2011 Hyosung GT650 Vs. Suzuki Gladius Shootout - Motorcycle.com

Pete Brissette
by Pete Brissette

One of these things is not like the other.

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.)

Does the Korean-made Hyosung GT650 have what it takes to contend with a major Japanese brand bike in the same class? To answer that question we slotted the Suzuki Gladius against the GT650.

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.

Suzuki’s Gladius hasn’t received updates since its 2009 introduction. Nevertheless, it remains an excellent choice for a do-it-all street motorcycle, and it sources its engine from the renowned SV650.

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.”

The Hyosung GT650 is a fairing-less version of the sportier GT650R. The 647cc 90-degree V-Twin motivating the GT has similar architecture as the 650 in the Gladius/SV650. However, the Hyosung motor isn’t as strong or refined as the Suzukis’ engine.

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.

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Pete Brissette
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