2015 SYM T2 250i Symfighter

Editor Score: 66.5%
Engine 12.0/20
Suspension/Handling 9.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 6.0/10
Brakes 6.0/10
Instruments/Controls4.5/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 8.5/10
Appearance/Quality 8.5/10
Desirability 5.0/10
Value 7.0/10
Overall Score66.5/100

Whether we admit it or not, most of us crave the familiar. SYM? Never heard of it. How could it be any good? In fact, Sanyang Industries has been cranking out vehicles since the ’50s in Taiwan. After inking a deal with Honda in 1962 to begin assembling motorcycles, it started stamping out Civics in 1977. In 2002, it split from Honda and partnered up with Hyundai, who also makes pretty nice automobiles these days. Sanyang also has a deal with King Long, which builds Chinese buses (and whose name can’t be beat), as well as a deal with Mahindra in India.

In short, SYM’s been building all kinds of scooters, small motorcycles and cars for many years for sale in many corners of the world outside the U.S. And when you look at photos of most of its wares, they look strangely similar to products sold by very familiar manufacturers.

Taiwan may be part of China, but the little island off the coast of the mainland is First World all the way.

Taiwan may be part of China (or not, depending on who you ask), but the SYM’s build quality looks more like motorcycles that usually carry Japanese badging.

Taiwan may be part of China (or not, depending on who you ask), but the SYM’s build quality looks more like motorcycles that usually carry Japanese badging.

However the global marketplace works, the T2 (also known as the Wolf in other markets) appears to be the equal and more of comparable motorcycles built by, er, sold by Honda and other big name manufacturers. The chrome on a few of its pieces is not bad stuff. It has an adjustable front brake lever and a steel braided line to its radial-mounted four-piston front caliper. Its funky dished wheels look like prototype ones that didn’t quite make the cut for the CB1000R Honda. Its nice LCD panel includes a voltmeter, clock, bar fuel gauge, gear-position indicator. It doesn’t even use cheap fasteners that are going to rust after the first dew, but nicely plated high quality ones. If the tank said Honda instead of SYM Symfighter (okay, Honda has a better marketing department), you’d believe it.

The other thing Honda has that SYM lacks, and it’s a biggish thing, is Honda’s testing department. Where the best motorcycles seem to add up to a bit more than the sum of their parts, the T2 is kind of the opposite. Its 249cc liquid-cooled four-valve thumper’s fuelling is a tad abrupt off idle, and never pulls with the smooth eagerness of our favorite small-displacement Singles. Its gearbox can be borderline balky, slightly dirtbike-ish – in fact that engine looks a lot like a dual-purpose thumper we’ve seen before in some bike or other dating back quite some time…

A series of technical and logistic snafus kept us from getting the SYM onto a dyno, but the claim is 25 horsepower at 7500 rpm. Subtracting the usual 10-percent for driveline loss, that should put it at around 22.5 horsepower, but our seat-of-pants dyno puts it at not quite that much. Maybe 20 or 21. Anyway, it’s enough to push the T2 along at an indicated 93 mph and 8200 rpm at sea level (the tachometer goes red at 9,000), which is enough to stay ahead of most of the SUVs.

Swooshy dished wheels give the T2 a little bit of a shrunken Honda CB1000R look, one of my personal favorite naked bikes.

Swooshy dished wheels give the T2 a little bit of a shrunken Honda CB1000R look, one of my personal favorite naked bikes.

Rolling along at 80 or so, the little Single is surprisingly smooth. The bike’s non-adjustable fork and single shock provide an okay ride, its seat is not bad at all, and its standard riding position is actually close to big-bike dimensions, big enough to not elicit any complaints except from Roderick, MO’s chief complainant. He felt a little cramped, and didn’t like the bend of the Sym’s funky buckhorn/mini-apehanger handlebar. Our tallest guy, Brasscannons, was okay with it, but then the MO crew tops out at 5-feet 11 in. Whadayawant? 250 streetbikes are really aimed at small people.

At 385 pounds on the official MO scales with its 3.7-gallon tank full, the T2 is a reasonably substantial little bike but still light enough for those just learning. Clutch pull is nice and light, which is good because you’re shifting a lot on any 250. The SYM is a little clunky, so sometimes it takes a couple of lever nudges to shift on this one. The adjustable brake lever is also good, but that latest-tech appearing front brake (with 288mm disc) doesn’t have as much stopping power as you’d expect from looking at it. Lots of “beginner bikes” are that way, though. Maybe the manufacturers have decided it’s better for you to run into something than to lock up the front wheel? Maybe they’re right?

The front brake’s not quite as strong as it looks, but more aggressive pads might fix it right up? The SYM does ride on modern radial rubber.

The front brake’s not quite as strong as it looks, but more aggressive pads might fix it right up? The SYM does ride on modern radial rubber.

At the end of the day, maybe the only thing really wrong with the T2 is its timing. Ten years ago, even four years ago, before Honda started cranking out CBR250Fs, the only other players in this segment were not-nearly so nice bikes from mainland China. The T2 retails for $3,799. Nowadays, for $200 more, you can get a bigger-engined, faster CB300F – winner of last September’s Lightweight Nakeds Shootout, and it’s hard to come up with any good reasons why you shouldn’t if a modern little thumper is where you’re shopping. If you just like the way the SYM looks and want something different, though, we wouldn’t try to talk you out of it. The crack MO staff is working on a comparo in which we throw the SYM in the deep end with the new Honda CBR300R and Kawasaki Ninja 300, and we’ll have more to say once that’s complete. Stay tuned.

+ Highs

  • Nice bike, man. What is it?
  • Not at all cheap for being so inexpensive
  • Expansive cockpit, considering
– Sighs

  • Not quite so cohesive as Japanese competition
  • Not quite so inexpensive anymore
  • About five years late to the little bike party
2015 SYM T2 250i Symfighter Specs
MSRP $3,799
Engine Type 249cc Four-stroke liquid-cooled Single
Fuel System EFI
Ignition CDI
Compression Ratio 10.5:1
Valve Train SOHC; 4 valves per cylinder
Emissions EPA & DOT Approved, C.A.R.B. Approved for CA
Horsepower (Claimed) 25 hp @ 7500 rpm
Torque (Claimed) 17 lb-ft. @ 6000 rpm
Transmission 6-speed, wet disc type
Final Drive Chain
Front Suspension Telescopic Fork
Rear Suspension Uni Swing
Front Brake Disc (288mm)
Rear Brake Disc (222mm)
Front Tire 110/70 – 17
Rear Tire 140/70 – 17
Wheelbase 51.9 in.
Seat Height 31.0 in.
Fuel Capacity 3.7 gal.
Tested Fuel Economy 63 mpg
Wet Weight 385 lbs
Available Colors Midnight Black, Racing White, Intense Yellow
Warranty 24 Months Limited Warranty

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  • Craig Hoffman

    The toughest competition for any of these new “beginner bikes” is the seemingly limitless supply of used Kawasaki EX/Ninja 500s. Back in ’88, a new EX500 was the route I was going to take, then I came across a used ’87 Ninja 750. Yep, that 750 was my first street bike. So lucky to be alive. I guess the TM400 dirt bike I used to ride and RM125 I raced MX with as a kid prepared me well. It really is a miracle to have made it this far 😉

    It will be interesting to see how this latest China bike fares. Off the pace of the well sorted Honda but closing the gap quite a bit over the last few years I suppose. Too bad it does not cost at least $500 less. That would make it a lot more compelling. For only $200 more, one might as well get the “real thing”.

    • Old MOron

      On the other hand, if the SYM dealer is willing to sell for less than MSRP, maybe this bike stands a chance.

  • Orin

    Hello, Taiwan is NOT part of China… while the folks in Beijing consider it a rogue province, it is in fact an independent nation, with its own government. Outside of the U.S., SYM has a stellar reputation for advanced engineering and quality. There are several other manufacturers of scooters and motorcycles based in Taiwan which also produce well-engineered, quality bikes.

    • tiga2001

      I cannot believe they wrote “Taiwan may be part of China,” why do people pretend they know something they don’t.

  • allworld

    SYM did at one time, not sure if they still do, sell maxi scooters in the USA and they were quite good. There USA distributors were out of Texas, but I think they had a big fire and somehow never recovered.
    It would be nice to see a dealer network materialize for SYM products.

    • john burns

      whoops, here is their website, including a dealer finder. Looks like there are about five in SoCal…

      http://www.alliancepowersports.com/

      • allworld

        Go figure there is a dealer (scooters) about 2 miles from my house.

  • Chris_in_Kalifornia

    So put on two more cylinders and some better brakes and shocks and add a gallon or two to the tank and I’m interested. Might be fun as I’m kind of short at 5’6″ but traffic out here runs at a high rate and you just might get run over cruising on a bike at 80. A small one anyway. It probably gets really good mileage although I didn’t see that mentioned. Nor did I see a mention of how it does getting on the freeway, or how well it does on mountain roads. I saw that the gearbox is clunky but that you’ll have to shift it a lot because it’s a 250 and you have to do that. Is it clunky because it’s new or is it clunky because of design or manufacturing problems? In AZ (my new home) big trucks are allowed 75 mph. I think it might be smart to stay around town with one of these. Should be great around the LA area though, especially in rush hour(s) traffic. Small and agile rules the roost in that quagmire.

  • Mark D

    At the very least, I would imagine you will NOT pay $3,800 out the door for one of these, whereas the Honda dealers can barely keep CBR300s on the lots. So the price differential is going to be bigger. If you live in a larger city (here in SF, there are at least 3 SYM dealers in the area), and can save $700 or so off the Honda, it might make sense. That’s all your gear!