Hot on the heels of the TRK 502 adventure tourer (read about that in this month’s BRM!) is the Leoncino, Benelli’s take on the heritage naked segment.
It may well be the hero of the Benelli stable for the next couple of months, but even though the Italian 500cc heritage naked contender is assembled in China, there appears to be none of the usual complaints with Chinese assembled machines.
Sure, the Leoncino is built to a price, with the bike retailing here for just $9490 plus on road costs, but the little lion packs in the value along with a surprisingly high level of build quality.
The Leoncino takes its name from the 1952 Benelli Leoncino 125, with the Leoncino name itself being Italian for Lion Cub. Visually, the new Leoncino packs in the modern-meets-traditional aesthetic well.
The electronics suite is headlined by the same Bosch ABS as found on the TRK 502, and is similarly switchable if you want the ability to lock a wheel, followed by a host of LED lights and a full LCD digital display, including a wraparound digital tachometer.
Between the new frame is the same 499cc engine as found in the TRK, but aside from a few minor tweaks to the airbox and gearing, it is essentially the same. Peak power is claimed at 47.6hp, backed by 48Nm of torque, while the bike only weighs in at 186kg wet.
With the Leoncino being built in Asia it misses out on big names like Brembo, KYB and the like, but the brakes and suspension which are made in house do a rather tidy job of making sure the little lion is kept well under control.
First impressions were good, with the bike showing solid build quality and decent performance despite the limited miles on the engine.
The seat I noted to be slightly on the hard side, which was becoming evident later in the day, and the dash unit and LCD display – while functional – looked dated compared to other bikes in the class.
Performance overall however was admirable, and the Leoncino put a smile on my face many times throughout the press launch.
Not only that, but Benelli are backing the mechanical reliability of the Leoncino – and other models in the range – with a full 2 year unlimited mileage warranty, which should go a long way to dispel some uncertainty towards the brand in our market as it makes its return to the mainstream.
Add to that the fact there are two more bikes in the Leoncino line up soon to arrive in New Zealand – a Scrambler and a Sports Tourer – and Benelli sure seem to be pumping plenty of value into the 500cc class.
If you’re looking for a heritage styled bike, but don’t want to go for a 600cc plus machine with its more expensive registration and insurance, the Leoncino is well worth a look.
Look for the full review in next month’s Bike Rider Magazine.