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.
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.
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?
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.
|2015 SYM T2 250i Symfighter Specs|
|Engine Type||249cc Four-stroke liquid-cooled Single|
|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|
|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|
|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|