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The Chaebol strikes back

S. Muralidhar | Updated on: Aug 17, 2011
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The Indian and Korean markets for motorcycles are like chalk and cheese. Yet, apparently there is a certain similarity in their marked preference this year for big bikes.

And while the Japanese super bike invasion is happening, simultaneously there is one Korean brand that is quietly attempting a comeback. The brand Hyosung is not new to Indian bikers; remember the 250cc bikes Comet and the Aquila that were brought here by Kinetic Motors? This time around though, the comeback kid has grown up to fill out about 650 cubic centimeters.

The Hyosung bikes ST7 and GT650R have now been introduced by Garware Motors. And the company is positioning the Korean big bikes in the affordable luxury segment. Garware Motors expects all those aspirational buyers who can't afford the Harleys and the big Jap superbikes to seek out the two Hyosung bikes instead.

So, how do the two bikes fare?

Hyosung GT650R

On a scorching Friday afternoon, the gleaming, all-black Hyosung GT650R seemed to be waiting to be ridden. Sporting a sinuous, classic sports bike design, the GT650R does have an air of familiarity about it. Some design lines seem to have been inspired by a few Suzuki bikes, a company with which Hyosung was originally associated with.

The GT650R is a looker though, and even toddlers in pull-ups will stop to drool over it. The stunning looks of the GT650R, including the sculpted 17-litre fuel tank, full fairing with a small but attractive sticker job and a muscled muffler, gives the feeling of ‘go fly' like the motorcycle's tagline itself. The headlights, windshield and adjustable mirrors fixed to the fairing give the GT an elegant look in front. The six-spoke wheels with hydraulic double disk brakes in the front and single disk two-piston caliper on the rear add to the aura of this sports machine. However, the steering head and instrument panel are rather simplistic and also seem to sport below average plastic quality in this class of bikes. The same can be said about the switches and knobs too. The paint job is excellent as is the quality of all the machined alloy sub-frames and foot pegs.

The GT650R's four-stroke, DOHC eight-valve, V-twin 647 cc engine feels a little gruff initially. But it doesn't let you down. Sporting a 90-degree configuration, the V-twin looks like it has been evolved from the smaller 250cc sibling we have seen before in Hyosung bikes. Even though engine misses out the heavy ‘vroom' beat of a sports bike in the 560cc class, its peak power of 72.68 bhp and six-speed transmission manages to enable the rider to clock 100 kmph in just six seconds. However, manoeuvring this Korean sports bike at high speeds can be a bit taxing in very tight corners. But with a good riding posture, fairly wide and aerodynamic seating, and supported by an adjustable mono shock absorber the GT650R can be fairly engaging to ride on smooth, easy winding tarmac that you can find just outside most metros.

At 215 kgs, the GT650R is a fairly heavy bike and though the riding position is good, there is a considerable level of pressure the rider has to bring upon the handle to direct the bike at high speeds. Part of the reason is also the older tubular twin spar frame that has been adopted for this bike. The result is wrist and shoulder discomfort that may surface after long rides.

A thicker palm grip for the throttle would help the situation. Another thing to help reduce discomfort during long rides could be better heat dissipation. All V-twin engines tend to heat up, but the efficient dissipation keeps the engine within manageable levels. The GT650R has a water-cooled engine, but the vents and channels to direct heat away from the rider's thighs may need to be better designed. A naked version of the GT650R is said to be under consideration, which may actually feel less hot under the seat, when launched.

The broad 160/60 tyres on the GT provide the required traction and grip to make sharp turns not end up as nightmares at three-digit speeds. The inverted telescopic forks provide adequate suspension in the front to handle hard bumps and speed breakers alike. Currently, the only player in the 650cc segment in the domestic market, the GT650R targets the ardent sports bike lover who can't afford those seven-figure price tags for bikes above this segment. An affordable, performance motorcycle, this can be the dream machine for young speed lovers.

Hyosung ST7

To round-off its offering in the entry super bikes category, Garware Motors has paired the GT650R with the cruiser bike ST7.

The ST7's comes across as a classic cruiser or chopper design – one that is more appealing to a slightly older, more laid-back rider. Featuring acres of chrome (a very cruiser trait), the ST7 is ‘blingier' than the GT650R. A round conventional headlamp, stout telescopic front forks, bowler-hat style mudguards, squat and fat fuel tank, twin chrome exhausts with cut-away ends and the classic wide rider seat in stitched leather are all classy cruiser features that the ST7 is endowed with.

A low-slung seating position and a fat rear-end that sports a 170/80 Shinko tyre add to the ST7's cruiser feel. The magical sensation of sitting astride a cruiser is best experienced when you hear the engine thrum and you grab the perfectly positioned handlebar. The ST7's bar is shaped right and at the correct height too, though at the most ideal seating position, your hand will also have to be fully outstretched. If you stand 6 feet plus, the ST7 will provide the best ride posture. Minor modifications for shorter riders will help.

The ST7 sports a 678.2cc engine, which essentially uses the same basic architecture of the 90-degree V-twin in the GT650R. Reworked for the purpose of being mated to the cruiser riding style of the ST7, the fuel-injected, 8-valve engine now generates a peak power of 57.66 bhp at a lower 8,000 rpm. The peak torque of 57 Nm (compared to 60.7 Nm in the GT650R) is also available from a lower 6,000 rpm. The engine is mated to a five-speed gearbox.

Starting up the ST7 sounds a bit weak, compared to the rumble that you might expect from a bike in this class. There will be the obvious comparison to the classic Harleys here. But, wring the throttle and after some quick power transfer to the rear wheel, thanks to the efficient belt-drive, the ST7's exhaust opens up and slowly starts to resonate with a familiar cruiser note.

Talking of comparisons, there is also the inevitable design references that you'll tend to make of the ST7 and the Harley Davidson Fat Boy. The ST7's fuel-tank mounted chrome instrument cluster is an example.

The ride quality on the ST7 can be quite enjoyable even for long distances, albeit at fairly relaxed speeds. The suspension has been tuned to perfection to suit a cruiser profile, with the rear hydraulic double shock absorbers offering a soft and pliant ride over rough patches. The pillion will be the most comfortable even at high speeds, because for the rider, handle bar vibrations at three-digit speeds may mar the experience a bit. Overall, the ST7 can provide a fairly sumptuous, yet affordable cruiser experience.

Bottomline

The two Hyosung bikes are super bike wannabes that are being launched into a market that is already populated by the big daddies in the business. There are fewer competitors now in the 650cc class, but there will be more soon.

In the meantime, Hyosung's relative lack of brand appeal will have to be compensated by the VFM pricing. The GT650R is priced at Rs 4.75 lakh and the ST7 retails for Rs 5.69 lakh (both ex-showroom, Pune). The rated fuel efficiency is 24 kmpl and 28 kmpl for the ST7 and the GT650R respectively.

For both the bikes, there is room for improvement in refinement levels and perceived quality. But, there is certainly a feeling of getting onto a value for money super bike with both the ST7 and the GT650R. And if it is eyeballs that you are looking for, you'll grab a lot of them.

With inputs from Petlee Peter

Published on May 25, 2011
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