Benelli Leoncino 250: Road Test Review
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Has Benelli managed to offer the larger Leoncino 500’s virtues into a smaller, more accessible package?
Words by Benjamin Gracias
Photography by Vikrant Date
Benelli has entered the entry-level neo-retro segment with the Leoncino 250. It looks the part and if it is anything like the larger Leoncino 500 we have tested, Benelli would surely have a winner. So is the Leoncino 250 as capable as its bigger sibling, the Leoncino 500?
- Looks fantastic, grabs a lot of attention.
- Tractable motor - less gearshifts required in the city.
- Compact dimensions make it easy to ride in city traffic.
- Offers a good balance between comfortable ride and eager handling.
- Tiny seat makes riding position very cramped.
- Long-throw gear lever needs getting used to.
- Motor lacks top end punch.
- It is a well designed motorcycle
- The lion logo on the fender makes the motorcycle look special
- Metzeler Sportec M5 tyres provide plenty of grip.
The Leoncino 250 looks like a scaled-down Leoncino 500. Both seem to share the same bodywork and wheels. However, there are differences between the two. The LED headlamp is oval in shape compared to the 500’s round setup. Also, the 250 gets a white sticker on the fuel tank and below the rider seat. The lion emblem on the front fender is finished in black instead of silver like on the 500. A look at the Leoncino 250’s side profile reveals that it has a smaller rear fender.
The Leoncino 250 is a compact motorcycle. Its 12.5-litre fuel tank is on par with the segment. Even the ground clearance is quite good with the lowest point on the motorcycle being the catalytic convertor under the swingarm.
The switchgear and palm grips are of good quality and the levers are easy to reach. However, the panel gaps are uneven in some places and build quality feels average. It has exposed wiring around the trellis frame and above the radiator.
Benelli is known to make beautiful motorcycles and the Leoncino 250 is arguably its most gorgeous motorcycle sold in India. It is a hit with the Indian crowd as well and we had a lot of intrigued passersby enquiring about the Leoncino 250’s engine capacity.
Also read: Benelli Leoncino 500: Road Test Review
The Leoncino 250’s compact dimensions do take a toll on its ergonomics. For one, the seat is tiny for both the rider and pillion. Add to that the rearset footpegs which have your knees bent more than they would be on something like a KTM Duke. This causes you to sit further ahead on the seat and very close to the handlebar. It is an off riding position in the sense that your lower body is cramped while your upper body has a lot of room. To take some stress off your legs, you have to sit back on the edge of the slightly scalloped rider seat which leaves no room for the pillion to sit on.
The pillion seat feels impractical due to its small surface area and lack of a grab rail to hold on to. It’s a shame since the seat is well padded and feels comfortable. Personally, I would have preferred a flatter and longer seat. Even slightly forward-set footpegs could help offer a more comfortable riding stance.
At best, the seat should work for shorter adults but if you are above 5ft 8in and have set your mind on getting the Leoncino 250, you will seriously have to consider getting a flatter seat for the motorcycle.
Technology & Features:
Like all neo-retro motorcycles, the Leoncino 250 offers a modern take on classic motorcycles design and gets fresh features as well. However, the features bit is limited to LED lighting all around and a digital instrument console.
The tablet-style instrument console has a relatively small display. However, it is well laid out and sticks to displaying only important information such as the speed, RPM, fuel level, engine temperature, odo and tripmeters and a gear position indicator. There is no fancy stuff here to distract you from doing the most important thing: riding.
Engine & Performance:
Powering the Leoncino 250 is a 249cc liquid-cooled and fuel-injected single cylinder motor derived from the discontinued Benelli TNT 25. However while it was tuned for more power and peaky power delivery in the TNT 25, the Leoncino 250 seems to be tuned for better bottom end grunt. It develops around 3PS less than the TNT 25 and has a linear power delivery. The Leoncino 250 lacks outright performance and even the Yamaha FZ25 with its lower 20.9PS and 20Nm power outputs manages to out-accelerate the Benelli. With the throttle whacked open the Leoncino 250 offers a linear pull all the way upto 6000rpm post which there is a mild spike in performance.
Being based on an older motor, the TNT 25 doesn’t have the refinement of most modern motors and feels mildly gruff. At around 7000rpm, vibrations can be felt on the footpegs. With the engine spinning at higher revs, there is a loud intake noise coming from the airbox. This can be bothersome during extended highway runs.
Where the motor impresses in in the city. It is quite tractable and offers enough flexibility to allow the motor to be ridden in higher gears at low speeds. In our tests, the 4th gear roll-on times were a lot longer than the 3rd gear roll on time due to the 4th gear having a significantly taller ratio than 3rd gear. Thanks to the low bottom end grunt, at city speeds the Leoncino 250 offers enough power to not just pull away cleanly but with gusto. This combination of bottom end power delivery and tractability allows the Leoncino 250 to post better fuel efficiency figures in the city.
Overall, unlike the 390 Duke, Interceptor or even Benelli’s own Imperiale 400, the Leoncino 250’s motor fails to excite. It feels dull and underpowered when you try to hustle the bike around.
Ride & Handling:
The Leoncino 250 gets a trellis frame with 41mm upside down forks and monoshock suspension setup. For my 68kg weight, the ride feels tuned on the stiffer side. That said, the suspension soaks up large bumps rather well. Owing to its short travel suspension, the Leoncino 250 does bottom out over sharp ruts. Even then the suspension is well damped and does not let the rider feel any shocks and judders.
In terms of handling, the Leoncino 250 feels light on its feet. While the front end does not offer sharpness or feedback on par with the KTM 250 Duke, its wide handlebars offer excellent leverage and help the bike change directions quickly. The Leoncino 250 feels planted in corners and allows you the confidence to ride quicker and lean more into corners. A major part of this planted feel is thanks to the longest in class wheelbase and the grip levels afforded by the sticky Metzeler Sportec M5 radials also seen on the KTM 390 Duke.
For braking, the Leoncino 250 gets a comparatively smaller 280mm front disc but a larger 240mm rear disc. Our test bike had issues with braking and offered varying levels of feedback. We will be updating this space once we get the issue rectified and test the brakes again.
Overall, the Leoncino 250 impresses with its ride and handling package and has the potential to be a fun-to-ride motorcycle with a more powerful and exciting motor.
The Benelli Leoncino 250 has got it right on the design front and even in terms of underpinnings and suspension kit. It offers a good balance between a comfortable ride and sporty handling. But the Leoncino 250 falls short in two places. Its motor, while impressive with its tractability in the city, feels underpowered and isn't much fun when given the beans. Then the tiny seat and cramped riding position is a major issue if you are an average-sized individual.
Like all its models, Benelli brings its Leoncino 250 in India via the CKD route and this adds to the motorcycle’s ex-showroom price. Its pricing at Rs 2.5 lakh is on par with the larger 390 Duke (Rs 2.48 lakh) and Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 (Rs 2.56 lakh) both of which offer good performance and excellent value. However, if you have your mind set on getting a neo-retro motorcycle, there is a certain Japanese bikemaker offering a similar product for Rs 9,000 less.
Also read: Honda CB300R: Road Test Review
The Honda CB300R is also brought to India via the CKD route. It looks fantastic, has a slightly better feature list than the Leoncino 250 and feels a class above in terms of quality. At Rs 2.41 lakh (ex-showroom) for the CB300R, we can not recommend the Benelli Leoncino 250 over the Honda. If Benelli manages to increase localisation to get the Leoncino 250’s prices down and offer it with a more ergonomic riding position, that would make the Italian naked an interesting proposition.