Benelli Car-Bike Hybrid offers best of both worlds
By Mike Hanlon
June 4, 2004
The Benelli Adiva is one of the most interesting new concepts in personal transportation for many years - a two-wheeled cabriolet scooter offering more collision and weather protection than any other available two wheeler, yet all the parking, accessibility and agility advantages of a small motorcycle. In European cities, where parking and road space is limited, this type of car-scooter hybrid is beginning to get a lot of attention as commuters are exploring new, more convenient types of personal transport.
Bringing immense credibility to the cause of the enclosed scooter is the BMW C1, designed by BMW specifically to solve the space problems of European cities and the inherent two-wheeled disadvantages of weather and crash protection.The C1 is remarkably similar to the Adiva in appearance, and comes complete with crumple zones, roll-cage and a crossover seat belt system, which BMW warrants make it is as safe as a car in a head-on collision.
Bikes such as the C1 BMW and Adiva are plentiful on roads in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, and are marketed there with a variety of accessories including sound systems, heated seats, sunroof and mobile phone holder. Unfortunately, disagreement on ADRs is likely to prevent the C1 from reaching the Australian marketplace. BMW designed the C1 to be ridden without a helmet, and Australian ADRs will not budge on its requirement that it is technically a motorcycle and must be ridden with a helmet.
Accordingly, the C1 is unlikely to ever come to market in this country. So if you like the concept of the enclosed motorcycle, the Adiva is the only game in town at present.For the experienced motorcyclist, by far the most significant difference between the Adiva and anything else on two wheels, is the protection from the elements - when it rains, motorcyclists and their passengers get wet in two main ways - the rain they sweep in front of them as they traverse through the air, and the rain that falls on them when they are at traffic lights and stationary.
The Adiva largely eliminates both types, and although there's some limited splash from around the sides of the windscreen and adjacent road-users (when the road is really wet), the problem of getting wet is largely eliminated.In keeping with Benelli's policy of innovative two-wheeled design in recent times (watch for an upcoming feature on the Benelli 900 roadster), there is far more to the Adiva than meets the eye.
The motor is a 150cc overhead cam four-stroke, which offers good economy, thanks largely we suspect, to the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). That's right - the engine operates in a narrow rev range and the transmission ratio varies.
That way, the engine can continuously operate at high efficiency, and hence the good fuel consumption figures. Overseas test reports suggest 25-30 kml (75-90mpg in old terms) can be achieved by the Adiva, but few magazines outside Italy have had their hands on an Adiva, and we suspect the figures were helped by the lower speed confines of Milan and Rome. We averaged around 20 kml (60mpg), which is still far better than you'll achieve in anything with four wheels, but not as much as we'd hoped for.
We rode the machine between the 500 km and 1000 km range of its life, so perhaps once the still-tight motor beds in a little, the Adiva's figures might get even better.
Riding a motorcycle without the wind in your face and with a CVT is an interesting experience. You look down at the speedo, note that you're travelling at the legal limit, and go back to riding. Next time you look back, you might be doing 80kmh - in some municipalities of the world, that's a lose-your-license offense.
This speed creep happened a lot in the early stages of getting-to-know the Adiva because the speed of the Adiva can increase without the engine speed increasing. On a bike with a conventional transmission, the cue to a change of speed is a corresponding change in engine revs.Once I got used to the Adiva, the speed variation problem was easily overcome by frequent glances at the speedo, though there's one thing you will never get used to on the Adiva, and that's the attention you get.
This humble scribe has been involved with testing motorcycles and cars for 25 years and in that time, I've driven and ridden most everything of note and NOTHING spins heads like the Adiva with the roof on.It is laugh-out-loud material - people point from the footpath as you ride down the road, and it isn't an isolated incident to see large groups of people turn in unison as one of their throng exclaims loudly upon sighting the Adiva. Park it in a built-up environment and you suddenly have people around you asking questions.
Everyone notices the Adiva, making it safe to ride because everyone watches it until it is out of sight - no kidding! The motorcycle-car hybrid aspect is actually quite a good way of looking at the Adiva - during the photographic session, photographer and rider trolled two-up around several suburbs for several hours, discussing various locations, commenting on different aspects of the Adiva, and - we were almost finished when it occurred to us that we'd been having a normal conversation, just as we would in a car, and we hadn't had to shout or ask anything to be repeated.
The windscreen and roof completely eliminate wind-roar around the helmets and allow good communication with the pillion, or - we suspect there'd be no problems with a hands-free mobile phone, or sound system. The speaker covers are already installed in the Adiva dashboard, and there is a nacelle designed to accomodate a radio/sound system too. Many people asked during the test whether the bike was top-heavy or clumsy - it may look it, but it's not.
Indeed, apart from being slightly more susceptible to side-winds, the windscreen and roof appear to make no difference to agility or handling.Acceleration of the bike is comparable with most modern cars up to 60kmh after which the car can accelerate past - the main point to make here is that the Adiva is transport for a built-up environment.
It will happily cruise at 100kmh, and can handle freeway conditions, but it doesn't have anything more to give once it has reached 110kmh and you'll only see 120kmh down a slight gradient. Around 60kmh and 80kmh zones, it is in its element, but despite the excess of luggage space, don't go expecting to go touring on the Adiva - it is a city machine which will make light of commuting duties, maybe even delivery duties, but not the open road.
Potential buyers who are considering a scooter because they don't want the mechanical upkeep of something more performance-orientated, will be delighted to know that one of the primary design criteria for the Adiva was low-maintenance requirements. The Adiva is new to this country but experience overseas suggests Benelli has achieved those goals and it should be hassle-free for the inexperienced.
The Adiva should also appeal to people looking at it as a commuter on the basis that it is easy-to-ride. It has a very small turning circle - so small that it makes light of stand-still traffic snarls, even though it is marginally wider than your average two-wheeler. It is extremely manoevrable, and can be ridden by anybody who can ride a bicycle - the brakes are both hand-operated disks, and are exactly the same as those on a bicycle - right-hand front and left-hand rear.
Then there's a throttle and the CVT offers the equivalent of an automatic transmission, so as far as mastering the primary controls, that's it.The disks and fat little tyres of the scooter offer another bonus - great power and good road-feel when stopping under crash conditions. It really does brake quickly - as good as a motorcycle and it's never going to be going more than 100kmh anyway, which will help.
Transforming the motorcycle from roofed to unroofed is a ten second, one-handed job. The only disadvantage of taking the roof off is that it cuts luggage space in half - from cavernous to okay. That's actually a trap with the bike - you can load up so much stuff into the boot, that you may not be able to put the roof away if you don't pack things carefully.
The other space problem is the height of the roof, which makes things very cramped if the rider or pillion is taller than 185cm. One question which was asked of me at least once a day while I had the bike was "How much does it cost?" Most people see the obvious benefits of the machine as a commuter, and wish to assess its viability as a transport option. The answer of AUD$9950 seemed to disappoint a lot of people.
Perhaps that's because most people were non-motorcyclists and had no idea how the price-point compares to other two-wheelers.
Personally, it was a great experience to ride the bike - it was very safe, very comfortable and very economical transport, with the added advantage that it brought celebrity status whenever it was parked.