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2012 Genuine Stella: A second opinion

March 20, 2012
2012 Stella, in Ivory

2012 Genuine Stella, in Ivory (Orin O'Neill photos)

One of the most popular posts on this here blog has been Eric Almendral’s review of the very first 4-stroke Stella to arrive in the U.S. He was in a particularly good position to review it, seeing as it was his own scooter. Which he bought with his own money. And which was the only one in the U.S. for nearly a year, thanks to the soap opera that turned out to be ensuring EPA/CARB compliance.

Now that the dust has settled and 4-stroke Stellas have become more or less commonplace, I thought a second look would be in order.

A representative of Ural Northwest, the local Genuine Scooters dealer, invited me to come up to the blue barn and take their ’12 Stella for a spin.

Rear view

The only 2-stroke Stellas still available new from dealers are 2009 (or earlier) models, the transition to a 4-stroke engine made necessary by tightening emissions standards in the U.S. and elsewhere. As Eric pointed out, the Stella doesn’t look much different on the outside, but radical changes to the frame were necessary to accommodate the new LML 4-stroke engine.

While the oil-burners were first-kick starters, as Eric noted, the 4T is kinda cold-blooded; it took a few kicks to fire it up initially (well, the temperature was a bit chilly), and needed some choke and a couple restarts before it would idle unaided. Once up to temp it fired right up. While the absence of the 2T’s creamy pop-pop-pop at idle was initially disappointing, the 4T doesn’t sound anything like a lawn mower, idling very quietly.

Quiet being a relative term; based on what people have been saying I was expecting something like a Honda PCX sound level. Not so—unlike the Thai scooter, you will definitely know there’s an engine behind you and to your right.

Instrument cluster

There’s plenty of power, the Stella getting up to the 50 mph posted speed limit on Smith Road with ease. My tester only had 114 miles on it when I drove off the lot, so you can count on time and mileage loosening the engine up, resulting in a slight yet noticeable increase in oomph. If said increase is not enough, well, there are bits that will make it go faster.

I was happy to discover working a Vespa shifter is like riding a bicycle: once you know how, you’ll never forget. The Stella’s shifter was crisp and accurate, clutch takeup linear and smooth. Throttle response is likewise, and that’s really the key to launching and shifting smoothly.

It didn’t take long to realize I was listing four degrees to port, just like the Chetzemoka. You’ll notice this in pictures of people riding old-skool Vespas, and it’s nothing to worry about… you just do it unconsciously, to compensate for the weight of the engine hanging off the right side of the rear wheel.

I tend to agree with Eric’s assessment of the Sava whitewall tires: they felt a bit squishy. Luckily, swapping them out for the tires of your choice is a doddle. Newer models come standard with Continental Zippy 1s, which would be my choice of tire swap.

When I had the PX and the GTS, the biggest adjustment when switching back and forth was the former’s foot-operated rear brake. Of course, when I was riding the PX I still had a whole right foot. Figuring out how to place what’s left in a way that applies maximum braking force took a minute or two, but that’s me. The front disc works well, and the Stella comes to a stable, efficient stop when both are applied.

There’s lots for the DIYer to do (mainly because the Indian market demands easy owner maintenance); the oil filter and drain plug especially are right out there for the whole world to see. Likewise, the Department of Redundancy Department remains in effect—there’s a neutral light to supplement the neutral mark on the shifter; you have a fuel gauge, a low-fuel warning light, and a fuel tap with a reserve setting.

No oil sightglass

There is, however, no sightglass for the oil tank. Because there isn’t one, remember? Really, having to pour in a $15 liter of 2-stroke oil every ~1000 miles seriously shanked the economy notion of riding a scooter. A quart of Walmart-label dinosaur residue and a filter can be had for less than half that price. And be good for 3000 miles, or more.

Everyone I’ve ever met who didn’t sell their scooter on Craigslist after riding it once or twice has been bitten by the vintage bug. I’ve always suggested a Stella, PX or good P200 to those who’ve never, uh, scooted old-skool (sorry), because they’re solid, reliable scooters that are easy to work on and easy to get parts for.

But the 2012 Stella has a distinct advantage: It comes with a warranty. Favicon

Plus: The old-skool scooter experience, but with a warranty; still the Stella we know and love

Minus: A bit cold-blooded; no 2-stroke exhaust aroma; standard whitewall tires hold air, but…

The details

MSRP: $3,699
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 air-cooled, carbureted single-cylinder 4-stroke
Transmission:  4-speed manual w/multi-plate wet clutch 
Power/torque: N/A
  1. jon permalink
    March 20, 2012 12:46 pm

    Orin, I’ve also heard that the new 4 stroke gets fabulous gas mileage. My 2009 Kymco People 150 is settling down to about 80 mpg, and that’s with a fair amount of 50-55 mph cruising.


  2. March 20, 2012 1:14 pm

    Jon, when the new Stella came out, a figure of 140 mpg was quoted, but with an asterisk and some fine print: the figure was achieved during EPA testing in the city cycle. Of course, your mileage may vary. Owners have said they’re seeing 100 mpg, which is still very good. On a par with many new 50cc scooters, actually…

  3. ericalm permalink
    March 20, 2012 2:58 pm

    Nice post and a good follow up!

    FWIW, when I bothered tracking the Stella 4T, it was around 100. In general, I settle for “much better than I get on my kitted LX150/190.”

    The Stella 4T I reviewed was totaled in a collision with a minivan last year (their fault, of course.) Sad to see it go. Over nearly 6,000 miles (if I recall), it was a steady and reliable daily rider. I now have over 1,000 on its successor, which has had no issues other than needing a fuse replaced.

  4. Jack Riepe permalink
    March 21, 2012 9:08 am

    Dear Jon:

    The first fuel-cost earthquake of 2008 led to major outrage in the nation, and the price of fuel fell again. I suspect, however, that a repeat performance will not have the same effect. I think you are about to see the emergence of a “Scooter US Nation” that you have so long predicted. This new vehicle from India might just be here in the nick of time.

    And I think it is only a matter of year or so before some scooter model (maybe a German one) will offer integrated brakes that will give your foot a break.

    Fondest regards,
    Twisted Roads

  5. March 21, 2012 9:20 am

    I like it – if I hadn’t gone the motorcycle route I would have wound up with a higher displacement vintage machine, or at least some kind of Vespa. I had some Chinese POS (qui-gon-chee? I don’t even remember) Basically everything broke and it was a pain to work on.

    It’d still be fun to have one for bombing around town, but… I don’t think it’s in the cards with so many bikes. Maybe I can convince my wife SHE needs one. Ah well. Nice followup, really does make me miss having something nice and small.

    Behind Bars

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