Italians have a unique way of doing things, don’t they? Be it their art, food, or machines, everything they make is full of flavour and pizzazz. And when it comes to their motorcycles, it gets even better – you can really feel the passion and engineering that goes into making an Italian motorcycle when you ride one.
Now, Benelli says that it’s Italian too. Which is not untrue, if you ignore the fact that it’s owned by the Chinese, and it manufactures motorcycles in China. In Benelli’s defence, it claims that its Italian soul is still intact, and its new bikes still burst with passion.
The latest example is the Leoncino 500. It’s a scrambler, and its name is Italian for a lion’s cub. At the same time, it’s also a reflection on the original Benelli Leoncinos from the 50s and 60s. The question, however, is – is it the real deal? Or are we being served chow mein here in the name of spaghetti?
The Leoncino 500 was first showcased roughly 4 years ago at the 2015 EICMA motor show, but it only made it to India this year. Despite being late to the country, it doesn’t look outdated – in fact, it looks chic with its modern retro design and beefy appearance. There are some rough edges, for instance, the quality of plastics isn’t the best and the all-digital instrument cluster is hardly legible under direct sunlight. However, these niggles go right out the window when you crank its 500cc parallel-twin engine.
The engine produces a deep sonorous rumble and is super refined. With 47bhp and 46Nm on tap, the performance isn’t ground-breaking, but it’s quick with a strong low and mid-range. And since it makes noises like a big bike, the riding experience gets even better as you gain speed.
You can attack corners confidently with the 500 too. Sure, it doesn’t like quick direction changes, but once you have it leaned over, it holds its line beautifully. However, this planted and surefooted feel comes at the expense of the ride quality, which is very bumpy!
Overall, for its price (₹4.79 lakh), the Leoncino 500 is a pretty good motorcycle – it’s a relatively affordable big bike that can be used daily, without breaking the bank. Sure, it has Chinese origins now, but, at heart, it still feels very Italian.