MONDIAL PAGANI 1948 125 (2020 - on) Review
- Gorgeous looks
- Perky engine
- Low seat
At a glance
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
The F.B Mondial Pagani 1948 is a breath of fresh air in the broadly utilitarian 125 sector. It looks even better in the metal than it does in the pictures and brings stylish swagger and grown-up looks to the learner-legal sportsbike market.
If this bike were a person it would be found in the corner of an Italian café, nonchalantly sipping espresso and smoking long, thin cigarettes. It wouldn’t talk to the likes of you and me.
The Sport Classic 125 - its official name due to some car firm owning the rights to the Pagani name - is dripping with classy touches, from the F.B Mondial stamped handlebar grips to the raised tank badges and short, chrome shotgun exhausts.
But don’t be fooled into thinking this is merely a prop for the social media generation, there’s more to the Pagani than meets the Instagram-filtered eye. Weighing just 133kg (kerb) and with a zippy 124cc engine, racy riding position and firm but fair suspension you can have a blast thrashing it along a back road, too.
And once you get up to speed the sewing-machine quiet exhaust note is transformed into a throaty wail that makes you feel like Nello Pagani himself (who took his first win for Mondial in 1948, hence the name) as you work the gearbox to keep the revs up - it’s joyous.
The only question mark remaining is who the bike is for. Older riders looking for a runabout or a touch of nostalgia would likely go for the Pagani’s 300cc bigger brother or the more comfortable, naked HPS. And younger riders might be less enticed by the retro appeal and disappointed by the lack of gadgetry.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
The Pagani’s upside down forks and twin shocks are more than up to the task of coping with the lumps and bumps of terrible UK roads but hold reassuringly firm in the corners. This, coupled with the bike’s lightness and flick-ability, means you rarely come out of a corner feeling that you could have gone a little faster.
The pegs are very high and the bars are genuine clip-ons (bolted into a beautiful, branded headstock) making for an aggressive, sporty riding position. I’m 6ft tall and ate most of the pies and after a couple of hours I could’ve done with a sports massage.
That’s not to say that it’s uncomfortable; the stitched leather seat (complete with Pagani 1948 embroidery) is wide, plush and comfy. But if your sportsbike days ended a long time ago, you might want to check out the naked version.
The OE CST Magsport tyres will occasionally suggest that you calm things down by going vague to the point of numbness at the front. This happens seemingly at random and inspires very little confidence, especially in the wet. They would be the first change I made if I bought one.
The brakes – complete with beautiful wavy discs - are adequate for a bike of this size and weight but could have more bite. Not that all that much braking is necessary. The front and rear brakes are also linked, to get around the Euro4 ABS legislation, whereas some of the top-end competition now have independent ABS.
EngineNext up: Reliability
The Pagani is built in China as a joint venture between Piaggio and Zongshen and the engine will look familiar to anyone who’s ridden Aprilia 125s (it even has an 'APR' engine code).
You need to keep the revs up to make progress – peak torque is at 8000rpm and peak power just shy of 10,000rpm – but the gearing is set up with this in mind. First and second feel quite long for a 125 and if you stay patient and rev through them you are rewarded with a surge of acceleration at the top end.
Fifth will get you up to cruising speed, even in national limits, with sixth acting as a sort of overdrive that struggles with the gentlest of inclines or a headwind. If you’re timely with downshifts and keep momentum up, overtaking traffic and lorries is a breeze and the indicated top speed of 76mph means you can use dual carriageways without staring nervously into your mirrors the entire time.
The exhaust note doesn’t quite match the shotgun pipes when you start the bike up. At idle, the engine purrs like a scooter and is, frankly, a bit of a disappointment. But once you’re on the open road and it gets to clear its throat the sound really comes to life and rewards you for wringing the throttle.
The gearbox is positive and it never missed a shift or found a false neutral but the cable-operated clutch is quite heavy by modern standards and riding in traffic is quite hard work for your left hand.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
If you peeled the ‘Made in PRC’ stickers off, you wouldn’t guess that the Pagani is produced in China. A lot of low-capacity bikes from the Far East are cobbled together from off-the-shelf parts supplied by the lowest bidder before having a manufacturer’s logo slapped on at the end. But the Mondial feels considered and substantial.
Piaggio (who own Aprilia) know a thing or two about building four-stroke 125s and Zongshen build motors for a growing list of European manufacturers, so there’s no reason to doubt the reliability of the Pagani’s engine.
The only part of the bike that feels budget are the mirrors, which are plasticky and do not fit the retro chic of the rest of the machine. That said, they give a clear view of the road behind and don’t vibrate too much so it’s just an aesthetic issue.
It would be interesting to see how the polished exhaust and wire wheels stand up to a salty UK winter but it’s impossible to tell from a midsummer test on a brand-new model.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
The Pagani comes in at a thrifty £3674, which is cheap enough to undercut all of the mainstream 125 competition but can’t compete with some of the other imports from China.
The build-quality and performance of the Mondial is closer to that of the big brands, however, making the Pagani incredibly good value. And that’s before you consider the fact that it is probably the best-looking 125 on the market right now, certainly in the sportsbike category.
As you’d expect from a four-stroke 125, the Sport Classic is very frugal. Even with my voluptuous figure onboard it managed to return just shy of 80mpg. This means that despite its puny 9.5l tank you will get 167 miles down the road before the fuel light comes on.
The best of the Chinese sportsbikes on the market right now is probably the Lexmoto LXR SE 125, which is cheaper than the Pagani but also less good-looking and not so well put together.
If you are willing to spend more money you could go for the Yamaha YZF-R125, which outperforms the Mondial and has a fancy LCD dash but doesn’t stand out from the crowd or turn heads like the Pagani.
There’s also Piaggio’s own Aprilia RS125 to consider, which uses the same engine but in a famously impressive chassis and with the added bonus of ABS.
Prices at the time of testing:
With such a competitive price it should come as no surprise that the Pagani is unencumbered by mod cons. What is there, however, works well. The small, round LCD display gives more info than expected, incorporating a rev counter, fuel gauge, engine temperature and gear indicator neatly alongside the usual speed and odometer readings.
The switchgear is nothing special but it’s good enough, feeling neither flimsy nor luxurious.
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled, DOHC, single|
|Frame type||Tubular steel|
|Fuel capacity||9.5 litres|
|Front suspension||USD hydraulic fork, non-adjustable|
|Rear suspension||Twin shocks, pre-load adjustable|
|Front brake||single disc, 4-piston radial caliper|
|Rear brake||single disc single piston caliper|
|Front tyre size||100/90 x 18|
|Rear tyre size||130/70 x 17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||79.8 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£20|
|Annual service cost||-|
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two years|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||13 bhp|
|Max torque||7.7 ft-lb|
|Top speed||76 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
|Tank range||167 miles|
Model history & versions
2020 – Sport Classic Pagani 1948 launched
For those looking for a little more power, there is a 300cc version of the Sport Classic with the same bodywork and styling.
The F.B Mondial HPS is a naked version of the bike with a more relaxed riding position thanks to higher flat bars.
Owners' reviews for the MONDIAL PAGANI 1948 125 (2020 - on)
No owners have yet reviewed the MONDIAL PAGANI 1948 125 (2020 - on).