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BENELLI LEONCINO (2018-on) Review

Published: 20 August 2018

It might be made in China but the Leoncino is a real Benelli

The 2018 Benelli Leoncino

It might be made in China but the Leoncino is a real Benelli

Overall Rating 3 out of 5

Benelli’s current range of small to mid-capacity Chinese-made nakeds, adventure bikes and scramblers are a far cry from the fire-breathing superbikes and super nakeds of the early noughties, but the Benelli Leoncino is still a true member of the family.

Ok, so the Italian firm has now shifted its focus to produce more affordable, modest everyday machines, but that’s no bad thing. They’re now a heck more affordable and after a day spent riding the new Leoncino on the country roads and towns near Benelli’s factory in Pesaro, Italy, (just down the road from Valentino Rossi’s house) we’re pleased to report isn’t half bad, either.

The funky roadster is stylish, well built, easy to ride, fun, charming, characterful and refreshingly different. Of course, it’s built down to a price, but there’s no signs of cost cutting despite a price tag that puts its Japanese and European competition in the shade.     

Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5

Benellis have always been about carving corners and terrorising racetracks. The Leoncino was never conceived to be a sportsbike and it’s not what you’d call razor sharp, but it doesn’t throw a hissy fit when you show it a bend.

During development the Benelli was tested on the same Panoramica coast road, near the factory, that spawned the Tornado and Tre K. It’s also the same playground used to develop Bimotas (based down the road in Rimini) back in the day.  

The chunky forks are overkill

Steering is light and accurate, there’s ample ground clearance, lots grip from the Pirelli Angel GT sports touring tyres and strong stopping power from the twin radial caliper disc set up (and insanely big 260mm rear disc).

Benelli has fitted huge 50mm diameter forks, which are usually the preserve of Italian superbikes. They’re overkill on a simple roadster like this, but they’re softy sprung and damped to give you feel and confidence, at any speed.

Engine 3 out of 5

The Leoncino (Italian for lion cub) is powered by a zesty 47bhp, fuel injected 499.6cc parallel twin cylinder motor with a deep, throbby, chocolatey soundtrack.

There's a chocolatey soundtrack

Acceleration is never going to separate arms from sockets, but there’s a surprising amount of power to keep even the experienced interested and lots of low down grunt. A smooth throttle, light controls and a slick six-speed gearbox also makes town riding a breeze.

Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5

It’s not completely Italian. The Benelli Leoncino is made in China before being shipped to Benelli, in Italy, for quality control and then distributed around the world. If our Leoncino test bike is anything to go by you shouldn’t have any worries about how it’s screwed together. A two year parts and labour warranty also helps sweeten the deal.

Insurance, running costs & value 4 out of 5

It might not have the cheeky performance of its closest ‘modern retro’ rival: the Yamaha XSR700, but it’s still fast, fun and a wallet-friendly £1800 cheaper. 

Machines in this price range normally wear rear shocks that look like they cost a fiver, but the Leoncino is different. Just like a top end tourer or adventure bike the shock wears a remote preload adjuster, making it a doddle to dial in.

The Benelli is refreshingly simple

It might not have electronic rider aids and multiple power maps, but that’s ok by us. The Benelli is refreshingly simple with switchgear buttons that start and stop it, dip the lights, blast the horn and operate the indicators…and that’s it. Perfect.

Equipment 3 out of 5

The paint finishes are deep, plastics are modern and all the little details are taken care of, like neat wiring and mirrors that don’t vibrate and swing in the wind. 

Dodgy front mudguard-mounted ‘Lion of Pesaro’ badge aside, the Benelli is full of snazzy detailed touches for the price, including Pirellis, radial brakes, ‘fat’ bars, ABS, LED lights, an LCD dash and remote rear preload adjuster.

Even current superbikes don’t have forks as chunky as the Leoncino’s. The ultra-rigid 50mm outer tubes, which give superb braking stability are something you’d normally see on exotic noughties MV Agustas, Bimotas…and Benellis. 

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 2018
Year discontinued -
New price £5,199
Used price £4,400 to £5,500
Warranty term Two years
Running costs
Insurance group -
Annual road tax £64
Annual service cost £200
Performance
Max power 47 bhp
Max torque 33 ft-lb
Top speed -
1/4-mile acceleration -
Average fuel consumption -
Tank range -
Specification
Engine size 500cc
Engine type 8v parallel twin
Frame type Tubular steel trellis
Fuel capacity 13.5 litres
Seat height 785mm
Bike weight 186kg
Front suspension 50mm USD forks adjustable for rebound damping
Rear suspension Single shock adjustable for preload and rebound damping
Front brake 2 x 320mm discs with four-piston radial caliper
Rear brake 260mm rear disc with single-piston caliper
Front tyre size 120/70 x 17
Rear tyre size 160/60 x 17

History & Versions

Model history

The Leoncino is a new model for 2018 and sits within a larger range of Benellis that differ quite significantly from the firm's previous exploits in the larger capacity classes. For example, the Tornado name - which once graced the firm's flagship superbike, now sits astride the Honda MSX125-rivaling Tornado Naked T 125.

Other versions

Benelli have produced two version of the Leoncino. MCN tested the road-biased standard Leoncino, however there is a more scrambler-inspired Leoncino Trail, which features chunky tyres, reminiscant of the Ducati Scrambler 800

Owners' Reviews

2 owners have reviewed their BENELLI LEONCINO (2018-on) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your BENELLI LEONCINO (2018-on)
Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 3.5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4.5 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 2.5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
3 out of 5

Rusty little bugger

13 October 2018 by Simon

Fine apart from Rust and electrical issues due to improper moisture sealing.

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
Ride quality is fine, and the brakes are superb - but make sure you have the brake recall actioned for this model.
Engine
4 out of 5
Nice, limited torque band, but it's a 500 - so that's expected. Keep it wound right open and change gears quickly. Clutchless upshifts are possible too which is nice.
Build Quality & Reliability
1 out of 5
RUST RUST RUST RUST RUST. The damn thing is made from disprin, it disolves in the rain. Brake discs were first, they're corroded where the pads don't meet the disc itself, parts of the frame where they're painted (Paint should protect metal from the rain) have corroded from underneath the paint, wing mirrors, the handlebars and the engine mounts all have large amounts of rust in only a few weeks. All painted parts again - this shouldn't be happening, or at least it shouldn't be happening for the first few years of ownership.
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
Great to run, cheap to service. Full tank is about £10 a week. First service was about £80 too.
Equipment
1 out of 5
Speedo is prone to moisture ingress/condensation - and as a result mine is slow to update after changing gear - it can take a few seconds for the display to change as the new LCD segments slowly fade in. It's also unreadable in strong sunlight.
4 out of 5

Six months on a Leoncino in Thailand

28 August 2018 by ledi

Some people say it's heavy, but I find it easy to handle and am having lots of fun with it. It feels solid and trustworthy.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
Comfortable solo, but not so for pillion.
Engine
4 out of 5
the engine produces extremely good levels of torque.
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
There have been no breakdowns and it's all good after 6500kms. The tank gauge plays up sometimes and headlight adjustment is very cumbersome.
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
I am in Thailand, so service costs might be lower than in Europe.
Equipment
5 out of 5
I have no complaints!
Buying experience

I bought it from a dealer, with the price and quote matched.

Photo Gallery

  • The 2018 Benelli Leoncino
  • The Yamaha XSR700 is the closest 'modern rival' to the Benelli Leoncino
  • Benelli Leoncino's is refreshingly simple
  • Leoncino is Italian for lion cub
  • The Benelli Leoncino doesn't have electronic rider aids and multiple power maps
  • The Benelli Leoncino is made in China, before being shipped to Benelli in Italy
  • The Benelli Leoncino's chunky forks are overkill
  • Benelli has fitted huge 50mm diameter forks to the Leoncino
  • The Benelli Leoncino has simple clocks
  • The Benelli Leoncino is new for 2018
  • The  Benelli Leoncino is full of snazzy detailed touches for the price
  • The Benelli Leoncino's fuel cap
  • The Benelli Leoncino switchgear is simple but effective
  • The Benelli Leoncino's engine is powered by a zesty 47bhp
  • The Benelli Leoncino is new for 2018
  • The Benelli Leoncino's seat
  • tHE Benelli Leoncino is fitted with 50mm forks
  • The Benelli Leoncino is on Pirelli Angel GTs and has strong stopping power
  • The Benelli Leoncino's headlight
  • The Benelli Leoncino has simple styling, but that suits us
  • The Benelli Leoncino exhaust
  • Here is the Benelli Leoncino 47bhp, fuel injected 499.6cc parallel twin cylinder motor
  • Overall we give the Benelli Leoncino a solid 3 out of 5 MCN stars
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