Quarter-Liter Cruise-Off

Evans Brasfield
by Evans Brasfield

The Hyosung GV250 Aquila and Star V Star 250 compete for your affection

Photos by: Evans Brasfield

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.

2012 Honda Rebel Review

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.

Being budget-conscious and beginner friendly, the Star V Star 250 and Hyosung GV250 Aquila both meet those requirements, but they go about it very differently.

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.

First Impressions

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.”

Despite its low entry cost of $4,340, the Star looks anything but cheap.

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.”

Carburetors may be dead (or dying at least), but nobody bothered to tell Star – the SOHC, two-valve V Star 250 holds a healthy advantage over the Hyosung throughout the midrange, where most riders will be spending their time. It’s only in the upper rev ranges that the DOHC GV250’s oversquare bore/stroke and four valves per cylinder give it the upper hand. And only after 7100 rpm does the Hyosung produce more torque than the Star.

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.

2012 Star V Star 250 Review

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.

In case there was any doubt as to the method in which the Hyosung receives its air/fuel mixture, the EFI label on the side cover proudly lets the world know it’s fuel injected. New riders learning to wrench on their GV250 will have no problem locating the oil filter, as it’s noted by the Oil Filter label. Also note the two wires for each O2 sensor jutting out from each exhaust pipe.

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.

That thing wedged between the cylinders? It’s called a carburetor. Ask your grandpa how it works.

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 the Hyosung and Star utilize single discs in the front, both with two-piston calipers. Drum brakes slow the rear wheel. The Star’s disc (seen here) is 282mm compared to the 275mm disc on the Hyosung. Neither system is particularly noteworthy, but adequate for the job. That black cable is one end of the mechanical speedometer. Low tech at its finest.

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.”

If you’re looking for a bigger bike feel from your quarter-liter cruiser, the Hyosung provides that. It also provides a stiff ride in the rear compared to the Star.

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.”

2015 Hyosung GV250 Aquila Review

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.”

Reach to the Star’s bars isn’t far, but it has a tendency to steer slowly at slower speeds, making it slightly more challenging to muscle it with the narrow bars.

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

The Hyosung’s steering characteristics are more neutral compared to the Star, and the wider bars give the rider leverage. However, the grabby clutch poses its own set of challenges when navigating slowly, say, through a cone course.

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.”

For a completely unassuming and unintimidating motorcycling experience fit for a new rider, the Star V Star 250 is our choice.

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

+ Highs

  • Full-sized feel
  • Smooth engine
  • Lowest price

– Sighs

  • Early, short clutch engagement
  • Wide seat and tank may bother petite riders
  • Longer reach to the handlebar

Star V Star 250

+ Highs

  • Lightest bike
  • More comfortable for smaller riders
  • Narrow seat and tank

– Sighs

  • Awkward steering at low speeds
  • Strangely narrow handlebar for beginning riders
  • Choke and petcock? Are we still talking about motorcycles?

Quarter Liter Cruiser Shootout Scorecard

CategoryHyosung GV250 AquilaStar V Star 250
Total Objective Scores89.9%97.4%
Quality, Fit & Finish62.5%71.3%
Cool Factor67.5%67.5%
Grin Factor67.5%71.3%
Brasfield’s Subjective Scores66.3%65.4%
Siahaan’s Subjective Scores69.6%75.0%
Overall Score72.3%75.6%

Quarter-Liter Cruise-Off Spec Sheet

2015 Hyosung GV250Star V Star 250
Engine Type249cc, Air / Oil cooled 75° V-twin249cc, air-cooled 60° V-twin
Bore and Stroke57.0mm x 48.8mm49.0mm x 66.0mm
Fuel SystemEFIMikuni 26mm carburetor
Compression Ratio10.3 : 110.0 : 1
Valve TrainDOHC; four valves per cylinderSOHC; two valves per cylinder
Exhaust SystemBlack, staggered shorty exhaust with dual mufflersStaggered dual exhausts
Transmission5-speed5-speed, multiplate wet clutch
Final DriveChainChain
FrameTubular steel frameTubular steel frame
Front Suspension35mm conventional telescopic fork33mm fork; 5.5-in travel
Rear SuspensionDual preload dual-adjustableDual shocks, adjustable preload; 3.9-in travel
Front Brake275mm disc, 2-piston caliper282mm disc, 2-piston caliper
Rear BrakeDrum130mm drum
Front Tire110/90 -163.00-18
Rear Tire150/80 -15130/90-15
Rake/Trail33°/5.3 in.32º/4.7 in.
Wheelbase59.65 in.58.7 in.
Seat Height27.95 in.27.0 in.
Curb Weight404 lb.334 lb.
Fuel Capacity3.7 gal.2.5 gal. / CA model 2.4 gal.
Available ColorsBlack, Blue, WhiteElectric White
WarrantyTwo years: 1st year parts & labor, 2nd year parts1 Year (Limited Factory Warranty)
Evans Brasfield
Evans Brasfield

Like most of the best happenings in his life, Evans stumbled into his motojournalism career. While on his way to a planned life in academia, he applied for a job at a motorcycle magazine, thinking he’d get the opportunity to write some freelance articles. Instead, he was offered a full-time job in which he discovered he could actually get paid to ride other people’s motorcycles – and he’s never looked back. Over the 25 years he’s been in the motorcycle industry, Evans has written two books, 101 Sportbike Performance Projects and How to Modify Your Metric Cruiser, and has ridden just about every production motorcycle manufactured. Evans has a deep love of motorcycles and believes they are a force for good in the world.

More by Evans Brasfield

Join the conversation
2 of 11 comments
  • Benchikh Benchikh on Oct 30, 2015

    If we look at the speedometer of the Korean it looks like gadjet,on the other hand,Yamaha give us nice simple ,well done speedometer,still to go to catch the right train.

  • Michael Mccormick Michael Mccormick on Dec 06, 2015

    Can't any manufacturer build an entry level bike with a low seat height that is not a cruiser? Last I checked there are a lot of non current cruisers in showrooms and used ones of all displacements on Craigslist.Something like a mini Ducati Diavel.