What began as the Benelli brothers pursuit for passion of creating motorcycles back in the year 1911 in PESARO, Italy is now one of the oldest European motorcycle manufacturers still in operation. Benelli in 2005 was taken over by the QJIAN JIANG (QJ) group of China. Today, Benelli has established itself in more than 70 countries worldwide and is growing at a steady pace.
The Leoncino range of motorcycles first came into existence after the end of world-war II in 1951.At that time it was available in both 2 and 4 stroke variants, very smart of Benelli to do so. The World-War had left its mark, creating a huge demand for cheap transportation across masses to which the 4-stroke engine catered to, while for the premium power hungry customers, there were the 2-strokes.
The lion cub was a huge success since its launch, and today, 6 decades later still exists, not in the same form though, but a much better modern version of it. The Leoncino of today is made in China, although it does share many things in common with its ancestor, the lion of Pesaro on the front fender is the most recognizable.
The Benelli Leoncino gets a DOHC twin cylinder liquid cooled 500 cc engine, churning out a max power of 47.5 PS @ 8500 rpm and a decent torque figure of 46 nm @6000rpm, these figures will remind of the Benelli TRK502 as it shares the exact same engine with the Leo only with a different state of tune.
The 8 valve motor is mated to a silk smooth 6- speed gearbox which makes the ride quality a pleasant experience. All this translates into a very fun and engaging ride quality even with the hefty weight it carries ( 170kgs dry). The engine feels sporty, delivers torque on demand and is quick revving which makes it a very engaging motorcycle to ride
The gears are tall and there is enough torque throughout the rev-band, making riding in traffic a less tiring experience demanding lesser gear-shifts but the slightly heavy clutch does seem to bother you a bit in bumper to bumper traffic.
Though, I must applaud the engine heat management on the Leo, giving no heating issues in any conditions. Considering that the Leoncino is one of the most important bikes in India for Benelli, it does look and sound upto the expectations, so is the build quality which is top notch.
Thanks to the trellis frame the motorcycle is very easy to maneuver, it feels very nimble yet confidence inspiring across terrains, all credits to the sticky PIRELLI ANGEL ST tyres than come factory fitted. The Leoncino comes with beefy 50mm forks in the front and an adjustable mono shock in the back with a preload adjustment knob, ruling out the need to carry tools to adjust, which is a plus point when you are riding on varied patches of road over a long distance, one can adjust it on the go.
That being said, the front absorbed anything and everything that came its way, but it slightly dived a bit more than I anticipated on slow speeds , the rear on the other hand, felt a lil stiff , this was not a problem on the smooth tarmac but as I went on to ride on the slightly more interior country roads it became very pronounced as I could feel every bump and pothole , but this becomes slightly less punishing due to the adjustment knob .
The motorcycle feels at home on tarmac and leans into corners with ease, going into uphill corners, you realize its a machine which lets you enjoy to the core as there is power on demand whenever you ask for it , pull the throttle and off you go.
Talking about throttle , the lion cub does make for one lovely sounding machine , the exhaust note is pleasing to the rider and to everyone around, it wasn’t the looks that turned the heads on this one but the sound, following the Benelli tradition. While riding through small town and villages , even before seeing the bike I could see people turn around and look for what the lovely sound was coming from , at one instance I was even asked to rev the motocycle by a group of fascinated guys in a village . Full marks to Benelli on the exhaust front as always .
The 320mm disc Dual disk brake setup on the front delivers excellent bite, the bike comes to an halt instantly and the feedback is progressive. The rear brakes too provide sufficient braking power adding to riders confidence. The instrument cluster Is simple and easy to read , the headlamp makes the bike look great in flesh and photos but feels a little less than adequate at night , especially in area with no street lamps , the tail light adds that feel of oomph to the looks and gives a modern feel to it. The fuel tank with the capacity of 13.5 litres coupled with a decent fuel economy 24-25kmpl does not feel inadequate, neither does the mileage, what say?
Looking at the bike one might feel that its too low but has a comfortable ground clearance of 165mm, which really didn’t seem to bother me while riding it. Infact, I personally loved the way the Leoncino makes you feel.
With the same engine as the TRK 502 , the Leoncino seems to be playing it very close to the chest , especially in the Indian market where the segments are not really divided on the types of motorcycle but the rather the price bracket . Benelli has made it a fun to ride bike which ticks off all the boxes without a doubt but with a price, more specifically ₹ 4.79 ex showroom, pan India.
The Leoncino is a perfect package for someone looking for a occasional tourer with the comfort in the day to day traffic and commute without compromising on the power and premium feel.
The Leoncino is every bit comfortable , easy to ride , great to look at and sounds amazing . Looking at the low after sale costs and 5 year unlimited kilometres warranty it might please a lot of people out in the market for a motorcycle in this price bracket. Ultimately the Leoncino just goes to show that Benelli as a manufacturer is committed and prepared to serve the Indian market and is in it for a long run.
Words & Photography – Govind Gadekar