Benelli lists its Leoncino line-up under the Scrambler tab on its website, and we were a bit apprehensive of this when we rode the Leoncino 500 a couple of months ago. Now this might be true for the Trail variant of the 500 that’s sold overseas, but we’ve just experienced the smallest of the Leoncino family and the only ‘scrambling’ this bike has been designed for is through the concrete jungle.
How does it look?
The Leoncino 250, as the name suggests, is a smaller iteration of the Leoncino 500. It shares an almost identical design philosophy and it looks like a slightly shrunken version of its elder sibling. A number of aspects like the scooped seat, mudguard-mounted rear number-plate holder, black panels on the tank, and even the little lion emblem on the front fender, are seen on both bikes. However, the 250 uses a pill-shaped LED headlamp whereas the 500 gets a round unit. While these characteristics add to the visual presence of the bike, some of them take a toll on the ergonomics. The seat is a bit too narrow and could have done with a more comfortable padding, as well as more space for a pillion. Most of all, the foot pegs are aggressively rear-set and result in a cramped riding position.
What’s the engine like?
Having said that, I wouldn’t categorise the Leoncino 250 as uncomfortable – the ergonomics are just not what you’d expect from a motorcycle in the category. Under the skin, the 249cc single-cylinder powering the bike is a fairly punchy unit and while it’s certainly not a performance benchmark, there’s enough on offer to keep you happy; that, and a bassy exhaust note!
It’s not a very refined engine and you will feel (and hear!) vibrations higher in the rev band, but not at levels that will bother you. In our performance tests, the Leoncino 250 managed the 0-60kph sprint in 3.49sec, while a 100kph took 9.68sec. These figures aren’t exemplary and are almost identical with those of the Suzuki Gixxer 250. However, the Honda CB300R, which falls in the same bracket as the Leoncino, is vastly quicker.
What’s it like to ride?
Barring its ergonomics, the Leoncino 250's ride quality is firm, but not punishingly so. Its suspension comprises a 41mm USD fork and a preload-adjustable monoshock, a set-up that’s quite common for bikes in this price bracket. The riding position and the suspension setup both feel more in line with a sporty naked, which means that standing up and riding through broken stretches (as you would on a scrambler) isn’t a very natural-feeling process.
What other features does it have?
Most of what the Leoncino offers to stand out from its competition comes in the form of small details that aim to give it a premium touch. While aspects like the basic digital instrument console are a letdown, the bike does give you some things to be happy about – the tyres, for instance, are premium Metzeler M5s and the design language is unique enough to turn heads.
Should I buy one?
As a motorcycle, the Leoncino 250 has its charms, but the price is a deal breaker. An ex-showroom price tag of Rs 2.5 lakh puts it a whole Rs 1 lakh above the Suzuki Gixxer 250, which has very similar levels of performance and puts it in the space of much more accomplished machines. For a similar budget, you could get yourself the KTM 390 Duke, the Honda CB300R, or even the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 – all motorcycles going up against whom the little Leoncino would be seriously out of its depth. If (or rather, when) Benelli figures out a way to bring the price down to an appropriate level, the Leoncino 250 will make for a quirky, left-of-field alternative to the established crowd.