Hyosung GT650R test

Costa Mouzouris tries out Hyosung’s updated GT650R. Can the Koreans make a competitive mid-range sport bike? One way to find out.

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Words: Costa Mouzouris. Pics: Costa Mouzouris and Didier Constant
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I’d always felt there was a stigma attached to Asian motorcycles originating from somewhere other than Japan. Questionable quality control and reliability issues were all traits attributed to bikes coming from lesser manufacturers. But that was before I cast my eyes over the new 2010 Hyosung GT650R.

Although Hyosung is a relatively small Korean manufacturer (the company’s website claims 354 employees as of Feb. ’09), it has been around for over thirty years and during that time has even produced Suzuki motorcycles under license for the South Korean market.

So, maybe it’s no coincidence that beneath the bodywork of the sporty styled GT650R, there’s a resemblance to the previous-generation Suzuki SV650 – both powered by a liquid-cooled 90-degree V-twin. But the Hyosung is not a copy of the Suzuki, with an in-house designed motor, frame and styling that are worthy of any Japanese branded machine.

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Quality is great but some slight orange peel can be found in the paint.

And despite my reservations, the Hyosung stands on its own with up-to-par build quality and overall fit and finish too.

Welds are much cleaner than on Hyosungs of a few years ago and body panels fit well, though admittedly the paint finish is not up to Japanese standards and has an orange-peel texture in some areas.

Otherwise, the GT650R is a very stylish motorcycle — even boasting some higher spec elements than the SV such as the inverted fork — and I found it to be especially attractive in the white, black and blue paint scheme of our tester.

MID RANGE WALLOP

The GT650 fuel-injected motor claims a maximum output of 79 hp, a claim I find slightly optimistic, but probably not too far off the mark.

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The 650 is the biggest motor that Hyosung makes, but that’s pretty big for a non-Japanese Asian firm.

There’s also a wallop of low-to-midrange power followed by a healthy boost once the tachometer needle swept past 8,000 rpm. Maximum claimed torque is 49 lb-ft (at 7,250 rpm) and that sounds about right.

In short, this is a great middleweight powerplant, easily comparable to twins of similar displacement from the Japanese competition.

Fuelling was mostly spot-on; the machine started without a hitch and idled smoothly, while throttle response was smooth.

The only hitch in the EFI mapping (new for 2010) was an occasional chain-snatching hiccup on take-off, although this only occurred following a highway run and only two or three times during a day’s ride. The bike never stalled because of it, making it more of a mild nuisance.

The GT650R proved thrifty at the gas pumps, averaging 4.4 L/100 km (64 mpg) over a variety of riding conditions. This gives the machine a range of 380 km, which would prove quite handy on those longer trips.

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Some buzzing at higher revs.

The engine operates smoothly up to and slightly above highway speeds but let the engine spin past 8,000 rpm (you know, when the fun really starts), and it shakes with vigour, buzzing hands, feet and seat.

At least while you’re extremities tingle during those high-speed runs, your ears will be treated to a raspy growl; the GT650R produced a very sweet exhaust note from idle all the way to its 10,500 rpm redline.

The six-speed gearbox felt a bit notchy (this could be attributed to the bike’s low mileage, as we picked it up with barely 500 km on the odometer), though gearshift lever throw was short and precise.

A LITTLE CHUNKY

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Nimble and sure footed.

Unlike the SV650’s aluminum frame, the GT650R uses a steel frame, which contributes to a rather hefty 200 kg (440 lb) claimed dry weight. This is mostly noticeable when lifting the bike off the side stand, because once rolling, it exhibits the composure of a much lighter machine.

It’s not naked-bike flickable, but it is nimble and surefooted at speed. Its chassis is rigid and contributes to assured stability and no combination of bumps, throttle and steering input produced even the slightest hint of headshake.

Suspension duties are taken care of by a stout 41 mm inverted fork, adjustable for compression and rebound damping, and a single shock adjustable for rebound damping and spring preload.

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Four-piston calipers have a soft initial bite but overall braking is strong.

The fork was a bit softly sprung for aggressive canyon carving (who am I kidding, the closest I came to a canyon near Montreal was the road that bisects Mount Royal) but it provided a comfortable ride on the street.

The shock was firmer but not to the point of being harsh over sharp frost heaves or tired highway expansion joints, of which Quebec sadly has in abundance.

As delivered, the suspension settings suited casual street riding just fine, and cranking up the rebound damping a couple of clicks at the front and rear kept things under control when I headed north of Montreal to some winding roads.

A very aggressive pace like that during a track day will require a firmer setup, or an eight-tenths pace. The stock Bridgestone BT056 radials will be up to the task as they provided excellent grip on the road.


ASSUME THE POSITION

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It’s a substantial bike but riding position is very sport oriented.

The GT650R feels like a substantial motorcycle because once seated it is wide in the midsection and its bulbous 17-litre fuel tank makes a considerable presence in the cockpit.

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Adjustable footpeg bracket only goes higher and further back, but it can be removed altogether.

Sporty styling is the GT650R’s calling card compared to its naked GT650 brother, and with that styling comes the unfortunately super-sporty seating position.

For a machine that would be better exuding standard-bike versatility, its designers seemingly felt an extreme riding position was somehow vital and placed the clip-on handlebars far forward and the footpegs unnecessarily high and rearward.

The footpegs are adjustable, but only higher up and further rearward, but there’s an easy fix. Removing the adjusting bracket puts them in the same position as on the naked GT650, which is thankfully more forward, if not any lower.

The adjusting bracket is a flat aluminum plate with threaded holes in it and would be easy to replicate and allow an industrious owner to locate the pegs a little lower.

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The seat is very unsporty and actually accommodates a middle aged arse well.

Despite the taxing ergonomics better suited for a svelte and flexible 20-something year old, the wide, flat seat provided good support and was rather kind to my middle-aged ass after a day-long stint in the saddle.

The riding position was actually somewhat beneficial during stints on the superslab, where the windblast lifted my torso just enough to relieve some of the weight off my arms. Here, too, the fairing proved its worth by limiting said windblast to the helmet and shoulders, leaving the chest and abdomen mostly wind-free.

Passenger seating is enhanced by a comfy perch and large, easy-to-reach grab handles, then hindered by too-high footrests. At least, hidden beneath the passenger pillion is a large storage compartment where passenger and rider can store some Tiger Balm to soothe those aging, aching joints.

GET CHEAP, GET NAKED

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The GT650 (no R) is naked with tubular bars and easier ergonomics.

At $7,895, the GT650R undercuts Kawasaki’s Ninja 650R by $800 and Suzuki’s SV650SA by double that. Now, the SV does have ABS as standard and both the Suzuki and Kawasaki have a long established dealership network to boot.

But based on performance and dollar value alone, there’s no reason to overlook the Hyosung, and it is backed by a two-year unlimited warranty as opposed to a single year for the Japanese competition – in case you’re still teetering on the reliability issue of non-Japanese machines.

BTW, if you’re getting more rigid in your once bendy areas like I am, you might want to consider the naked GT650, with its more geriatric-friendly ergonomics and cheaper-still $7,295 price tag.

 

SPECIFICATIONS


Bike
2010 Hyosung GT650R

MSRP

$7,895 ($7,995 two-tone)

Displacement
647 cc

Engine
type
Four-stroke dohc 90° V-twin,
liquid-cooled

Power (crank – claimed)
79 hp @ 9,250 rpm

Torque (claimed)
49.3 lb-ft @ 7,250 rpm
Tank
Capacity
17 litres

Carburetion
EFI

Final drive
Six speed, chain drive

Tires,
front
120/60ZR17

Tires,
rear
160/60ZR17

Brakes,
front
Dual 300 mm discs with four-piston
calipers

Brakes,
rear
230 mm disc with dual-piston
caliper

Seat
height
800 mm (31.5″)

Wheelbase
1,435 mm (56.5″)

Dry
weight (claimed)
200 kg (441 lb)

Colours
Red,black, red and black, white and black, orange and black

Warranty
Two years, unlimited mileage

 

0 thoughts on “Hyosung GT650R test”

  1. Lawn Motorsports, this is a Canadian motorcycle review site. The amount listed is in Canadian dollars, so it is correct.

  2. I am a dealer in Millwood, Georgia and I can attest to the reliability and quality of these bikes. I personally own a 2010 GT650 (standard version of the GT650R) and I have put almost 2,000 miles on it in a couple of weeks with no problems whatsoever. These bike sound great, look great, have a great price, and an excellent warranty. Also, the price is incorrect in the article. The GT650R sells for $6,199 (solid color).

  3. If i were interested in test driving and even purchasing the 2010 Hyosung GT 650R in the Montreal area, where would I be able to do so?

  4. We’ll see but my thought is they are limiting the market appeal. They should have gone milder on the ergonomics and grabbed more novices, young and old, that don’t want to spend a lot of coin. The squids are still going to buy brand name sport bikes to complete the image. The range sounds good but with that seating, hmmm, could you empty the tank on one go?

  5. These bike sound great and Korean products are usually good.
    The best security advice is not to hold down to driver, it is to add a backrest!
    Paul

  6. If I remember correctly when i took the motorcycle safety course and the topic of passengers came up it was imperative that the passenger hold on the the rider. With the grab bars on the Hyosung wouldn’t that promote unsafe riding?

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