The saying is massively overused, but there really is no replacement for displacement. Such is the case with the updated 2022 Piaggio BV 400 S – BV being the abbreviation for Beverly. For a few years now, Europeans and Americans alike have been doing just fine with Piaggio’s BV 350, but stricter Euro 5 regulations have forced manufacturers to comply with the rules if they want to keep doing what they do; sell product.
What this has largely meant is a retuning of motorcycles and scooters to meet the new regs at the cost of power (or at the very least, a reshuffling of where that power is found). That’s fine for motorcycles with lots of horses to begin with, but when you’re playing in scooter territory, every little horse counts. Piaggio’s answer to make the BV 350 pass? More displacement, of course!
Packing On The Muscle
For 2022, the BV 400 S gets a bump up to 399cc for its single-cylinder engine, resulting in a claimed 35 horsepower – 17% more than the 350 it replaces. Piaggio also says torque is up to 28 lb-ft – 20% higher than before. We’ll have to take Piaggio’s word for it since we couldn’t put the BV on the dyno, but simply judging by the butt dyno, the BV 400 really moves!
Thirty-five ponies doesn’t sound like much, but the BV 400 had no problem winning stoplight-to-stoplight drag races. There is an initial lag when first getting on the throttle that’s common with scooter CVTs, but compared to other models in the class (we’re looking at you, Suzuki Burgman 400), the lag is hardly noticeable. Power seems to always be there when you need it, which is reassuring when you can often feel vulnerable riding a scooter in crowded cities.
Where the BV surprises is on the highway. Engines this small tend to be maxed out once you get to highway speeds, but not so with the Piaggio. There’s plenty of gusto to quickly reach merging speeds and blend with traffic, but better still is the leftover reserve on tap should you need to make an overtake. So smooth and deceiving is the BV that I often found myself cruising along only to look down and see the speedo showing 90mph – with a little more speed to spare!
Living With It
Like most things in life, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. The seat isn’t dramatically tall at 31.1 inches, but its base is really wide, making it difficult to reach the ground. For my 30-inch inseam, I had to settle for only reaching my toes to the ground. I didn’t think it was a big deal, as this step-through balances its weight nicely with its fuel down low.
The seating position is a reminder that the BV 400 S is meant for major metropolitan European cities – you’re bolt upright, feet underneath you like you’re sitting in an office chair taking a scoliosis test. What’s more, the windscreen feels mere inches away from your face. For short jaunts, it’s not so bad; you get a commanding view of the road ahead with very little wind to hit your face. The downside is the inability to move anywhere else, making longer trips a contest of will and strength to see how long you can stand being in a single position. This probably isn’t an issue for Europeans and their tightly packed cities, but for ‘Muricans who need to cover some distance, it might be.
Then again, the fact you can even consider going long-ish distances on the BV is a positive in itself. It clearly has the power to do it and the wind protection to do it without getting bugs in your teeth. Despite our heavy right hands, we were still able to coax 52 miles per gallon out of its 3.2-gallon tank. Considering today’s gas prices, suddenly a scooter like this could become attractive to many.
This is a good thing because commuting on a scooter like the BV makes sense. To add to the reasons above, having the convenience of underseat storage adds to the Piaggio’s practicality. Piaggio claims you can fit two half helmets under there. John Burns couldn’t fit his large Shoei Neotec modular, and I couldn’t fit my medium Arai Defiant-X with a communicator on the side. However, my small Arai Corsair-X, when laid on its side, just barely fits underneath with a little bit of room to spare around the sides. If you wear a communicator, your chances don’t look good – unless you wear a small helmet and are good at jigsaw puzzles. If you’re one who still goes to an office for work these days, fitting a foot-long sub for lunch and a change of clothes under the seat is easily doable. You can even charge your phone via the USB port in the hidden compartment in the leg shield. Oh, and there’s the obligatory flip-out bag hook between your knees, too.
Speaking of the USB port and moving electrons, the BV is a little more sophisticated than your average scoot. For starters, the rider only has to keep the key fob on them to do nearly anything. A push-button knob below the bars turns the ignition on or off once it’s in proximity of the fob. With the scoot on you can open the fuel door, or underseat storage, with the push of buttons adjacent to the bars (redundant buttons are also on the key fob).
Beyond the key fob, you’ll also find ABS and traction control on the BV. Neither are adjustable for levels, but you can turn traction control off (ABS is always on). While I wasn’t surprised that traction control only activated while getting little throttle happy in some gravel, I was pleasantly surprised by how hard I could brake before feeling the faintest hint of ABS intervention. You’ll likely never feel it in normal riding, but it’s going to be a potential lifesaver in an emergency or in bad weather. While I’m less inclined to say the same about the TC on the BV, when the road conditions suck, any safety feature is better than none.
There Really Is No Replacement
In the past, the 400cc category of scooters have seemed strange to me. If you wanted to burn miles, then mega scooters with really big engines would make sense. If bopping around little towns was more your thing, then a little scoot would be better and cheaper. After spending time with the BV 400 S I realize I was missing the point. The BV 400 S reaches a perfect balance between the two extremes. It’s big enough to ride far-ish, but also small enough to be a daily rider.
Negatives? I have a few. For starters, the aforementioned ergos get more annoying the longer you ride. If I was to really pick a nit, the dual shocks provide a ride that’s a little more jarring than I’d prefer. An unusual omission is the lack of a parking brake, though this didn’t turn out to be much of a problem. Just curb a wheel.
Lastly, there’s the price. For $7,199 the Piaggio BV 400 S packs a lot of scooter punch for less than some of its competitors. With a healthy engine, more than adequate storage space, and attractive looks, the BV seems like a bargain in the scooter space. Of course, an actual 400cc motorcycle undercuts the Piaggio by thousands of dollars, but we imagine someone shopping for one isn’t considering the other. If the BV 400 is on your radar, then the saying still holds true. There really is no replacement for displacement.
|2022 Piaggio BV 400 S Specifications|
|Engine Type||4-stroke, 4 valves, Single overhead camshaft (SOHC)|
|Bore x Stroke||84mm x 72mm|
|Max Power (claimed)||35 HP at 7,500 rpm|
|Max Torque (claimed)||37.7 Nm at 5,500 rpm|
|Fuel System||Electronic fuel injection|
|Fuel Capacity||3.17 gallons|
|Tested Fuel Economy||52 mpg|
|Frame||Double cradle tubular pipe in high strength steel|
|Front Suspension||Hydraulic telescopic fork|
|Rear Suspension||Dual, double action hydraulic shock absorber, adjustable preload on 5 positions|
|Front Brake||Single 300mm disc, ABS, ASR|
|Rear Brake||Single 240mm disc, ABS, ASR|
|Front Wheel||Cast aluminum|
|Rear Wheel||Cast aluminum|
|Seat Height||31.1 inches|
|Curb Weight||430 pounds (measured)|
|Colors||Argento Cometa, Nero Tempesta, Arancio Sunset|
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