Maybe you recall that simple mental exercise – usually meant for toddlers and prekindergarten children – of comparing a number of items, where all but one are identical. And the one item is different just enough to stand out.
Who knows where this rudimentary brainteaser started, but Sesame Street’s Big Bird made it most entertaining with a song.
With respect to the unfaired Hyosung GT650 and Suzuki Gladius, the brain game could go a little more like this: One of these things is not like the original. (Insert whimsical comedy sound effects and music.)
The original, in this case, is Suzuki’s venerable SV650.
While the Hyosung’s 647cc 90-degree V-Twin and overall appearance seem heavily influenced by early model SVs, it’s the style-conscious yet friendly standard-type Gladius, powered by a derivative of the SV’s 645cc V-Twin, that remains true to the spirit of the original.
Two Peas From Different Pods
Although basic engine architecture is very similar ‘tween these naked middleweight funsters, the similarities end at the spec sheets.
“The SV650 engine is an absolute gem that Suzuki has now perfected,” exclaims Sport Rider-turned-Motorcycle.com staffer, Troy Siahaan. He got no arguments from me. At the end of a day aboard the Gladius I decided the SV650-based 90-degree Vee is one of the best things to have happened to motorcycling in the past 10 years or so.
Power develops smoothly in the Suzuki Twin, with no discernable flat spots or hesitation in fueling. Even when in top gear at freeway cruising speeds, the Gladius accelerates to overtaking speeds without any hesitation as it spools up smoothly and briskly. There seems always a reserve of torque on tap, yet twisting force is wonderfully linear, and therefore predictable, so a new or newer rider should find the Gladius’ powerplant a perfect ambassador to the sport.
If the Suzuki’s engine could speak human, I’m certain it would embrace newly minted motorcyclists with a gentle but confidence-inspiring greeting: “Hello! And welcome to motorcycling.”
As charming as the Gladius is for those new to the sport, as a rider with more than two decades of riding experience, I found the engine as entertaining as it is user-friendly.
This little Suzuki is something of a sleeper, too, as its style-as-a-priority design might have some of your buddies or your average squid saying, “Nice girl’s bike, dude!” At that point you’ll feather the light-effort, easily modulated clutch in first or second gear and wheelie the Gladius right past your buds as they wonder what’s powering this “chick’s bike.”
Ride the Hyosung without anything to compare it to, and you’ll come away thinking its engine is sufficiently powerful with some decent grunt in the middle. However, swap back and forth between the GT650 and the Gladius, and the Korean-designed engine displays some trouble spots.
The GT has graced Hyosung’s lineup for several years now, but only recently did it receive fuel injection. And while EFI is an improvement from constant-velocity carbs found on early model GTs, it’s not without some issues.
“The Hyosung’s EFI mapping remains in need of refining, as evidenced by the dips in the dyno chart,” notes Troy. “And those dips are felt in the saddle – low speed fueling is choppy at best, and the bike shudders and struggles until about 4000 rpm.”
Yep. The Hyosung 650 lump needs some additional time in the research lab. The GT’s “generation-behind” fuel injection, as Kevin Duke referred to it, not only hinders smooth fueling, but also is likely one of the culprits behind a power deficit to the Gladius, despite virtually identical displacement and engine layout.
By the Numbers
Peak horsepower and torque figures of 60.9 hp at 8700 rpm and 39.9 ft-lb at 7300 rpm for the GT650 aren’t light years behind the Gladius’ 65.8 hp at 8500 rpm and 42.7 ft-lb at 7800 rpm, but a gap of some amount across the rev range always favors the Suzuki. And in the neighborhood of 6500 rpm the Gladius made approximately 20% more power. What’s significant here is that the advantage is right where it matters most: the midrange.
The dyno only supports with hard numbers what is easily felt in the saddle. The Suzuki, as Troy implied, brings years of refinement, while the Hyosung’s engine and EFI reveals that perhaps someone pulled it out of the oven a little early. The GT also emitted noticeably more vibration than the smooth Suzuki.
And while the Suzuki’s clutch engagement is buttery feeling and free of any hitches, the Hyosung’s clutch engages somewhat suddenly near the end of the lever’s release. The GT’s touchy clutch action and poor low rpm fueling combine to make the simplest things, like rolling away smoothly from a stop, relatively challenging at times.
Where a pretty clear line is drawn between the engines, overall chassis performance from each bike brings them closer together.
Both bikes share a 25.0-degree rake angle, but the GT has significantly (1 inch) less trail. Combined with a lower-profile 120/60-17 front tire (to the Glad’s traditional 120/70), the Hyosung tips in a skosh quicker, though the difference is slight and most noticeable only in the first few degrees of lean.
The nominal difference between the Hyosung’s 56.5-inch wheelbase and the Suzuki’s 56.9 inches wouldn’t have contributed significantly to one bike steering quicker than another, nor would indentically sized 160/60-17 rear tires. However, the Suzuki’s 13-pound lighter curb weight compared to the Hyosung’s 459 pounds, as well as slightly softer compression damping or softer springs in the Suzuki’s preload-adjustable telescopic fork provides eager turn-in response.
Part of the price paid for the Gladius’ lighter weight is less fuel carrying capacity from its 3.8-gallon tank, where the GT650 has a 4.5-gallon petrol holder. The Suzuki managed a better showing at the pump with an observed 42.7 mpg beating out the Hyosung’s 39.5 mpg, but the Glad’s ultimate range falls about 15 miles short of the GT’s.
A beefy-looking inverted fork with compression- and rebound-damping adjustments keeps the GT650’s front-end in check, but it oddly lacks spring-preload adjustment. It offers better damping over the rough stuff – particularly over sharp-edged bumps that tend to compress suspension quickly – than did the Szook’s sticks.
The occasional wiggle or wallow during aggressive transitioning ‘tween corners reminded us of the limitations of the budget-minded shock (with handy, ramp-style preload adjusters) on each bike. Otherwise, chassis stability is quite good with nimbleness as a key trait on each machine. And we were more than content with levels of grip and feel from the Bridgestone Battlax BT56 tires on the GT and the Gladius’ Dunlop Qualifier rubber.
Braking performance is one area where the GT650 left no question in our minds it had the Suzuki beat.
Each bike sports dual rotors and calipers up front, but the Korean bike’s 300mm semi-floating discs and opposed 4-piston calipers offered a good deal more stopping force and better feel than the Suzuki’s lower-tech sliding-pin-type 2-piston binders grasping smaller 290mm rotors. Chalk one up for the Hyosung.
The riding positions of these two roadsters will appeal to riders based on their body sizes.
“I liked the ergonomics of the Gladius better,” Troy opines, adding he better appreciated the shape of the Gladius’ saddle and its lower height. “The Suzuki’s 30.9-inch seat height is a bonus to me compared to the nearly 2-inch taller GT650, though I could easily touch the ground from the Hyosung’s perch.”
It’s a safe bet that riders shorter than 5-feet 8-inch Troy will also like the Suzuki’s lower saddle and more compact rider triangle, valuing the unintimidating ergos as much as the aforementioned friendliness of the bike’s engine and clutch. Suzuki completes a nearly perfect package in the Gladius by giving it an ergo layout that welcomes just about any rider – save for maybe those folks with extra long inseams and guys that shop at the Big & Tall.
Even though I’m about the same size, I preferred the Hyosung’s thicker, firmer seat pad and its extra legroom. I found the Gladius’ seat too thinly padded for my tastes, especially near the front, just like I did when reviewing this kissin’ cousin to the SV two years ago (see Related Reading section below).
Both bikes employ our favorite instrument display layout (analog tach with an LCD panel handling just about everything else), but here we give the Suzuki another gold star.
Figures and characters in the Gladius’ LCD are bolder and therefore more easily seen during daylight hours, and two prominent indicator signals flank the centrally placed tachometer. One-upping the GT is an ideally sized GPI (gear-position indicator) inlaid at the end of the tach needle’s sweep.
The Hyosung’s gauge package looks dated next to the contemporary appearance of the Suzuki’s display. And while the GT’s instruments include most of the data the Suzuki’s panel has, the GT doesn’t offer a GPI – a feature we view as nearly a necessity for the intended buyers of these mild-mannered-but-still-fun two wheelers.
650 V-Twin Summary
Hyosung’s GT650 represents a decent effort from a manufacturer with a low-profile in the U.S. and without a storied history of competing ferociously for a piece of the sporting consumer like the well known Titans from Japan have done for decades.
Taken alone, the GT is at least adequate in all respects, and its $5,499 MSRP keeps $1,400 in your pocket if you choose it over the Gladius. The financial cherry on top for the frugally minded is the GT’s two-year limited warranty versus a 12-month limited warranty for the Gladius.
On the other hand, how close is the nearest Hyosung dealer if you need to take advantage of that warranty? It’s a safe bet there’s a Suzuki shop just around the corner, or at least in the next town.
It’s when the Hyosung is placed next to a major brand that you notice the GT’s relatively unpolished status. It’s noticed in the GT’s let’s-just-yank-off-the-GT650R’s-fairings industrial-looking appearance, and it’s felt in the unsophisticated performance from its EFI. The Hyosung comes across as underdeveloped when placed next to and ridden back-to-back with Suzuki’s virtually flawless Gladius.
Like most parents think and hope of their kids, we believe Hyosung has potential.
For now, though, we’ll stick with what we know.
2010 Hyosung GT650 Review
2009 Kawasaki ER-6n vs. Suzuki Gladius
2009 Suzuki Gladius Review
Hyosung GT650R Review
Hyosung GT650R vs. Suzuki SV650
2006 Suzuki SV650S vs. Kawasaki Ninja 650R
All Things Hyosung on Motorcycle.com
All Things Suzuki on Motorcycle.com