2011 Hyosung GT250 Review
The third player in the quarter-liter market...from Korea!
While Kawasaki and Honda are busy collecting the headlines with their 250cc machines, Hyosung has been quietly plugging away on its own beginner bike—the GT250, aimed directly at taking a piece of the pie from the aforementioned Japanese brands.
Now you may be shaking your head in disbelief and writing off the Hyosung, and it’s easy to see why considering South Korea’s history in the automotive market. Brands like Daewoo, Kia and Hyundai have long been laughing-stocks among its peers. But it would be foolish not to notice the two latter brands have made great strides in revamping their efforts and are now considered legitimate rivals in their class. In fact, Hyundai (and subsidiary Kia) overtook Ford in 2010 to become the world's fourth-largest auto producer.
It seems to us like Hyosung is on the same path. Except for the fact that the company isn’t a new player at all, and the GT250 has been around for a few years now. And while this was our first time to test the GT250, we’ve already spent quality time with its higher-performance sibling, the GT250R, in our 2009 250cc Streetbike Shootout.
The Hyosung tested here lacks the R’s full fairing and double-disc front brakes, but it’s otherwise mechanically identical. Plus it has the comfortable upright ergonomics of a standard bike instead of the R’s hunched over layout we judged in the shootout as too aggressive for a 250cc sporty bike.
Back to Basics
To rehash, here are the vital bits you should know about the GT250. Forward motivation comes from the same 249cc air-cooled V-Twin seen in the R model. It’s graced with dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder and, best of all, it has fuel injection (unlike the carbureted Ninja). It’s mated to a five-speed transmission.
All told, this little package put out 24.0 horsepower and 14.8 ft.-lbs. of torque on the SuperFlow dyno at Gene Thomason Racing. Pretty impressive figures which fall directly between its more well-known rivals, the Honda CBR250R and Kawasaki Ninja 250R.
The rest of the machine features a few trick bits also. For starters, the suspension from the GT250R is kept intact on the standard model, which means the 41mm inverted front fork is still out front and the single shock is in the rear. Neither units feature adjustment, except for preload tweaking in the back. Interestingly, since the standard model only features a single 300mm brake disc and twin-piston caliper, the secondary disc, hoses and caliper are removed, yet the bosses and brackets on the fork stanchion still remain.
Is it Noob Friendly?
Right, the noob factor. Does this bike cater to new riders well? Simply put, yes and no. Let’s start with the no. The GT250 in many aspects feels like a much bigger bike. With a 56.5-inch wheelbase, 32.7-inch seat height, and a claimed 375-pound wet weight, we’re creeping up on 600cc territory (well, except for the weight). Those who are vertically challenged or lack some muscles need not apply.
Not coincidentally, those same attributes make the Hyosung attractive to taller or bigger first-timers, as it’s rather spacious. Unlike the R model, the standard version has handlebars instead of clip-ons and they’re angled to provide a rather comfortable riding position. Combined with neutral footpeg placement that sits just slightly rearward of the saddle, and you have a rider triangle that’s unassuming and pleasant.
We were impressed by the performance of the 249cc air-cooled twin in the R model, and that same performance makes its way to the standard bike as well. For a 250cc machine, a decent amount of torque is produced low in the powerband that helps propel the bike off the line. As you can see in the dyno chart, the broad spread of power is available up until around 9000 rpm, where it waivers for a bit, before it rallies for one final push just past 10,000 revs. Vibration is relatively minor due to the perfect primary balance of a 90-degree V-Twin, leaving only minor secondary forces to filter to a rider.
That power made itself useful on the street, but we were slightly annoyed at the long-travel throttle that required us to twist our wrists exceedingly far before hitting the stop. With only 24 horses to work with, we needed to use all the throttle travel available to dart between cars or merge into traffic on the highway.
One area we thought the GT250 would lag behind its twin-disc’d R sibling is in the braking department. Fortunately for us, one disc was plenty able to handle stopping duties. We liked the feel and the modulation in the lever, though if we were to nit-pick, a slightly more aggressive initial bite would have been nice.
"Fortunately for us, one disc was plenty able to handle stopping duties."
In the tight bits the roses don’t smell quite as nice on the Hyosung. All of our testers never felt confident leaning the GT250 over very far because of the lack of feel from the front end. We’re blaming this at least in part to the Shinko bias-ply tires that come on the bike. The handlebars are a nice addition to be able to leverage the machine from side to side, but the only communication the bike gives you when reaching its limit is noticeable amounts of flex—mostly from the tires, but partially from the frame as well. We’re quite sad about this because the 25.0-degree rake angle lends itself to sporty performance.
The Final Say
Overall, we’re pleased with the Hyosung GT250. It delivers impressive performance right in line with the other players in its category and costs a few dollars less at $3,699. If you’re a taller or bigger rider looking to save a couple bucks, it may be worth taking a look at the Hyosung. Then again, its handling woes are something to be aware of, though the fix may be as simple as better rubber.
The GT250 is a conflicting bike in some ways, but in the end we think it’s a valiant attempt from the underdog, Hyosung.