Video road test: Benelli BN302 delivers the Italian experience at a budget price
Benelli's new Chinese ownership group QianJiang knows a thing or two about manufacturing. It makes more than 1.5 million bikes a year and this production muscle has enabled Benelli to put together an entry-level machine that delivers impressive specs and great looks at a price that undercuts even the Japanese competition. A 300cc parallel twin with twin disc brakes and adjustable suspension, the Benelli BN302 should make a nice "exotic" alternative for new riders.
The BN302 represents new territory for Benelli. It's the company's first "learner" class bike – at least, the first under its new Chinese ownership. Built in China under an Italian quality assurance team, the BN302 is designed to bring new riders into the Benelli fold early, with an impressively low price, exotic good looks and a spec sheet that even its higher-priced competition can't match.
At AU$6,290 (US$5,015), it's considerably less expensive than the wildly popular Kawasaki Ninja EX300 and KTM's Duke 390, but it certainly doesn't come across as cheap. Fit and finish is beautiful, with the bike boasting a lovely feel to it and quite a few details that make it seem a lot more expensive and European than it is. One of the first you'll notice is the seat detail, which is a very classy touch, but you'll have to look a little closer to find the real surprises.
The BN302 has twin disc brakes and preload/rebound adjustable suspension at both ends. None of the more expensive bikes in the 300cc class offer either of those touches. The Pirelli Angel tires are another surprise. Tires, brakes and suspension are generally the first places money is saved on a cheaper bike, but here the Benelli outdoes the competition.
It's a fairly physically large bike for a small capacity learner machine. At 185 kg (408 lb) wet, it's got some bulk to it, which will discourage some smaller riders. Others will appreciate the extra size, although at 5 ft 11 in (180 cm), I found my legs getting a bit cramped due to the high footpegs.
The engine is a nice compromise. At lower revs it's calm and accessible and torquey enough to deliver confidence to new riders. Rev it higher and you'll get yourself access to the full 37 hp (27.5 kW) and 27 Nm (20 ft lb) of torque, which is enough to deliver some decent laughs on a twisty road. Power and torque are both up on the Ninja 300's numbers, but any performance gains will likely be swallowed up by the Benelli's extra 10 kg (22 lb) of weight.
The brakes and suspension show their pedigree when you get out and start riding hard. Power and feel on the brakes is impressive and the suspension responds well to adjustments in rebound damping. Most small bikes come underdamped for larger riders out of the box, and the BN302 is no exception. But a few turns of rebound on the fork, a couple of clicks on the hand-adjustable shock, and it immediately felt much more under control for me.
As a more experienced rider, I appreciated the braking power on tap. It's not overpowering or touchy, but with a bit of pressure you can stop very hard. For that reason I think Benelli ought to think about adding an ABS option as panic braking can easily catch learners out.
At the end of the day, the BN302 will probably take its place in the market as an attractive option for new riders that want something different to the crowd. It'll set itself apart with its smooth, European looks (even if it's clearly reminiscent of Kawasaki's ER-6N) and its impressive specifications. The price tag will come as a nice surprise.
And if this bike is an indication of the quality we can expect from QianJiang's Chinese manufacturing plant, things are looking bright for Benelli.
Product page: Benelli BN302
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where are you riding? Those mountain roads look great. Next time I am in Vic bloody toria i must head out that way. Don't get down there from QLD often, but when i do i try to get some road time.
Maybe this doesn't apply to Benelli but at $5k I wouldn't even consider this over a Yamaha R3 for the same price.
I know that comes off pretty harsh but it's not my fault fault Chinese motorcycles have such a terrible reputation. Japanese motorcycles are fairly well made, easy/inexpensive to repair, and nearly the same cost. Maybe they will do better than some of the here-today-gone-tomorrow scooter manufacturers but that's still a lot of money to gamble with such poor odds.
My Personal Review: China made Benelli BN302 / TNT300 / BJ300GS
When I first heard about the Benelli BN302 I was very excited. I am working as production manager since several years in China and have owned a Chinese bike for my daily rides to work and weekend rides. However, when the BN302 started selling in China, I decided to change my old bike to the new Benelli. I can confirm most of the positive aspects that you can read in above review: good looking, good handling and cheap. But what you can’t read in any "official" review are the quality issues, Benelli Q.J. still seem to have with this bike…
First let’s start with my personal findings:
- On the first 20 Km I lost the end caps of the handlebar during driving. - After 100 Km I realized that the screws which are holding the engine in the frame are loose. When I tried to tighten them, I realized that the threads are completely damaged/overturned. Better check all the screws on your bike! - After 100 Km I changed the oil and filter and realized lots of big metal chips. Better change your oil right away and don’t wait for the first 1000 Km service!
Due to these “smaller” issues, I started to check some Chinese websites and forums to see if other owners had similar problems. Besides positive reviews, unfortunately I also found many reviews about quality issues. Here are some:
- Loose crankshaft nut and damaged engine-cover with less than 1000 Km - Broken clutch cables with less than 4000 Km - Leaking cylinder / water in the engine oil - Broken cooling-water pumps - Leaking on front and rear suspension after 10K Km
Here are some of the Chinese owners reviews (use G-translate to read)
http://www.motorfans.com.cn/bbs/t_17968905_1.htm http://www.motorfans.com.cn/bbs/t_18003511.htm http://club.m.autohome.com.cn/bbs/thread-o-200063-36421776-1.html?type=None http://www.motorfans.com.cn/bbs/t_17910653_1.htm
I have contacted Benelli and Q.J. to give some statements on these problems, but no any answer...
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing China or Benelli here, I love both ^^. But from my point of view, customers should know about these issues before they consider to buy this bike. Together with Q.J., Benelli developed a nice bike, but if they don’t want to lose reputation, they must improve the quality of the BN302. Personally I know very well, producing quality in China is sometimes difficult, but it is possible with strict QC. Let’s hope Benelli Q.J. will do some improvements here for this nice bike!
what's the problem with your bn600? i have have read about some owners having smaller issues with this bike, but none which took 4 month repair...