2015 Benelli BN302
The BN302 is Benelli’s first Chinese-built motorcycle and it’s most affordable model to date, but if you think that equates to cheap and nasty then you’re mistaken. In fact, it’s a great LAMS-approved naked bike that does all things well, backed by an alluring price of $5590 (plus on-road costs).
The Australian and New Zealand distributor for the brand, Urban Moto Imports, says the BN302 would be up to $2000 more expensive if it were built alongside its larger siblings at Benelli’s Pesaro plant in Italy. The company was purchased in 2006 by the Qianjiang Group, one of Asia’s largest motorcycle manufacturers.
Offshore manufacturing has been successfully taking place in the two- and four-wheeled markets for many years.
Here the 300cc baby Benelli is up against some seriously stiff competition, including the Honda CB300F and Kawasaki Z300 (from $5699 and $5999 respectively), and both are fitted with ABS as standard. The system is not yet available on any Benelli. Last year, however, Benelli announced a roll out of major updates across its model range as well as a raft of electronic aids including traction control and electronically adjustable suspension for its higher-spec models – all of which it has been so far unable to offer customers. Watch this space.
The BN302 is also heavier than the aforementioned rivals by some margin: the single-cylinder CB300 weighs a claimed 161kg, the Z300 168kg and the BN302 a comparatively portly 185kg. The latter pair both feature parallel-twin engines. In fairness, though, the Honda comes with a paltry tank capacity of just 13 litres compared with the Benelli’s 16L. The Kawasaki tops both, however, at 17L. The Team Green machine also comes with a slipper clutch, which is another welcome feature for novice and experienced riders alike.
ON THE ROAD
It doesn’t take long to realise the bike’s key attributes: its overall refinement and handling is confidence-inspiring; its ergonomics offer roomy, big-bike dimensions (and an easy seat height of 795mm) and its willing engine belies its diminutive displacement. In fact, with its relatively long 1405mm wheelbase and nice front-rear weight balance, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Benelli was much lighter.
The 302’s rock-solid stability actually comes from its relatively inexpensive but sturdy construction where its contemporary trellis frame is made of thick-gauge mild-steel tubing. That makes it heavy, but the upshot is a sense of surefootedness over our bumpy back roads.
The engine with DOHC is essentially half of the BN600’s four-cylinder powerplant with the same bore and stroke (65mm and 45.2mm) and 12.0:1 compression ratio. Claimed outputs are 27kW (37hp) at 11,500rpm and 27Nm at 9000rpm. That’s pretty close to the Kawasaki Z300’s 29kW at 11,000rpm and 27Nm at 10,000rpm. Note the Kwaka’s need for more revs.
You know when the Benelli reaches that happy mid-range region when its induction and exhaust snarl like a VTEC Honda, albeit without the powerband-like surge. This thing thrives on being ridden in anger.
The BN302 is equally happy to tootle about town where its fuelling and throttle response is linear, predictable and smooth during slow-speed turns like a roundabout – just when you want to avoid looking like a jerky klutz.
Also at play here is the clutch weight and take-up that are light and fuss-free as well as a precise and smooth-shifting six-speed gearbox. If anything, the legible analogue/digital dash could do with a gear indicator. At least there’s a fuel gauge and clock.
The BN302’s suspension hardware is pretty standard stuff, with non-adjustable 41mm forks, 115/120mm travel front and rear and a cool-looking, preload-adjustable monoshock that almost continues the visual flow between the trellis frame and swingarm. Check out Ducati’s recently launched Scrambler for another execution of this.
Despite the modest suspension arrangement, Benelli engineers deserve praise because it all just gels with agility and confidence. Also playing a prominent part here are the Pirelli Angel GT tyres, for excellent all-weather grip, and the steering geometry, comprising 24.5 degrees of rake and a moderate 91.7mm of trail.
Despite the absence of ABS, stopping power from the twin 260mm discs with four-piston calipers up front and 240mm rear disc are otherwise strong enough and progressive.
The bike’s overall fit and finish is good with plenty of neat styling touches, although it’d be unreasonable to expect the beautiful, unique chain tensioner from Benelli’s flagship TNT naked bikes. Shame about the cheap-looking chrome exhaust shield that reduces cornering clearance and is prone to dings.
Without doubt, there are some things to constructively criticise about Benelli’s most affordable, Chinese-built offering, but there’s much more to like about it. It’s already got the handling, styling, performance and price and, with the fitment of ABS, the BN302 will go from good to great.
– Fit and finish
– No ABS
2015 Benelli BN302
Type: Liquid-cooled, four-stroke, DOHC, four-valve, parallel twin
Bore x stroke: 65 x 42.5mm
Compression ratio: 12.0:1
Fuel system: EFI
Final drive: Chain
CHASSIS & RUNNING GEAR:
Frame: Steel, trellis
Front suspension: 41mm USD fork, 115mm travel
Rear suspension: Monoshock, adjustable for preload and rebound, 120mm travel
Front brakes: Twin 260mm discs with four-piston radial calipers
Rear brake: 240mm disc with twin-piston caliper
DIMENSIONS & CAPACITIES:
Weight: 185kg (wet)
Seat height: 795mm
Fuel capacity: 16 litres
WHEELS & TYRES:
Wheels: 3.50 x 17-inch alloy (F), 4.50 x 17-inch alloy (R)
Tyres: 120/70-17 (F), 170/60-17 (R), Pirelli Angel GT
Power: 27kW (37hp) at 11,500rpm
Torque: 27Nm at 10,000rpm
Price: $5590 (plus on-road costs)
Colour: Black, white, orange and Benelli Green
Warranty: 24 months, unlimited kilometres
Test bike supplied by: Benelli Australia
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