The Leoncino 250 finds itself in the middle of an already crowded 250cc segment. So, does it have what it takes to stand out from the crowd and justify its rather hefty price?
Given the state of the Indian motorcycle industry at present, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that it has truly metamorphosed in the last decade, or so. Today, the market is not limited to just a few local players, with hardly anything in the affordable performance category.
Enthusiasts now have the option to choose from 10 products in the 200 to 250cc class alone. The ₹2 to 2.5 lakh price bracket has nearly as many bikes, and then there are the body-style options – nakeds, cruisers, classics, and entry-level sports bikes.
Now, given the number of options available to customers, it has become increasingly difficult for manufacturers to make a lasting impression with a product – for obvious reasons. Every new entry has to have that something extra that no other product has, otherwise it’s just, as they say, ‘another day, another dollar.’ Or, in this case, ‘another day, another product!’
Earlier this year, Benelli brought in the Leoncino 500, and now here is its smaller version – the Leoncino 250. So, does the baby Leoncino have that extra something that will allow it to elbow its way into an already crowded segment and carve out space for itself?
In terms of design, the baby Leoncino’s silhouette is identical to its larger sibling. The shape of the fuel tank is somewhat similar too. The alloy wheel design, stubby tail section, and floating rear mudguard, all make its relationship with the 500 quite apparent.
However, not everything is the same – although, to spot the differences you do need to be a bit more attentive. Instead of the round headlight of its bigger sibling, the Leoncino 250 gets an oval-shaped headlight. Also, the front mudguard is larger, and so is the exhaust. A little more attention, and you’ll notice that the upside-down forks are narrower and the disc brakes are smaller. At 2,030mm in length and 1,115mm in height, it’s also smaller in size.
The baby cub ensures an upright riding posture, and its wide handlebar makes riding it a comfortable experience, at least for the upper body. Given its smaller proportions and rear-set foot pegs, though, the lower body can be a bit cramped – especially for taller riders. The stubby sub-frame and the tail section do make the Leoncino look chic, but it also robs the pillion of space.
The Leoncino 250’s all-digital instrument cluster is neat and easy to read, even on the move. The screen does have a lot of negative space at the top right and left corners though, which could have been put to better use – perhaps to display time and fuel efficiency.
This baby Leoncino is powered by a 249cc single-cylinder liquid-cooled motor, which has been derived from the TNT25. It develops 25.4bhp and 21Nm. These figures aren’t class-leading! For instance, the KTM 250 Duke and Honda CB 300R both produce more power. And, unfortunately, this is evident in the way the Leoncino 250 performs.
Acceleration isn’t as zippy. The engine goes through the rev range in a linear manner, which can be great for inexperienced riders. But, for those who seek outright thrill and performance, the Leoncino 250 may leave them wanting more.
The engine isn’t the smoothest unit out there either. Vibrations through the foot pegs and the fuel tank are prominent above the 6,500rpm mark – so-much-so that it can leave your feet numb after a long ride. That being said, the engine is impressively tractable. You can easily ride at 30-35km/h in 5th gear, without any knocking, which is great in slow moving traffic. More importantly, it doesn’t demand too many gear shifts, and that’s a good thing too – for the 6-speed transmission, although precise, isn’t the slickest out there.
One of the biggest strengths of the Leoncino 250 is its ride & handling balance. Sure, the suspension is set up on the firmer side, which makes the ride a little antsy, especially on uneven roads, but it isn’t something that you can’t live with. In fact, it’s a small price to pay for good high-speed stability and positive handling. Thanks to the wide handlebar, it’s easy to lean the bike into corners, and here the grippy Metzeler tyres are a huge confidence booster.
Braking hardware is on a par with the competition. Although the front disc is marginally smaller than that of the 250 Duke. At the back, the Leoncino 250 gets the biggest disc in its class. Stopping power is good, but the feel from the brakes could have been a bit better.
The Leoncino 250 is quite a mixed bag. While we were impressed by the tractability of the motor and the ride-handling balance, it does lose a few points in terms of performance and refinement. But the biggest fly in the ointment for the Leoncino 250 is its price. Brought into India via the CKD route, it is priced at ₹2.50 lakh.
While riding the baby Leoncino, I couldn’t help but recall some words of wisdom from Mufasa, ‘Being brave doesn’t mean you go looking for trouble.’ Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Benelli has done with the Leoncino 250 by pricing it in the same league as the KTM 390 Duke and the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650. And then there’s the Honda CB 300R too, which, despite being a CKD, is priced marginally lower.
So, unless Benelli increases localisation and drops the price of the Leoncino 250, it’s going to be a tough sell.
- Benelli Leoncino 250
Engine: 249cc / single-cylinder / 4-valves / liquid-cooled
Power: 25.4bhp @ 9,250rpm
Torque: 21Nm @ 8,000rpm
Price: ₹2.50 lakh (Ex-showroom)
X-Factor: Fun around twisty sections of the road and tractable in the city, the Leoncino 250 offers the best of both worlds.