BENELLI LEONCINO (2018 - on) Review
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£280|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
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 & brakesNext up: Engine
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.
EngineNext up: Reliability
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.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
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.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
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.
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.
|Engine type||8v parallel twin|
|Frame type||Tubular steel trellis|
|Fuel capacity||13.5 litres|
|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|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||-|
|Annual road tax||£67|
|Annual service cost||£280|
|Used price||£3,800 - £5,000|
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two years|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||47 bhp|
|Max torque||33 ft-lb|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
Model history & versions
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.
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 for the BENELLI LEONCINO (2018 - on)
5 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.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£280|
Trying to find a bike that is suitable for a 5ft 5 lady, this has been my difficulty for years. 2020 I decided to treat myself to a new benelli, when a friend had been out and purchased one. I had, a quick go and that was it 'I'm totally in love' . It looks amazing and it's not heavy. It's a pleasure to ride. Big thumbs up from me.
Annual servicing cost: £350
Great for all riders. Easy to ride for newbies but light and agile enough to also allow experienced riders to enjoy commuting or cafe bar hopping. Great build quality for a very low price and it has its own rather unique style almost a scrambler but easily tweaked to be a a great little cafe racer.
Good quality suspension both ends. Nothing fancy but they do the job and I have no complaints.
It can be easy to run into the Rev limiter as the exhaust never quite reaches a Top end wail To let you know it’s peaked. Lower revs and blips sound great with race exhaust and no cat but it can drone on constant throttle so quitter exhaust is better for longer trips.
Nothing gone wrong to date but miles limited to
Do it myself but estimate would be no more than 350 at a bike garage.
It’s got all you need
Buying experience: Private
An excellent Sunday bike for someone who wants to travel a fair distance without peg scraping. 47hp enough for B road fun
Not quite as engaging as my old monster but much more comfortable
Keep it clean and garaged No corrosion yet but has an easy life
Bought after selling a twenty year old Ducati So perhaps my expectations on kit aren’t high
Buying experience: Bought for £3300 with heated grips and luggage 3,000 miles on the clock from non franchised dealer
Fine apart from Rust and electrical issues due to improper moisture sealing.
Ride quality is fine, and the brakes are superb - but make sure you have the brake recall actioned for this model.
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.
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.
Great to run, cheap to service. Full tank is about £10 a week. First service was about £80 too.
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.
Annual servicing cost: £200
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.
Comfortable solo, but not so for pillion.
the engine produces extremely good levels of torque.
There have been no breakdowns and it's all good after 6500kms. The tank gauge plays up sometimes and headlight adjustment is very cumbersome.
I am in Thailand, so service costs might be lower than in Europe.
I have no complaints!
Buying experience: I bought it from a dealer, with the price and quote matched.