While not a lot has been written about Hyosung, the company has been growing since 1978, and in 2005 opened its Georgia-based U.S. headquarters.
It has supplied technology to Suzuki as far back as 1979, exported small displacement bikes to Japan since 1988, and to Europe since 1992.
Including ATVs and scooters, the company produced its millionth unit in 1996, and that same year met ISO9001 and German TUV certification requirements. It now sells in many more Asian countries, including China, and other regions around the world.
Having operated since 2007 in partnership with S&T Motor Group, its stated 2011 sales goal is $300 million as Hyosung/S&T Motors attempts to follow the path that South Korean automakers have – rising from modest but ambitious beginnings with eyes on the prize of being top-tier players.
Today, the $5499 GT650’s only direct competition comes from the 2009 Suzuki Gladius, being sold as new in 2011 with an MSRP of $6899, and the 2010 Kawasaki ER-6n ($6,699). Also, leftover SV650s – as featured on Suzuki’s website with prices from $5899 to $7999 depending on the model – may be an alternative at some dealers.
Anyone who knows Suzuki’s SV650 will see more than a passing resemblance. Hyosung once supplied some of the components that went into the highly capable and sporty SV, and the GT650 was heavily influenced by its design.
We last compared the GT650’s fully faired sibling, the GT650R, to an SV650 in 2005. In addition to a full complement of bodywork, the GT-R differs also from the naked GT by its more aggressive riding position and clip-on handlebar, but shares all the same underpinnings. At the time, MO editor Gabe Ets-Hokin saw the more expensive fuel-injected Suzuki as smoother and more refined compared to the carbureted Hyosung. However, he found many admirable qualities in the GT-R, too.
Since then the Hyosung 650 series has been slightly tweaked, most significantly in that it now has electronic fuel injection.
The GT650’s claimed wet weight is 459 lbs, balancing on a 56.5-inch wheelbase. The Korean bike’s tubular-steel perimeter frame bears a striking resemblance to the aluminum truss-style frame used on early model SV650s.
Seventeen-inch wheels are shod with Bridgestone Battlax BT56 (120/60 front and 160/60 rear) tires. A compression and rebound damping adjustable upside-down fork keeps things in check up front, while a shock with ramp-style preload adjuster connects to a box-section steel swingarm.
Working as a stressed member of the frame is Hyosung’s liquid-cooled, 90-degree, DOHC, 4-valve-per-cylinder mill with a 81.5mm bore x 62.0mm stroke. A six-speed tranny with chain final drive delivers power to the rear wheel. In our GT vs. SV comparo from ’05, Hyosung managed 58 hp on the FactoryPro dynamometer (the equivalent of 65.5 hp on a DynoJet) used in that review.
Deleting the GT650R’s full fairing saves the GT 15 lbs. The resultantly exposed right-side evaporative emissions canister, coolant hardware, fan and radiator with outboard-placed filler look vulnerable and not especially eye-pleasing. Not a big deal, but considering the exhaust is on same side the right half of the bike looks a tad industrial.
A set of semi-floating 300mm front discs are mated to 4-piston calipers, and in back is a 230mm rotor with twin-piston caliper.
2010 Hyosung GT650: Take One
Turn the ignition and the analog tachometer’s needle sweeps its range while the blue backlit LCD, offering speed, dual trip meters, odometer, clock, water temp and fuel gauge, does its run-through procedure.
While the instruments do offer the nicety of an LCD readout, it’s not without some quirks.
For instance, pushing the Select button doesn’t allow you to select anything other than four brightness levels for the backlighting. Clicking the Reset button seems to do what we’d think the Select button should do, and that is toggle between the two trip meters and odometer – a prolonged push of the Reset finally zeros out the trip meters. Not impossible to figure out, but just seems a little different that what we’re used to on most motorcycles of Japanese origin.
Once the GT is rollin’ down the road, as Kevin Duke noted, “the EFI seems a generation behind contemporary setups from Japan.” He went on to say the Hyosung’s fueling surged slightly at partial throttle settings, and that it “offers soggy response when whacked open at lower revs.”
For the most part the engine is sufficiently torquey; and emits a distinctive V-Twin exhaust note through its stainless two-into-one catalyzed exhaust.
On the highway, reaching into triple digits is easy enough, although gear ratios seem a bit wide. Between 55 and 75 mph, you have your choice of a tall 5th or 6th gear. This could be a boon for commuters, and those wanting max fuel economy, but racer types might have liked closer ratios.
The combination of a relaxed riding position and limited engine vibration during typical freeway speeds makes spending time in the GT’s saddle a comfortable affair – another attractive quality for commuters.
During cornering, the bike proves itself an able tool for carving arcs. It competently holds a line and offers ample lean angle. The chassis remains composed in most every situation, save for a little wiggle and wallow from the back end during high-speed cornering.
As former MO editor Gabe mentioned in 2005, the nicely braced chassis, with a 25.5-degree rake and 85mm of trail, feels confident, and he thought the faired version could make a good track bike. All it needs is a little dialing in, and perhaps stickier premium tires when the stock set wear thin. Do that, and we think the GT’s performance threshold will go up substantially.
“The front brakes have a soft initial bike and not much feedback,” says Kevin, “but they have decent power when squeezed deliberately.” In the end, brake performance struck us as merely adequate, but not disappointing.
Sourcing some grippier brake pads, stiffer lines, or both would also help, but are not necessary unless high performance is your goal.
As things turned out, our bike had more serious fueling issues than we first thought. The GT eventually displayed an EFI fault code on the LCD, and temporarily went into half-powered “limp mode” for about eight miles.
Also, the clutch cable felt as though it was binding. We weren’t sure at first if the cable housing only needed lubing or had a kink in it somewhere. After shooting some grease in at the lever side, clutch operation got smoother.
Unfortunately, the fueling issues became serious enough that we needed to return the GT to Hyosung for inspection.
2010 Hyosung GT650: Take Two
A couple weeks following, we took delivery of a different GT650. Hyosung informed us the dealer handling press fleet duties hadn’t properly set up the first test unit we were given, thus the crummy fueling, etc.
We’re glad to report EFI worked trouble-free on our second test bike, and didn’t exhibit any of the issues the first machine had. However, that’s not to say the GT650 is an SV slayer.
With a properly functioning fueling system we were better able to assess the engine’s overall performance and character. While the GT’s Twin provides decent mid-range power, it’s otherwise flaccid-feeling at lower rpm.
Give the bike a handful of throttle, and what you’ll likely notice is the sensation the engine is steadily building up a head of steam rather than an exhilarating burst of torque. Also, it’s generally only at higher rpm while in lower gears that you notice the GT’s inherent V-Twin vibes, but cresting the triple digit mark on the speedometer while in top gear results in a different, and considerably more potent vibration.
Pushing high speeds resulted in some heavy vibes and shuddering, seemingly most prevalent at the front. Regardless of the source of this high-speed vibration, it was disconcerting enough that we opted to not test fate, and rolled off the gas, keeping to saner, closer-to-legal speeds.
Despite some rough edges, we see a good potential value in the Hyosung. It comes with a two-year warranty, so our fueling issue would have been covered. To be totally fair, we had something very similar happen this summer with a Honda CBR1000RR which likewise blew a PGM-FI fault code, went into limp mode – and did not recover like the Hyosung did – thereby forcing a ride of some 150 miles from home with less than full power.
Unlike Honda, however, what we don’t know a lot about is Hyosung’s long-term service record, and we have heard miscellaneous complaints here and there.
Otherwise what we’d like to point out is that the company has kept essentially the same platform in the GT650 and 650R for more than half a decade. While there is some sense in using a trusted platform for the sake of saving costs to increase profit, you could also speculate Hyosung is perhaps not terribly interested in innovation like many of its Japanese counterparts are. Heck, even the Hyundai and Kia car companies are cranking out new models each year.
On the other hand, Hyosung not long ago rolled out a well-reviewed cruiser with the same mill as used in the GT650, which is also used in Asian police bikes. We suspect this 650 V-Twin is a decent bet despite lacking the regular updates we’re used to seeing the Big Four give to their products. Well, ‘cept maybe for the Ninja 250 – it only took a couple decades for that highly coveted lightweight to get a makeover. Touché!
Ultimately, the GT650’s MSRP is low for a fully competent middleweight V-Twin, and it performed well enough once we had a properly set up unit. This Hyosung also certainly has some character, and its price will impact your bank account less than any other similarly spec’d competitor.