Modern Classics! Most premium motorcycle manufacturers in India have some iteration of the modern classic motorcycle in their line-up. And the latest entrant to the modern classic party is Benelli India, with its own offering of a neo-retro flavour, with a slightly affordable price tag in the premium motorcycle segment. Benelli's latest launch is the Leoncino 500, which is a nod to the Italian brand's 'lion cub' models of the 1950s and 1960s. The Leoncino 500 is Benelli's second launch after the company started its second innings in the country under new management. Priced at under ₹ 5 lakh, with a design that is quite likeable, the Leoncino is essentially a modern take on the earlier Scrambler models from Benelli!
The design is lean and mean, thanks to the exposed trellis frame and the overall look is that of a Scrambler. But, the motorcycle packs on serious muscle thanks to fat 50 mm USD forks and chunky Pirelli Angel ST tyres. The bike was designed at Benelli's CentroStile studio in Italy, giving it that distinct Italian flavour and minimal bodywork. The company says that the piece de resistance in terms of styling is the 'Lion of Pesaro' which sits atop the front mudguard. And it would seem right too as 'Leoncino' is Italian-speak for lion cub. The looks are further complemented by the tear-drop shaped fuel tank and the ribbed seat. The rear tyre hugger and the stubby, chrome-laden exhaust accentuate the playful, happy vibe coming off the motorcycle. We are also happy to report that the Leoncino 500 goes a step further than the TRK 502 as far as quality levels and fit & finish is concerned. Be it a parking lot or city roads, the Leoncino definitely gets appreciative, sometimes, even lustful glances.
Benelli has done well to give a decent list of features on the Leoncino. The bike gets all LED lighting package along with a smart-looking fully digital instrument console but it isn't quite legible under sunlight. There is switchable ABS too, which can be turned off on both wheels with the help of a small button on the left switchgear. In terms of cycle parts, it gets twin 320 mm discs up front, gripped by 4-pot callipers and a 260 mm disc at the rear, with a single piston calliper. The motorcycle is suspended on fat 50 mm USD forks and an off-set monoshock at the rear which can be adjustable for preload and rebound.
Engine and performance
The Leoncino shares its engine with the Benelli TRK 502, which is a 499 cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin motor pumping out 47 bhp at 8,500 rpm and 46 Nm of peak toque at 6,000 rpm. The highlight here is the lovely pull that the motor generates in the bottom end and how refined it is. The engine is smooth and there is just the barest hint of vibration coming in at about 5,000-6,000 rpm.
It makes light work of overtaking slow moving vehicles and should you choose to wring the throttle, you will be rewarded with precise power delivery, which in turn leads to brisk acceleration. Make no mistake, it is a quick motorcycle and very well suited for city jaunts. The motorcycle has enough juice left even when revving close to the redline and the top end doesn't leave you wanting for more.
Ride and handling
At 186 kg, the Leoncino is not exactly a lightweight motorcycle but it is a sweet handling machine. Filtering through traffic is easy as a breeze and the occasional high speed corner will be dispatched easily too. It is an agile motorcycle, no doubt. The Pirelli Angel ST tyres are sticky and offer good grip in the wet too. The only tiny grouch that we have is the stiff ride quality. In its factory setting, the suspension is a tad too hard for our liking. Although, it is far from being a deal breaker and the rear monoshock can be adjusted according to the rider's need.
Can it tackle off-road riding?
Not quite! Even though Benelli calls it a scrambler, the Leoncino 500 likes sticking to tarmac and the 17-inch alloys wrapped in sticky Pirelli rubber are proof enough. Internationally though, the Leoncino gets a 'Trail' variant too. It is the off-road biased variant with a larger 19-inch spoked wheel at the front. The rear too gets a 17-inch spoked wheel and both wheels are wrapped in block pattern tyres. Benelli says that it will gauge the market response that the Leoncino gets and based on that, it could launch the Leoncino Trail in India sometime in the near future.
Availability and after-sales
At present, Benelli has about 19 dealerships in India with the NCR having two dealerships in Delhi and Noida. So yes, availability and servicing isn't as widespread but the company aims to have 40 operational dealerships by the year end. The company has also confirmed that it will be launching the Leoncino 250 and the TRK 250 in India before the year comes to a close. The company expects these two models to bring in the lion's share of sales and Benelli's plan of expanding its footprint will only help the company make its other models more accessible to two-wheeler enthusiasts.
The Benelli Leoncino 500 is priced at ₹ 4.79 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) and the interesting bit is that it is the most affordable Scrambler that you could buy in India. And the fact that there is no direct rival helps Leoncino's case as well. But models like the Royal Enfield 650 Twins and the KTM 390 Duke could rival it in the Indian market, in terms of performance and specifications, and at a substantially less price. Although it doesn't rob the Leoncino of the fact that it is indeed a wholesome motorcycle! For the performance and the quality that it offers, the Benelli Leoncino 500 is definitely worth the asking price.