There’s an old saying that aptly describes the Hyosung GD250R: A day late and a dollar short. The 250cc beginner bike market went strong for years without much of an update, as the Kawasaki EX/Ninja 250, and later the Honda CBR250, practically owned the category for nearly three decades. Hyosung wasn’t absent in the market, since it persisted with its GT250R (and the naked GT250, no R).
What’s up with Hyosung? The Korean bike builder just seems to do things its own way. If there’s a marketing department, it’s a secretive one that’s careful not to divulge sensitive information. When there’s a new model, it sort of just arrives… the new GD250R did make an appearance at last November’s EICMA show, but we must’ve overlooked it? Is this thing from North or South Korea? Is it a threat to national security? And what is GD acronyming anyway? Grand Douring?
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.
In the great old US of A, lightweight motorcycles have traditionally garnered little respect – though that is changing with the recent focus of major manufacturers on developing modern, exciting motorcycles in the less than 500cc class. Still, while the 250cc cruiser market may be almost as minuscule as the displacement in the United States, this class of cruiser shouldn’t be ignored. World-wide, the class carries much more importance thanks to tiered licensing and tariffs on large-displacement motorcycles. Additionally, the 250 class is also extremely price conscious, challenging manufacturers to make the tough decisions to build a quality, desirable motorcycle for a diminutive MSRP. This is the environment that spawned the Hyosung GV250 Aquila.
It's called the Avitar -- and yes, the Hindu word for the physical embodiment of a Diety is usually (but not always) spelled "avatar" -- and it's here in the US in an attempt to conquer the middleweight cruiser market. We tested the GT650 Comet not too long ago, and while that bike represents solid value, it's not exactly an SV650 beater. It's much heavier than its competition and has some rough edges. We've also tested the GT650R sportbike and although it looks nice, it's still not quite as good as it could be. Will the Avitar be the same story?
The location? The infamous Sodom-Arad road, regarded by local squids as Israel’s best bit of winding tarmac, climbing up from earth’s lowest point up to the Judea desert’s high plains. The context? Trusting girlfriend and I plus a hefty duffel bag strapped to the tank while touring Israel. The tool? A very unlikely fellow: Hyosung’s GT650R.
Hyosung has previously dabbled in the cruiser realm, and ex-MO editor Gabe Ets-Hokin gave the 647cc GV650 Avitar a generally favorable review. But the Avitar’s futuristic styling is a bit of a stretch for traditional cruiser riders, so Hyosung cooked up something a little more familiar with the new ST7.
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.
In the electronics department Hyosung traded its in-house ECU for one built by electronics giant Delphi – similar to the system used on the company’s ST7 cruiser since 2010 tested here. The bike’s fuel injection system remains a mixed bag but it is also (mostly) a Delphi product now as well. Hyosung’s Garrett Wong says the new ECU and fuel injection system offers a major improvement in high-altitude performance.