Hyosung has previously dabbled in the cruiser realm, and ex-MO editor Gabe Ets-Hokin gave the 647cc GV650 Avitar a generally favorable review. But the Avitarís futuristic styling is a bit of a stretch for traditional cruiser riders, so Hyosung cooked up something a little more familiar with the new ST7.
ďConsumers and industry people alike were very impressed with what our GV650 offered,Ē comments Brian Rose, Hyosung Motors America regional sales manager. ďStill, there was a call for a classically styled version of our popular cruiser. We answered it.Ē
To this end, the ST7 treads familiar cruiser ground with a western-styled appearance. Fenders have grown in size, as has the 90-degree V-Twin, now displacing 678cc and boasting electronic fuel injection. This 31cc bump in displacement adds some needed low-end punch to the revvy motor. Still, peak torque (46.5 ft-lbs, crankshaft) is said to arrive way up at 7500 rpm Ė higher than the rev limits of most twin-cylinder cruisers.
The ST7 succeeds in providing easy-to-handle steering dynamics, despite a rangy 33.0-degree rake and 66.9-inch wheelbase. Although this is a relative lightweight in the cruiser category, its full-up curb weight of 538 lbs takes a bit of muscle to lift off its sidestand, with about 29 of those pounds coming from 4.75 gallons of fuel in its wide tank.
Contributing to the ST7ís nimbleness is a pair of small-diameter wheels, cast from aluminum in an attractive multi-spoke design. Rubber is by Shinko, a 120/80-16 front and a 170/80-15 rear. Although these canít be considered premium tires, the Shinkos have plenty of grip within the relatively high limits imposed by the bike's footpegs dragging.
Straddling the ST7 proves to be quite accommodating thanks to a low 27.2-inch seat height. A riderís body is slightly rotated forward to bars, which I quite liked, and the footpegs are well placed for comfort. Its seat, with attractive red stitching, is broad for solid support.
Getting underway reveals the good and the not so good. Clutch pull is quite light, which is good, but the skinny hand levers arenít requisitely butch for a cruiser application. Also, the clutch engagement point didnít always come in smoothly, as if it had suffered previous abuse. Braking performance is better than average from the 4-piston front caliper and 300mm disc, reliably backed up by a 2-piston caliper and 270mm rotor out back.
Hyosung now boasts high-techie fuel-injection systems on all its street models, but the ST7ís electronic mixers could use a bit more tuning. It would occasionally cough when the throttle was applied, and throttle response proved to be quite abrupt. It feels like a generation or two behind the latest EFI setups.
However, donít underestimate this DOHC, 8-valve engine. Thereís more punch inside than we expected, and itís not just top-end power when revved out. It has no trouble keeping pace with 80-mph SoCal freeway traffic.
Two things noticed while doing the above: First, the ST7 is a little undergeared. Instead of using the 6-speed gearbox from the GT650, Hyosung opted for just five gears in its cruisers. While engine vibration is subdued at a 65-mph cruise, any faster and the bars and pegs begin to transmit vibes that eventually annoy. A sixth gear would be a real benefit for those who pile up lots of highway miles, and the ST7 is comfy and capable enough to do just that. Other than a tinge of notchiness, the transmission otherwise impressed us with its relatively short throws and crisp action.
The other thing learned during freeway travel is that the ST7ís speedometer is quite optimistic, registering a much higher number than probably actual. Keeping up with 80-mph traffic requires about 90 mph to be showing on the analog speedometer. The tank-top gauges include a clock and twin tripmeters, ringed by a plasti-chrome nacelle.
Real chrome is used on the upper triple clamp, engine covers, rear fender supports and exhaust, but most of the bikeís other brightwork is of the plastic variety. This includes the fork slider covers, radiator shroud and the excessively large belt-drive guard, among others.
Paint quality is one area not to be skimped on when building a cruiser, and Hyosung did it right with the ST7. The candy-apple red paint of our test bike glowed nicely with a sparkling metallic, accented with two-tone graphics on the fuel tank and subtle gold pinstriping throughout. Itís a classy looking color palette that enhances the bikeís perceived quality.
However, the Koreansí relative lack of cruiser history experience reveals a few finish-quality faux pas. A multitude of black electrical wires course their way untidily down the chrome handlebar, and the plastic turnsignal switch feels cheap to the touch. Cruiser aficionados will deride the fuel tankís pressed seams that belie the ST7ís budget origins.
And speaking of budgets, the ST7ís $7299 MSRP doesnít give it the obvious advantage weíd expect from a Korean-sourced machine. In fact, it retails for $300 more than Harley-Davidsonís 2010 883L Sportster! (It should be noted that H-D dropped the 883L for the 2011 model year, making the new Superlow and the Iron 883, at $7,999, the least expensive Sportsters.)
Cross-shoppers will also note that Yama-Starís V-Star 650 sells for $700 less, and Hondaís new 745cc Shadow RS retails for just an extra $500. A slight step up in scale is Kawasakiís Vulcan 900 Classic with an MSRP of $7,899. And itís worth noting that these competitors all have greater dealer support and enviable reputations for quality and durability.
So, without a price advantage, the ST7 is forced to play on level terms with its more established rivals. Hyosungís new cruiser has plenty of admirably qualities Ė easy handling, a modern and willing engine, nice paint and classic styling Ė but itís a tough sell to convince a rider that a Hyosung is worth more than a similar Harley or Yamaha.
Hyosung made a good attempt to create an American-style cruiser, but the ST7 faces a phalanx of stiff competition without leaning on a significant price advantage.
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