Following the standard roadster, a ‘Trail’ version of the Leoncino, with wire spoke wheels (including a 19-inch front rim), knobby tyres and more suspension travel, will also be offered, as well as a ‘Sport’ variant with a headlight fairing, panniers, modified handlebars and additional plastics. Both the Trail and Sport are due here later this year, but a smaller, 250cc version of the standard Leoncino that will be released in Europe in late 2018 has yet to be confirmed for Australia.
Old Name, New Metal. The original Leoncino (‘lion cub’ in Italian) was released in 1951; the first model produced in any quantity by Benelli after they resumed motorcycle manufacture in 1949. Initially offered in 98cc and 125cc versions, the Leoncino would remain in production for more than a decade, with the same basic package expanded to include both 2- and 4-stroke forms, as well as capacities up to 500cc. More than 70,000 examples of the original Leoncino were built before it was replaced by the ‘New Leoncino’ in 1963.
Being such an unqualified success for Benelli, it seems natural that the Leoncino would return, but its revival was only assured with the security that came with the Qianjiang Group’s buyout of Benelli in 2005. The new Leoncino is built in Qianjiang’s factory in China, but some componentry does come from Europe.
While it revives a name from Benelli’s past and features retro-inspired styling, this modern Leoncino is anything but “old”. The engine is the same 500cc liquid-cooled parallel twin used in the new TRK 502 adventure tourer, but the Leoncino houses this in a steel trellis frame that’s different from the TRK. The DOHC 500 features four valves per cylinder and electronic fuel injection, with output listed at 35kW at 8,500rpm and 46Nm at 6,000rpm. Listed fuel consumption is 4.3lt/100km from a 12.7-litre tank. The gearbox is a 6-speed with wet clutch and chain final drive.
Real Steel, Modern Parts. The new Leoncino’s steel tube trellis type frame is attached to a 50mm USD front fork with compression adjustment and 125mm travel. The swingarm is of similar construction to the frame, with the rear suspension consisting of a single offset lateral shock with a 45mm stroke for 112mm rear wheel travel, plus preload and rebound adjustability. Seventeen-inch slim-spoke alloy wheels feature at both ends and ABS braking is standard, matched to dual 320mm semi-floating front discs and a 260mm rear disc.
Mid-Size Mover. Overall LxWxH dimensions are 2160mm x 875mm x 1160mm, with ground clearance of 165mm, seat height of 815mm and wet weight of 186kg. Thanks in part to its lighter weight compared to other mid-size bikes (a Suzuki SV650, for example, is 197kg wet, while Honda’s 500cc CB range are just under 195kg), the Leoncino has been praised for its handling and comfort.
Modern Classic. Benelli says the all new Leoncino represents “an authentic and pure-hearted design concept that rediscovers the style and accessibility of the original, all while delivering a contemporary motorcycle that provides a sporty and exciting experience.” How authentic the new version is to the original Leoncino is debatable (look up pics of a 1950s model to see the differences), but when it was unveiled in 2015, there’s no doubt the modern reimagining of this iconic Benelli was one of the best-looking bikes to make its debut at EICMA that year.
The styling, indeed the whole bike, has clearly been inspired by Ducati’s new Scrambler, but the Leoncino has its own identity. The award-winning design is the work of Stefano Casanova from the CentroStile Benelli in-house studio. Distinctive styling features include the fuel tank infill panel that’s anchored off the Benelli badge, with this two-toning echoed at the rear.
The engine has virtually no brightwork, with the blackout treatment extending to the frame, swingarm, wheels, forks, handlebar and headlight shell. The head, tail and indicator lights are all L.E.D, the compact instrumentation is full LCD, the ‘Piega Bassa’ handlebar is adjustable, with the finishing touch being the ‘Lion of Pesaro’ on the front guard. Now Available. The LAMS-legal Leoncino is available in a choice of red, silver or black colours, priced at $7,990 + ORCs or $8,990 ride away, backed by a 24-month warranty and 24-month Customer Care Program.