue wash as soon as I could.

    Frequent washing (monthly maybe?) is pretty good for longevity and should be considered part of your maintenance regimen. The Stella has a lot more rubber and steel than my other scoots and requires slightly different care. A good rubber protectant is a must. Loose dirt and debris on your floorboard and elsewhere can lead to scratches or dinks in the paint. If you stick with the whitewalls, they should be cleaned every so often as well.

    Just watch out for getting water in the electrics, in the airbox (cover the opening if you remove the cowls for washing) and in the glovebox, which can handle a good rain but not a direct horizontal blast from a water jet.

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