Moto Morini and Zontes bikes first ride impressions
It is always exciting when new motorcycles make their way to India. The Adishwar Group that’s responsible for getting big brands like Benelli and Keeway to India have decided to bring in a range of Moto Morini and Zontes bikes for two-wheeled enthusiasts. The well known Italian brand Moto Morini was started in 1937, while Zontes is more nascent, being Chinese and launched in 2003. We were recently invited to the Pro Dirt adventure park, Pune to sample the X-Cape 650X, the Seiemmezzo Scrambler and Retro Street from Moto Morini and the 350T ADV and the 350R from Zontes. Here are our initial impressions after some time in the saddle.
Moto Morini X-Cape 650X
The X-Cape 650X is Moto Morini’s flagship bike in India. Just one look at the X-Cape 650X and you are immediately reminded of one of the older ‘rally raid’ bikes like the Cagiva Elefant, albeit a more modern version. The X-Cape 650X gets a tall, adjustable windscreen and proper ADV fairing, with a sleekly integrated LED headlight. Behind this sits a wide handlebar, while nestled just above is a crisp, 7-inch colour TFT display showcasing all the necessary information. The bike’s sharp design language flows backwards into a nicely chiselled tank section and rear section of the bike. The X-Cape 650X uses a tubular steel frame that hangs off fully adjustable Marzocchi front forks and an adjustable monoshock at rear. The X-Cape 650X gets a 19-inch front wheel and 17-inch rear, both with spoked wheels that announce a serious off-road bias. Added to that, the rims are shod with Pirelli’s Scorpion STR tyres that provide great grip, off-road. We noted the Pirellis really doing a good job of finding traction, even in really tricky, slushy situations.
Powering the X-Cape 650X is a four-stroke, 649cc, parallel-twin motor that puts out 59.1bhp at 8250rpm and 54Nm at 7000rpm. The engine is mated to a six-speed transmission. When riding off-road, the amount of power on tap seems plenty to hustle this 215kg motorcycle around rapidly. The riding position is upright and you grip the bike well, even while standing up. We didn’t get to spend as much time as we’d like with the X-Cape 650X, but our initial impressions are that this is a capable bike off-road, even though its hefty weight does take getting used to. As for riding the X-Cape 650X on-road, we didn’t get too much time in those conditions at all. The engine feels fairly refined although at times, vibrations do creep in when you wring the throttle and push really hard.
Braking is courtesy of four-pot axially mounted Brembo calipers, chomping on twin front brake discs. While riding off-road, braking felt linear and easy to modulate, something we really found ourselves appreciating, given such trying conditions. Overall, in the limited time we spent with the X-Cape 650X, we felt the new Moto Morini makes a solid offering for someone looking to step up, from say a slightly smaller bike like the KTM 390 Adventure.
Moto Morini Seiemmezzo Scrambler
The Moto Morini Seiemmezzo Scrambler, as its name suggests, is a dual-purpose on-off road bike that flaunts a flamboyant and proper neo-retro styling. The Seiemmezzo makes a handsome motorcycle that looks perfectly proportioned. The bike gets a circular LED headlamp unit and nice large muscular tank, just under its wide handlebar. Instruments on this Moto Morini is taken care of by a 5 inch, colour TFT screen, which is crisp and bright to read even under harsh sunlight.
Powering the Scrambler is the same, four-stroke, 649cc parallel twin engine, albeit in a slightly different state of tune here. On the Scrambler, this motor is good for 54.2bhp at 8250rpm and 54Nm of torque at 7000rpm. The engine feels smooth and tractable, and the Seiemmezzo Scrambler chugs away cleanly, even when carefully giving it some stick off-road, without pressing riders to frequently change gears.
A 795mm seat height makes the Seiemmezzo Scrambler accessible even for shorter riders. This Indo Italian gets adjustable KYB fork suspension in the front and an adjustable monoshock at the rear. The wheel setup on this scrambler is 18-inches at front and 17-inches at the rear, with spoked wheels, also Pirelli clad, although they somehow don’t offer quite as much grip off-road, as the ones on the X-Cape 650X. The same brake setup as the X-Cape is also deployed here.
You get good leverage from the wide handlebars although it reaches maximum lock fairly soon making tighter, slow turns overly cumbersome. Couple that with a 215kg kerb weight, and a Seiemmezzo Scrambler is not the easiest bike to manage off-road. Although, with its comfortable rider’s triangle and large 15.5-litre fuel tank, this Moto Morini could still make for a good long-distance touring bike.
Moto Morini Seiemmezzo Retro Street
The Moto Morini Seiemmezzo Retro Street is a road-going version of the Scrambler and it gets all the cues to suggest just that. It misses out on the small visor upfront and gets a seat that looks more suitable for road bikes. Even the colour schemes on the Retro Street look more modern.
Underpinning the Seiemmezzo Retro Street is the same engine and chassis setup as on the Seiemmezzo Scrambler. Meaning, you get the same tubular steel frame and same adjustable KYB front forks, with adjustable monoshock at rear. The brakes are also carried over as is. So, you get Brembo four-piston axially mounted calipers and twin discs upfront. What’s different, however, is the wheel setup, where you find tubeless alloy wheels, and road-biased Pirelli Angel GTs.
The stretch of road we got to test the Seiemmezzo Retro Street on wasn’t near as long as we would have liked and with no corners at all. So my initial impressions are limited. Straight off the bat, the Seiemmezzo Retro Street doesn’t feel as peppy as a 650 should. Performance wise, it’s more in line with what you expect from a 350-400cc sportsbike. The suspension is softer. So yes, while it does soak up some imperfections well, it feels a little too soft over harsher potholes and ends up crashing through those. These did however seem like qualities that could be tuned out by properly setting up the suspension, but the inherent nature of the suspension felt a touch too soft during our test.
Zontes 350T ADV
Now moving on to Zontes, we started off with the Zontes 350T ADV. The 350T ADV is more off-road focused, with spoked wheels making the bike able to handle the rough stuff better. The 350T ADV looks thoroughly modern and chic, with many angular cuts and creases. It also gets a bunch of features that aren’t seen on any bikes in this segment. And you get keyless ignition, tyre pressure monitoring system, button operated fuel-filler cap and what’s possibly coolest of all, a button that once pressed raises and lowers the windscreen. But sadly, this glory feels short-lived when you quickly realize that build quality is just not up to the mark. The plastics don’t feel nice enough to the touch, and panel gaps are inconsistent. On our test bike, the fuel-filler cap mount needed fiddling, just to get open. This is all something that needs urgent addressing.
Underpinning the 350T ADV is an aluminium alloy body, suspended on USD forks at front and a monoshock at rear. The wheel setup is 19-inch in front and a 17-inch at the rear, with spoked rims. Driving the 350T ADV is a four-stroke, 348cc single-cylinder liquid-cooled mill that puts out 38.2bhp at 9500rpm and 32.8Nm at 7500rpm. The meat of the power is available at the higher end of the powerband, and that becomes a major issue, while riding off-road, where you always prefer excellent low end grunt.
That’s further compounded by the road-focused tyres on the 350T ADV, which struggled to find adequate traction around our slush-filled test ride trail. The riding position while seated is fairly comfortable and that, with a 19-litre fuel tank should make the 350T ADV a competent and comfy bike for the long haul. Although, we did feel engine refinement was another area that needs addressing, because vibes creep in and are there to stay, starting from fairly early on in the rev range.
The Zontes 350R was the last bike of the day, and this definitely was most striking to look at. Take one look at this Zontes, and it immediately looks like it just jumped out of a science fiction movie. The front end looks like a Cyborg, while that sharp, long tail section looks like it could seriously cut stuff. Blue alloys complement the 350R’s grey paint scheme well. From the side, there’s a resemblance to the Kawasaki Z650, a good thing. Sadly though, the same story continues when it comes to build quality. The plastics feel much too flimsy, and so does switchgear. The 350R also gets the same wireless keyfob, electronic fuel-filler cap and tyre pressure monitoring system.
The 350R makes do with an aluminium alloy frame, hanging off USD forks in front and a monoshock at the rear. The suspension is much too soft and doesn’t do a thorough job of ironing out road undulations. Larger potholes or speed breakers aren’t kind to the rider and you get a really unnerving feeling every time you go over those.
The riding position is upright, and you get a wide handlebar on the 350R. Your feet are slightly rearset. Although considering the short road we rode on, there’s little to tell you about the bike’s handling dynamics, so more on that when we get the Zontes 350R for a comprehensive road test. What I can tell you for now is, the engine is the same four-stroke, 348cc single-cylinder mill that powers the 350T ADV and in same state of tune as well. The engine feels just as unrefined and power delivery is quite peaky.
Braking is courtesy of radially mounted, J.Juan calipers up front, while the 350R also gets a dual-channel ABS system. The ABS calibration however is not the best and in the case of panic braking, the ABS cuts in way too soon, increasing the braking distance more than just a fair bit.
Now, these were just my initial impressions. I would like to ride them for significantly longer before I can bring you a proper verdict. But I shall leave you with this. The Moto Morini X-Cape 650X, the Seiemmezzo Scrambler and the Seiemmezzo Retro Street are bikes with a lot of promise. They aren’t perfect and do have their fair share of flaws but still make interesting bikes, with good potential, nonetheless.
There’s a lot of work to be done when it comes to the Zontes 350T ADV and the 350R however. Build quality has to go up, and significantly at that, apart from which the engine needs to be worked on to make it more refined before it gets a thumbs up.
Still, at the end of the day, a lot will boil down to pricing. If Moto Morini manages to price the bikes such that they undercut the Kawasakis, the company will have done well. But if they price it much higher, it’s playing too close to offerings from Triumph and BMW, which is sure to make it difficult for this company to spread its roots in India.