Fifteen days with Benelli Leoncino

I used for a couple of weeks the Street-bike (or Scrambler?) made by the Italian-Chinese house. Beautiful in its aesthetics, I found it very nice and relaxing to ride too. With unexpected sporty characteristics. There are a few flaws here and there, and I cannot fail to point this out, but the final balance is more than positive. Come and take a tour with me!

 

The first time I saw a Leoncino on the road I was attracted by its design, but I didn’t recognize it. I slowed down to peek at the brand on the tank. And I was impressed when I discovered that it was a Benelli. Hence my curiosity and with it, the email to the press office of the Italian-Chinese house, to ask for a test-ride.

In person, the Leoncino draws attention with its sophisticated design made up of fine details. Then I started the engine, discovering a pleasant noise in the exhaust, anything but subdued.

On the move, it is an extremely easy and sincere motorcycle. It has a well-defined personality.

In the fortnight in which I tested it, I accumulated many compliments on the street. And a friend I met – who never considered it before – had the desire to buy it.

Beyond how it goes, it seemed important to me to open the article in this way, because Leoncino’s design really had a lot of praises. Now I will tell you about my 500 miles with her.

 

 

Personality and refinement
At first glance, it immediately strikes at the personality and the quality of certain components. The course of the tank and saddle make a pleasant view, and you can notice original and well-tended details, such as the fuel cap, or the exhaust silencer. But also the upside-down fork, with 50 mm stems, and the 320 mm discs, with 4-piston radial calipers.

Full led front and back lights stand out, but the tail running light is too dim, and you do not notice, except when you press the brake lever.

The dashboard has a design not yet seen, dissimilar to any other and very complete in the information provided. However, the covering glass seems a bit of an afterthought, and when you travel on a sunny day you can see practically nothing of what’s underneath it.

Overall, however, there is still a feeling of refinement. For example, the rear shock’s preload adjustment knob protrudes from under the seat to facilitate its operation. Or the button on the handlebar to disengage the ABS, even if you then ask yourself: why should one disengage it?

And it is precisely the care in the realization that requires a second, more careful inspection to notice certain details that are not exactly top of the range. Such as the steel swingarm, or the large flange that supports the rear caliper. Even some rusty spots on one of the front discs of the bike we reviewed.

Put a high gear and go
Everything on this Benelli is user-friendly.

Thanks to its engine that pull strong from as low as 1,500 rpm, even with a high gear, even uphill.
There is no need to rev. A bit of gas and you move in a relaxed way
, helped by the saddle position and the wide handlebars, which allow good control of the vehicle, even for beginners.

Where the road opens up, the most pleasant cruising is around 60 mph. But you can go even further. On highway transfers, the constant speed of 70 mph is easily maintained without excessive wind loads.  Flat out, 99 mph is within easy reach.

The press release declares 47.6 horsepower at 8,500 rpm, and a maximum torque of 4.6 kgm at 6,000 rpm. Personally, in my miles with the Leoncino I preferred to move down the regime of use. Between 2,000 and 4,500 rpm when going for a relaxed ride, between 4,000 and 6,500 for a more aggressive riding. It is not advisable to insist with the accelerator past it, because even if the red line is placed at 10000 rmp, the engine doesn’t particularly like to be taken in that range. You can have a more effective riding if you put one gear up just above 6,000 rpm.

On the other hand, the sound from the exhaust is cool. And there’s a reason: the drop between one gear and another is only 500 rpm, compared to about 1,000 rpm for most bikes. It reminds of the noise of a racing bike, with a very close gear ratio. With a lot of torque and little extension, this choice increases the driving pleasure, making sure that the gears fly quickly one after the other.

A good choice, because we are on a 500 cc Street-bike. This is also a choice that makes it easier for the newcomer to downshift, because the reduced fall in revs helps to manage the rear wheel without the need to “pull up the engine” with the gas, or to accompany the release of the clutch: the rear wheel never reacts by blocking.

We noticed a slightly long excursion of the gearshift pedal. Nothing problematic, but those who are used to more sporty gear changes immediately notice the uninspiring need to move a lot the foot.

We also noticed a marked noisiness of the radiator cooling fan: you can notice it when riding at low speed in urban alleys. The big positive note is the consumptions. A spirited driving return 79 mpg, driving relaxed you reach 98. Much more than what Benelli claims on the data sheet of the bike. Great!

A steel swingarm, with a massive licence plate holder structure attached. And yet the Leoncino is fine even if you are looking for bends

An unexpectedly fast frame
The Leoncino amazes positively for its agility. Just think of a trajectory, even in tight hairpin bends, and she’s already inside. And if the surface is not too wavy, you can bend it up to completely remove the “chicken strip”.

A sporty ride is not what she’s been designed to do, but the Leoncino copes with it just fine and keeps a consistent balance. Also thanks to the suspensions, that may not be the best components money can buy but compensate with their stiffness.

And here I have to mention another unexpected thing I noticed: the rear suspension is a bit too stiff. Also with the passenger. In the end, I opted to release completely the preload, which gave a bit more comfort. However, in this situation, you will notice some incoherence when pushing it hard.

It’s a trade-off: either you’re uncomfortable, but you have a bike that can go much faster than you’d expect, or you’re comfortable, but hold back spirited driving when the curves start.

For the rest, a praise for the brakes, which are always present and modular. And the ABS also works well, tested in foolish mode: I found a place with gravel, I arrived at 25 km/h and pulled the brakes. I returned the bike without a scratch, so it worked!

A word about the passenger. The part of the saddle at your disposal is a bit small. Not uncomfortable, but small. It means that two generously sized people are not comfortable on the Leoncino. Two average people yes. And my passenger found the bike comfortable. Just a bit of a hindrance to the side handles, when climbing on the saddle.

So, what?
I liked the Leoncino. I was captured by its styling and the feeling of relaxation that led me to the ride. That did not mean going slowly. On the contrary, the bike is so agile that it often invited me to push her a little bit too fast.

But Leoncino was not conceived to do this. She is designed to take a stroll in relaxation mode. That is why it is so good.

So if you’re looking for a bike with a refined and original styling, pleasant to ride and with more than decent performances, you’ve found it. Did you also want it to be cheap? Well, you can take it home for just £4,990 + OTR. Think about it!

 

What I liked

 

  • Styling
  • Ease and simplicity in driving
  • Chassis and suspensions
  • Cost-effectiveness: it costs very little and consumes very little!

 

What I didn’t like

 

  • Rear suspension too stiff
  • The dashboard is difficult to read in daylight
  • The noisy cooling fan
  • Lack of storage space

 

Benelli, between Italy and China (Qianjiang and Geely)

The Benelli brand was acquired in 2005 by the Chinese Qianjiang Group, a manufacturer of small displacement two-wheelers (with its brand Keeway), but also quads, electric bikes, mowers, golf cars, generators.

Qianjiang is not exactly a small company. In China it employs 14 thousand people, with an annual production of 1.2 million two-wheelers and 2 million engines for other applications.

In this context it should be added that in 2016 the Geely Group took over 29.77% of Qianjiang, creating a very strong economic base. Because of this, investments were probably made that are leading to the new models (there are rumors about a 750 cc engine and new motorcycles in the near future).

Who is Geely? Well, in addition to producing cars in China under its own brand, Geely is also the owner of Volvo and the London Electric Vehicle Company. It also controls the majority of Lotus, Lynk & Co and Proton. It owns 9.7% of Daimler-Benz.

The Leoncino was designed and developed in Pesaro, but is produced in China. In the Pesaro plant, on the other hand, 3-cylinder TNTs continue to be produced, which can no longer be sold in Europe, because they have not undergone Euro 3 approval. But can be sold in China, where they can currently be purchased.

The reference markets for the Benelli brand, in addition to Europe, are Asia and South America. Sales in Iran are also expected to grow.

 

 

 

Rear shock, with knob to adjust preload at your fingertips

 

Two 320 mm discs and four-piston calipers

 

A few rusty spots on one of the discs of the bike under test. This would seem to be an isolated case

 

Beautiful and refined. The cap of the Leoncino tank

 

 

The 500 in-line twin developed in Pesaro and produced in China. It has its strong point in the torque it provides at low revs

 

TECHNICAL DATA
M.Y. 2017
LEONCINO 500
ENGINE
TYPE In line 2 cylinders, 4-stroke, liquid cooled, double overhead camshaft, 4
valves for cylinder
DISPLACEMENT 500 c.c.
BORE x STROKE 69 x 66,8 mm
COMPRESSION RATIO 11,5:1
RATED OUTPUT 35 kW (47,6 Cv) @ 8500 rpm
MAX. TORQUE 46 Nm (4,6 kgm) @ 6000 rpm
LUBRICATION Forced wet sump
FUEL SUPPLY Electronic fuel injection with throttle body ø 37 mm
EXHAUST SYSTEM With catalytic converter and oxygen sensors
CERTIFICATION Euro 4 – CO2 emissions: 91g/km – Fuel consumption 4,3 l/100km
CLUTCH Wet clutch
GEARBOX 6 speeds
FINAL DRIVE Chain drive
ELECTRIC EQUIPMENT
IGNITION ECU – TLI
SPARK PLUG NGK CR8E
STARTING ELECTRIC
CHASSIS
FRAME Frame in steel tubes
FRONT SUSPENSION Upside-down forks Ø 50mm with rebound brake adjustable
FRONT SUSPENSION STROKE 125mm
REAR SUSPENSION Rear swing arm with lateral shock absorber with spring preload
adjustment and hydraulic rebound brake adjustable
REAR SUSPENSION Rear swing arm with lateral shock absorber with spring preload
adjustment and hydraulic rebound brake adjustable
REAR SHOCK ABSORBER STROKE 51 mm – ( 128mm rear wheel travel )
FRONT BRAKE Twin semi floating disk ø320 mm with 4 piston radial calliper and ABS
REAR BRAKE Single disc ø260 mm with single piston floating calliper and ABS
FRONT RIM TYPE Aluminum alloy
FRONT RIM DIMENSIONS 17” x MT 3.50” DOT
REAR RIM TYPE Aluminum alloy
REAR RIM DIMENSIONS 17” x MT 4.5” DOT
FRONT TYRE 120/70-ZR17
REAR TYRE 160/60 – ZR17
DIMENSIONS
LENGHT 2160 mm
WIDHT EXCLUDING MIRRORS 875 mm
HEIGHT EXCLUDING MIRRORS 1160 mm
PILOT SEAT HEIGHT 815 mm
WHEELBASE 1460 mm
GROUND CLEARANCE 165 mm
MASS IN RUNNING ORDER 207 kg
USABLE TANK VOLUME 12,7 lt
RESERVE 2 lt

 

 

%d bloggers like this: