Benelli’s latest or somewhat latest model Leoncino is a 500cc retro modern stylish scrambler/roadster which looks to recall Benelli’s glory days. Established in 1911, Benelli is one of the oldest Italian motorcycle manufacturers.
What you get is a parallel-twin four-stroke engine which sounds pretty solid for an almost 48 hp engine @ 8,500 rpm, with 45Nm of torque. It has a characterful engine, which can only describe as a punchy mid power delivery.
Styling is subjective here, cos I like some parts and dislike some parts of the Leoncino but the Leoncino has flowing lines, a good finish quality at some parts but some parts looks a bit cheap, only minor parts like passenger footpegs that were dangling even when I frequently tried to put it back, but I can say it has a little Italian mixed with Asian character.
There’s quite a quick throttle response and power delivery, while engine braking comes on smooth, ensuring there’s little downside as I hardly use the brakes during our hill run, even my photographer and my riding buddy Alfie thought that the LED brake light was spoiled as I almost never use the brakes just throttle control and gear changing. Aggressive downshifting through the gears is fun and engine braking helps if you like blipping the throttle down through the gears.
First gear may be short, but thanks to the torque on offer you can actually ride around at a crawl in second, with good throttle response even from low rpm anywhere through the gears. The gearbox is clunky, however getting into neutral is never a drama, and the cable operated clutch has a good action, but if you’re in bad enough traffic you’ll notice it’s not quite what you’d call ‘light’.
Around the town, riding is a breeze, with a light but punchy power makes suburban trips, even more, fun!
Cruising at 110km/h at around 5800rpm in top gears, there is plentiful power, but you can easily drop to fifth, or even fourth if you really want some kick for overtaking, and cruising the open roads there’s enough power to take you well beyond the legalities with good roll-on in the top also.
Brakes comprise of dual 320mm rotors, with four-piston radial-mount Benelli callipers on the front, and a 260mm rotor on the rear with a single-piston floating calliper, all matched to Bosch ABS. Feel at the front lever is a bit on the wooden side, but in saying that it’s well set up for new riders, and there’s plenty of power once you apply a bit more pressure. Dual 320mm rotors with four-piston callipers are impressive for the category. The single-piston rear brake offers a bit more bite and good control for low speeds. The rear gives a bit more bite and is ideal for stability and braking around town, with a dirt bike styled brake lever. Footpegs are all rubber clad, and while there were some vibrations in the right ‘peg at times, they weren’t noticeable at higher speeds, and a gear change quickly quelled them.
The suspension is made up of meaty inverted 50mm forks on the front end offering basic adjustability rebound clickers on the front, the 50mm sized inverted front forks make the front of the Leoncino looks beefy.
At the rear monoshock with an external preload adjuster knob feature is a nice feature if you’re taking a pillion, or just like to tinker. While a bit harsh at low speeds over big bumps, the suspension is ideal on smoother urban roads, while as the speeds rise to 80km/h+ it really comes into its own.
Benelli should bring down the weights down on all its models and that would be pretty nice on all their bikes especially Leoncino.
It’s not on par with a super-high-end system, however, it’s controlled, once pushed it takes the harshness out of the bumps and tracks exceptionally well, in a way that puts many more expensive bikes to shame. The seat which is made in Italy, one area of criticism is after 45-minutes it becomes quite hard and I felt like I could feel the base through the padding, short trips aren’t an issue, however, I’d be looking at a bit more padding if I intended to do weekend cruises. The Leoncino seat is good for short trips, but starts to gets uncomfortable for longer trips over 45 minutes. There is room for a pillion though and grab rails on the sides, which also would make ideal tie-down points. It’s also 785mm and is extremely low, making for an easy reach to the ground for all riders.
The tail itself is minimalistic, with a bright taillight and exceptionally bright indicators, before leading back into the painted bodywork, which continues through to the tank, like I said earlier the Leoncino has very clean lines. A cut-out in the tank includes the Benelli logo, while another badge includes the model name under the seat on each side.
The trellis frame displays the engine to good effect, with a single headlight incorporating LED technology and throwing light a good distance down the road. Front indicators are likewise super bright. Benelli’s Leoncino will make a great entry or returning rider bike option.
The simple digital dash has the main screen area and a left secondary screen and includes a fuel gauge and gear indicator, with speedo and tacho both digital, resetting the fuel meters is easy too, and I was getting about 220km for 8L, which I find pretty good.
Right switch blocks are simple, but did include a high beam flasher, and look a little cheap but everything functions well. Mirrors are roundish items which I say looks good but did vibrate a little at higher speeds.
Digital dash is split into two sections and offers everything at a glance, with fuel gauge and gear indicator, Benelli grips are a nice touch, Benelli specially designed ‘bars are wide but comfortable but I would prefer it shorter.
There’s even an ABS switch, but I couldn’t feel the ABS kicking in, so I didn’t mess around with it. Details that do stand out are the Benelli branded grips and clutch perch cover, and Leoncino fuel cap. The exhaust is also a cool looking affair with a polished collector under the belly of the bike, and a stainless muffler with two exit pipes, again bearing the Leoncino name. There’s even a lion on the front guard and adjustable front brake lever.
Overall finish quality is really good, and the TRK 502 a sports-tourer which shares the same engine (with different mapping and gear ratios and platform, although there’s a significant weight difference between the two machines, and my rating is vastly different.
Overall the Little Lion Leoncino is a fun little commuter and takes everything in its stride.
Overall the Little Lion Leoncino is a fun little commuter and takes everything in its stride. At the end of the testing, I was pretty impressed by the Leoncino, it’s one of those 500cc machines which doesn’t feel restricted, that power plant is just exceptional and will happily do anything you need with plenty in reserve when you reach legal limits. Handling, particularly on the open road is great, and those wide ‘bars offer a bit of leverage, but bad in traffic conditions and low-speed manoeuvrability, U-turns were exceptionally easy and confidence inspiring. But I still prefer shorter and lower handlebars.
The bike feels a little heavy to roll around during stationary position, but never really feel the weight once you start riding.
Good fuel economy, strong performance, cool looks and plenty of character, the Leoncino really impressed.
The Pirelli Angel ST tyres fitted to the cast aluminium wheels, a 120/70ZR17 on the 3.50in wide front, and 160/60ZR17 on the 4.50in rear delivered a comforting degree of grip on the uneven surfaces up in the hills.
So all up the Leoncino really ticks all the boxes, RM27,999 excluding SST, insurance and road tax is a competitive price, and it’s a characterful bike that really speaks to its Italian heritage, even if it’s now owned by a Chinese company and in the durability department, the review bike already had clocked over 20,000 km mileage on it, so I pretty sure the review bike had a lot of trashing done before it reached me!
If you like the styling and the price keeps you interested, definitely give this machine a go, it’s got the goods and is worthy of a look in, if you’re in the market. It’s ideal for a learner, and won’t be grown out of like some of the smaller capacity options, and if you’re fully licensed but want something a little more constrained, but fun, relaxed and with enough going to have fun, the Leoncino is ideal. Benelli has put great effort into their badging and it really shows.
For a bike made in China, the quality is impressive, the Italian design unmistakable. The finish is nice and the welds and machining neat. I love the styling, and the splash-guard cum number-plate holder, and after having a spin at the twisty corners, the Leoncino has a torquey, eager power curve that won’t stretch your arms but is impressive for a 500cc bike and on par with the best of the parallel twin 500s. It pulls from low revs yet spins up fast and is thrilling enough to put a smile on the throttle even experienced riders like myself. Clutch action is smooth but heavy and the gearbox positive.
Pirelli Angel ST as standard fitting do well on dry roads and little off-road terrain, but just be careful on wet roads.
Ergo-wise the Leoncino has big bike feel with a non-intimidating seat height and the ‘bars to ‘pegs to seat triangle are a really comfy fit and natural layout. The seat is stylish but rocks hard with sharp edges that dig in. Vibes are not bad for a parallel twin and much better than on the TRK 502 sibling, which shares the same platform.
I was impressed by the brakes on the Leoncino. They have just the right level of an initial bite not to unsettle things yet loads of power as lever pressure is applied more heavily. The rear is strong and offers good feel as well, but I hardly use the brake, but normal riders will appreciate it.
Benelli Leoncino 500 Specifications
Price: RM 27,999 excluding insurance and road-tax
Warranty: Two-year, unlimited kilometre
Colours: Leoncino Red, Vulcan Black
Claimed power: 47.6hp@8500rpm
Claimed torque: 46Nm@6000rpm
Dry weight: 170kg
Fuel capacity: 15L
Engine: Liquid-cooled, in-line two-cylinder, four-stroke, DOHC, four-valves per cylinder, 499.6cc, 69 x 66.8mm bore x stroke, 37mm throttle body, 11.5:1 compression ratio, Delphi MT05 ignition, NGK CR8E spark plugs
Chassis: Steel tube trellis frame, steel tube trellis swingarm
Suspension: 50mm USD forks, preload adjustable, lateral rear shock, preload & rebound adjustable, 112mm travel
Brakes: Bosch ABS, dual semi-floating 320mm rotors, radial four-piston callipers, single 260mm rear rotor, single-piston floating calliper
Wheels & Tyres: Aluminium alloy, 3.50 x 17in, 4.50 x 17in, 120/70 – R17, 160/60 – R17
Seat height: 785mm
Overall Length: 2139mm
Overall Height: 1120mm
Instruments: LCD display