Things don’t change very often in 250cc cruiser land, but that doesn’t make the players any less important for a newer rider looking for something other than a 250cc sporty-type bike. And so, we decided to conduct a MO shootout. While we attempted to gather all three of the models currently in production, the Honda Rebel wasn’t available. When a bike has been unchanged for as many years as the Rebel, there’s no incentive for a manufacturer to incur the expense of putting one in the media pool. So, despite their best efforts to scare one up from other departments within American Honda, it wasn’t possible. Without the 250cc parallel-Twin, this shootout became a battle of the quarter-liter V-Twins. That’s okay. The Hyosung GV250 Aquila ($3,999) and the Star V Star 250 ($4,340) both have enough to offer to make this an interesting experience.
The 250 cruiser class generally appeals to a certain type of rider: Namely, new riders, smaller riders, thrifty riders, or some combination of the above. Troy is able to pull off the thrifty rider component, but Evans falls into none of the categories and was relegated to photog duties for our day of photo-shooting. We decided to enlist someone who could better fulfill the requirements of the kind of rider these bikes are built for.
Fortunately, we were able to find Mina Alikhani, a novice rider with 1.5 years experience and owner of a 2015 Harley-Davidson Sportster. Being petite, she also fits the size requirement. Fortuitously, as a professional musician, Mina was available during the business day to go play with test motorcycles with us. (Check out Mina’s band website Mina & The Southern Syrup and the official, motorcycle-featuring video from her just released EP which is conveniently available on iTunes.)
Our testing regimen for the pair of 250 V-Twins was set up around the type of riding a newer rider might do. We spent most of our time riding around suburbia and filtering through traffic of varying degrees. We even threw in some parking lot practice of cone weaves to see how easy this pair of bikes was to maneuver.
Being a Sportster owner, our guest tester immediately gravitated towards the V Star’s more stripped-down styling. She commented on the classic, elemental lines of the bike and clearly preferred its narrowness. Since Evans came to cruisers during the great cruiser boom of the ’90s, he immediately felt comfortable with the Hyosung’s wider, rounder, deep-fendered and cast-wheeled look. Troy clearly favored the Star, citing its clean looks and then taking his comments a bit further to impressions of quality: “Many people, myself included, take fit and finish for granted when talking about Japanese motorcycles, but it’s not until you place one side-by-side with other Asian-market bikes that you realize the quality the Japanese put into everything.”
He has a point. The GV250 makes a great first impression – as you walk up to the bike – but closer inspection reveals a myriad of miscues and cost-cutting measures. Most notably, the Hyosung’s exhaust system has oxygen sensors sticking out of the top of both headers rather than being tucked away under the bike. To make matters worse, the chrome heat shield meant to protect the rider from the oxygen sensors looks tack-welded on, and the joint to the main pipe has some of the worst chrome we’ve ever seen. Then you look at the nice two-toned seat, the chromed fork covers, and the paint and realize that Hyosung has the capability to pull the details off but, for some reason, didn’t.
Good Things in Small Packages
All three riders were pretty impressed with how tractable the power delivery of these small engines could be, making it surprisingly easy to get around town. The Hyosung came out on top in horsepower with 21.9 hp – a 2.6 hp (more than 10%) advantage, though that advantage was only reached after 7,000 rpm. Below that, in the area most riders will spend their time, the Star has more pull. The Star also out twisted the GV in the torque department, with a 14.3 lb-ft reading versus a 14.0 lb-ft reading for the Hyosung. Getting these two bikes underway couldn’t be more different. The Hyosung’s clutch engaged over a short throw right at the very beginning of the lever’s movement. “Super jumpy clutch,” noted Mina. “I’d imagine first-time riders would hate this bike because it’s so unforgiving on the release.”
The V Star, on the other hand, had a clutch that engaged at the far end of the lever release which Mina found to be “super forgiving for riders who may be learning how to shift gears and work with a clutch.” These comments are why Mina was invited on the ride.
The biggest difference between the two V-Twins is the fuel metering. The V Star uses an old school 26mm Mikuni carburetor to good effect, while the Hyosung goes upscale with EFI. We have to give Hyosung kudos for equipping a bike with EFI at such a low price point, even if there seemed to be little difference in the actual performance during our head-to-head riding.
The injected GV250 proved to be easier to start than the Star when cold, adding to its ease of use, and its ability to properly fuel the bike no matter the atmospheric conditions provides another advantage over a carburetor. The Hyosung’s oxygen sensors means riders of any skill level won’t need to bother learning about jets, or how to replace them, to suit the current conditions of the engine.
When actually riding the bikes, Evans and Mina felt that the GV was more powerful throughout the rpm range – an impression not borne out by the dyno sheet which gives the V Star a slight advantage in both horsepower and torque until 7,000 rpm. Perhaps this is the result of the GV’s 75° V-Twin being quite a bit smoother than the 60° Star throughout the rpm range, making it feel like it is not laboring as hard. The V Star’s vibration was also noticeable at highway speeds, making us frequently look for a sixth gear. The Hyosung, on the other hand, kept producing more horsepower at rpm where the Star had begun to drop off. So, while either of these bikes could work on highway commuter duty, the smoother GV – also a 5-speed – would be the better option. That said, if the Star had a sixth cog, it could easily cruise on the highway and engine vibes would be much less frantic.
Give Me a Brake
Don’t expect mega stopping components on either of these bikes, as both get by with a single disc in front, twin-piston calipers, and drums in the rear. Neither has ABS. That’s a glaring omission when discussing novice-friendly motorcycles, though in our experience with these two machines, it would take a big handful to lock up the front of either. That said, neither model left us desperately wanting for more stopping power. Mina noted that the “brakes were suitable for the power behind the bikes.”
Both bikes have adequate brakes, but we have to wonder if manufacturers are doing new riders a disservice by giving them bikes that require a huge squeeze in a quick-stop situation.
What Goes Up, Must Come Down
Our riders were also mixed when it came to suspension feel and maneuverability. Troy felt the Hyosung was a more neutral-handling motorcycle, and though he believes the bars are slightly too outstretched for his taste, they allow the rider to manhandle the controls and put the bike where they want. Mina agreed with Troy’s assessment of the bars, noting the Hyosung “wasn’t a comfortable reach for that style of a bike.” However, in showing that Troy’s out of touch with what newer riders are thinking, Mina says, “[the bar] was so wide that it made it a little harder to maneuver the bike with ease.”
Evans also preferred the predictability of the GV250 to that of the V Star. “The GV handled the same at all speeds, and since the handlebar fit my body type, I could do low-speed U-turns with ease,” he says. “The V Star worked better at speeds above a walking pace – though it always steered slower than the Hyosung. At low speeds the front wheel felt heavy, requiring lots of effort.”
Neither bike comes equipped with cutting edge suspension components, and Evans notes that delivering a more supple-yet-firm ride would have damaged the price-point construction of these two motorcycles. The result is compromised, commodity components. Still, the Star provided a comfortable ride considering, both ends working in harmony with each other despite their budget components. Meanwhile, the Hyosung delivered a harsh ride from the rear, its dual shocks tended to bottom quickly over sharp bumps in the road, which is the main reason Troy picked the Star as his favorite in terms of ride quality.
Assume the Position
Whereas the Hyosung has a relatively far reach, the Star is quite the opposite, its bar narrow and close to the rider. Mina clearly favored this set up, as she noted the V Star’s bars are “Very comfortable and easy to reach, however my feet felt a little more stretched forward for my liking. It made for a less smooth gear shift. I just prefer my feet to sit more towards the mid of the bike.”
Being the taller fella that he is, Evans preferred the Hyosung’s riding position for his body type. In direct contrast to Mina, Evans says “My 32 in. inseam legs were a bit cramped by the peg location, but my upper body was quite comfortable. I also found the seat to be comfy. The Star’s tank was too narrow for my liking, and the oddly placed handlebar made it difficult to steer at low speeds. Otherwise, I liked the Star’s style.”
Troy believes the GV more closely resembles a bigger cruiser with its size and proportions. However, the narrow dimensions and featherweight of the Star “would probably appeal more to the newer, or smaller, rider,” he said.
So who gets the final vote? Both mini-cruisers have appealing features that will appeal to a variety of riders. The Hyosung wins the price comparison, is fuel injected and is a solid choice for those of larger stature. However, the Star has vastly superior fit and finish, is noticeably lighter than the GV, and its narrow dimensions put it in good standing with the smaller set. For Mina it was a no-brainer: “V Star,” she proclaims.
Troy agrees with her, especially when keeping the target audience – new riders – in mind, noting, “The Star doesn’t present any surprises. By that I mean the bike starts up on the first button press (once you remember to use the choke), the clutch is very forgiving, gearshifts are supremely easy, and you always find neutral when you flick your toe up from first gear. Conversely, sometimes the Hyosung requires you hold down the starter button longer than the Star, the clutch is grabby, and neutral doesn’t always want to be found.”
As the outlier in the group, Evans held a different opinion. “As I said before, I like the beefy cruiser look. Although I’m not opposed to narrow, stripped-down cruisers, I feel the look should be warranted by the bike’s performance, as with the Star Bolt. The rest of the Hyosung’s performance did nothing to dissuade my predisposition, so it gets my vote. Although I’m way out of the target demographic, these two quarter-liter cruisers were pleasantly surprising when it came to bombing around town running errands and other quick, short jaunts. I could easily see commuting on one, in a pinch, and that was unexpected to me.”
The MO Scorecard will say the win goes to the Star by virtue of it winning nearly every subjective category, and while we definitely stand by our scores, a case could be made for a larger rider, or someone with an extremely tight budget, to choose the Hyosung. Which one is the right bike for you comes down to a thorough evaluation of your personal wants and needs.
|Hyosung GV250 Aquila|
|Star V Star 250|
|Quarter Liter Cruiser Shootout Scorecard|
|Category||Hyosung GV250 Aquila||Star V Star 250|
|Total Objective Scores||89.9%||97.4%|
|Quality, Fit & Finish||62.5%||71.3%|
|Brasfield’s Subjective Scores||66.3%||65.4%|
|Siahaan’s Subjective Scores||69.6%||75.0%|
|Quarter-Liter Cruise-Off Spec Sheet|
|2015 Hyosung GV250||Star V Star 250|
|Engine Type||249cc, Air / Oil cooled 75° V-twin||249cc, air-cooled 60° V-twin|
|Bore and Stroke||57.0mm x 48.8mm||49.0mm x 66.0mm|
|Fuel System||EFI||Mikuni 26mm carburetor|
|Compression Ratio||10.3 : 1||10.0 : 1|
|Valve Train||DOHC; four valves per cylinder||SOHC; two valves per cylinder|
|Exhaust System||Black, staggered shorty exhaust with dual mufflers||Staggered dual exhausts|
|Transmission||5-speed||5-speed, multiplate wet clutch|
|Frame||Tubular steel frame||Tubular steel frame|
|Front Suspension||35mm conventional telescopic fork||33mm fork; 5.5-in travel|
|Rear Suspension||Dual preload dual-adjustable||Dual shocks, adjustable preload; 3.9-in travel|
|Front Brake||275mm disc, 2-piston caliper||282mm disc, 2-piston caliper|
|Rear Brake||Drum||130mm drum|
|Front Tire||110/90 -16||3.00-18|
|Rear Tire||150/80 -15||130/90-15|
|Rake/Trail||33°/5.3 in.||32º/4.7 in.|
|Wheelbase||59.65 in.||58.7 in.|
|Seat Height||27.95 in.||27.0 in.|
|Curb Weight||404 lb.||334 lb.|
|Fuel Capacity||3.7 gal.||2.5 gal. / CA model 2.4 gal.|
|Available Colors||Black, Blue, White||Electric White|
|Warranty||Two years: 1st year parts & labor, 2nd year parts||1 Year (Limited Factory Warranty)|