Benelli Leoncino: Road Test Review

Published On Aug 17, 2019 By Jehan Adil Darukhanawala for Benelli Leoncino

Does Benelli’s urban scrambler do enough to tempt those who are looking at their first big motorcycle?

Benelli Leoncino Road Test Review

After sampling the TRK 502 twins a while back, we were wishing that Benelli brought the Leoncino to India soon. The urban scrambler is powered by the same 500cc parallel-twin engine but with the absence of the adventure tourer fairing and all of the other components that made it so hefty, we figured the Leoncino would be a better motorcycle for those who wanted to get on to larger capacity machines. Now that it is finally here in India, we get to answer the question: does the lion cub (means leoncino in Italian) have a roar to match its killer styling?

Pros:

  • Not imposingly sized like other Benelli motorcycles.
  • Compact dimensions with wide handlebars allow it to easily maneuver through city traffic.
  • High quality paint finish makes the bike look premium. 

Cons:

  • LED headlights do not adequately lit up roads at night.
  • Exposed wires and cables are a bit of an eyesore on such a stylish product.
  • Despite running the same motor, the Leoncino is not as fuel efficient as the TRK 502.

Stand-out Features:

  • The little lion fender ornament adds a unique touch to this motorcycle’s design.
  • The sleek LED tail-light and indicators are eye-catching touches in  the bike’s neo-retro theme.

Benelli Leoncino Road Test Review

Design:

If there was a list of motorcycles for the hipster biker, the Leoncino would definitely be on it. The chunky forks and wide handlebars resemble those of the Harley-Davidson Street-Rod, while the Leoncino’s overall shape will remind you of the Ducati Scrambler.

Benelli Leoncino Road Test Review

The fuel tank slopes downwards to meet the seat in a teardrop-like shape which does look rather elegant. Paint finish is certainly the best that we’ve seen on any Benelli motorcycle, and it gives the Leoncino a premium feel. The silver colour goes neatly along with the classic theme of the bike. 

Then there is an overdose of black. The tubular steel frame, the tubular steel swingarm, the chunky suspension units, alloy rims and the engine are doused in black. All these black bits give this otherwise cute design a slightly sinister look. 

Benelli Leoncino Road Test Review

I have to admit, I quite fancy the short tail unit with its narrow LED tail-light slightly reminiscent of the Husqvarna Svartpilen 401. Even the round LED headlamp plays well with the neo retro theme. 

Benelli Leoncino Road Test Review

The switchgear, on the other hand, does not feel as premium as the rest of the bike. It’s the same switchgear that you find on other Benellis like the TRK 502, the TNT 300 or the TNT 600i. Then there’s the issue of packaging. For example, the wires and cables running down the length of the motorcycle aren’t a concern when viewed from afar thanks to their colour merging with the black engine components. But look closer and you’ll realise that they are exposed. We really feel these should’ve been tucked away in a more elegant manner, especially considering that this is supposed to be a (slightly) premium bike.

Benelli Leoncino Road Test Review

Ergonomics:

The 785mm seat height and the bike’s narrow width allow riders of all heights to get their feet on the ground without any issues. The wide handlebars do provide loads of leverage to turn the bike, but their sheer width might make them a stretch to reach for riders with shorter limbs, especially when turning the handlebar fully to either side. With a dry weight of 186kg, the Leoncino is not light by any means. Moving the bike around in the parking lot does take a bit of effort but it’s still far easier than any of the other Benelli motorcycles.

What you will appreciate is the neutral placement of the rider’s footpegs. They are relatively low too, which should not be a hassle when your feet need to reach the ground in stop-go traffic.

There is enough room to move around in the seat and even larger riders won’t complain about a lack of space. What they might complain about though is that the rider’s seat might feel a little hard for long journeys. 

Benelli Leoncino Road Test Review

Technology & Features:

The Leoncino features LED lighting all around - headlight, taillight as well as the indicators. The tail-lamp in particular looks smashing. However, when it comes to illumination, the LED headlamp does not do a great job of lighting the road. The low beam throw is too high, the spread is lacking and so is the intensity.

Benelli Leoncino Road Test Review

Benelli has kitted the Leoncino with a fully-digital LCD instrument cluster. The layout is neatly spread out with the data easily readable in all light conditions. The amount of data is quite limited as you do not get a distance-to-empty readout or mileage calculator.

In terms of rider aids, the Leoncino only gets dual-channel ABS but it is switchable as standard. You can turn off ABS intervention on both wheels by pressing the small switch on the left mirror stalk.

Benelli Leoncino Road Test Review

Engine & Performance:

As previously stated, this is the same engine that’s also found on the TRK 502 adventure tourer. Engine output remains unchanged but Benelli has changed the sprocket sizes, giving the Leoncino shorter final ratios. This change has been made to make the Leoncino easier and zippier to ride in the city compared to the highway-focussed TRK.

 

Engine

Benelli Leoncino

Specs

500cc parallel-twin, liquid-cooled, DOHC engine

Power

47.5PS @ 8500rpm

Torque

46Nm @ 6000rpm

Transmission

6-speed gearbox

0-60kmph

3.34 seconds

0-100kmph

8.23 seconds

30-70kmph in 3rd gear

3.92 seconds

40-80kmph in 4rd gear

4.78 seconds

 

Roll on the throttle hard and the Leoncino surges forward with a spring in its step. In isolation, the acceleration test results suggest that the Leoncino is a reasonably quick motorcycle. Considering the limited power and the weight, it does quite well. However, the TRK 502 is a whole second quicker from zero to hundred. How the bison was able to outpace the cub is an anomaly which is hard to explain away. Also, the in-gear roll-on acceleration of both motorcycles is identical, further compounding the confusion as we figured the nearly-40 kilo advantage of the Leoncino would help it be peppier. Our test Leoncino did not feel as free revving the TRK we tested back in February 2019. Until we get more information from Benelli, we’re going to chalk this one up to an issue with our test bike.

Benelli Leoncino Road Test Review

But that said, in the real world, this issue is more academic than practical. There’s enough performance on tap to keep you entertained, and even in the city, the Leoncino can carry lower speeds in higher gears than the TRK. The bike was comfortably able to crawl along at 30kmph in 5th gear, and would build speed quickly without juddering when the throttle was opened.

Benelli Leoncino Road Test Review

Out on the highway, this motor is capable of sustaining 120kmph in sixth gear all day with the tacho indicating 6000rpm. It has the potential to do speeds in excess of 150kmph but the lack of any wind protection might deter you from carrying such speeds too often. Bring the speeds down to a more reasonable 100-120kmph, and both bike and rider will be extremely relaxed.

 

Mileage

Benelli Leoncino

City

22.92kmpl

Highway

24.31kmpl

Fuel tank

12.7-litres

 

Another area where the Leoncino falls short of the TRK is fuel efficiency. The TRK felt unstressed at fast highway speeds, but at the same speeds, the Leoncino’s motor felt like it was working a bit harder. Thankfully the motor feels smooth pretty much at most speeds. There are a minor amount of vibes which creep in at the footpegs from 3500rpm. But you’ll rarely notice them until the revs build much higher. And even when you do, they’re not enough to leave your feet tingling after a long, fast ride.

Benelli Leoncino Road Test Review

Gear shifts on the Leoncino are slick. However, there was a lot of play in the shifter linkages on our test bike, and that required much more movement of the gear lever when shifting up. And because of this,  while upshifting from first to second gear, we would often end up mis-shifting into neutral. Plus, with no slip and assist clutch on offer, the clutch lever feels rather heavy to operate. Using it in stop-go traffic ended up being a bit tedious.

Benelli Leoncino Road Test Review

Thankfully, this cub has the roar synonymous with Benelli motorcycles. It is loud and growls upwards of 4000rpm. Even though this bike is just BS4 compliant, we do expect it to remain just as sonorous with the BS6 update.

Benelli Leoncino Road Test Review

Ride & Handling:

 

 

Benelli Leoncino

Chassis

Tubular steel trellis frame

Suspension

Front: 50mm rebound adjustable USD fork

Rear: Preload and rebound adjustable monoshock

Tyres

F: 120/70 R17

R: 160/60 R17

Pirelli Angel ST tyres

Brakes

F: Twin 320mm discs with 4-piston caliper

R: 260mm disc with single-piston caliper

Dry weight

186kg

Wheelbase

1460mm

Out of all the modern Benellis that we have tested, the Leoncino is hands-down the most fun-to-ride bike of them all. Some of the components feel a bit over engineered, such as the wider-than-necessary tyres or the massive 50mm front fork. While these might have been more of aesthetic choices on Benelli’s part, they do a really great job of making the bike feel composed when changing directions. It’s not the quickest bike to tip into corners, but the wide bars give you so much leverage that little effort is required to do so. On a winding mountain road, you’re sure to have a hoot riding this little lion.

 

Coming to ride quality, at slow speeds, the rear shock does feel a bit stiff on the Leoncino. Ride over bad roads, and you’re sure to feel every thud in your path. The front is more forgiving, soaking in the small stuff. But once the speed goes up, the ride improves and the suspension smoothens out most road imperfections.

Benelli Leoncino Road Test Review

Brake test

Benelli Leoncino

100-0kmph

44.78m

60-0kmph

15.54m

 

The Leoncino possess some heavy duty braking equipment. It puts the kit to good use as the Leoncino is a quick stopper. It stops nearly 2.5m shorter than the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 from 100kmph and in the same test, it traverses 3.5m lesser than the TRK 502. Compared to other Benellis, the braking feedback is really commendable, though we wish it was a bit more consistent with a change of riding speed. And ABS intervention at slow speeds needs to be better too. The system kicks in quite early over loose surfaces. This is not an issue when braking hard from 80-85kmph, providing great stability.

 

Variants:

Benelli India has decided to get only the standard variant of the Leoncino to India. There is another, slightly off-road biased version of the same bike called the Leoncino Trail. The Trail ditches the alloy rims for a 19-/17-inch spoke wheel setup and comes shod with knobby tyres. It is unlikely that Benelli will get this variant to India anytime soon.

Benelli Leoncino Road Test Review

Verdict:

The Leoncino is a very likeable motorcycle. It looks great, sounds better and rides even better. The stiff slow speed ride will take a bit of getting used to, but it is certainly the best Benelli on sale in India right now. And that makes its asking price of Rs 4.79 lakh really sweet. Yes, the lion cub definitely has the roar to match the style and it does enough to tempt and keep the first-time big-bike buyer happy -- as long as buying a big-sized bike didn’t tempt you towards Benelli in the first place.

Benelli Leoncino

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Benelli Leoncino STD (Petrol)Rs. 4,79,000*

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