2010 Hyosung GT650R

Another Asian Invasion?

By Eric Putter, Photography by Putter Power Media

A generation ago, Americans scoffed at the English and European motorcycles rolling onto our shores. In the 1960s, many discounted the Japanese onslaught. Now, 21st-century America is in the midst of another Asian invasion, and Hyosung is leading the charge.

The Korean company's sportiest offering is the GSX-R-look-alike 650R. Unclothed, half-faired and cruiser versions are also available. All bikes are powered by a fuel-injected, 647cc V-twin that's similar in architecture to another Suzuki, the SV650.

The R-model's handlebars are clipped to an upside-down 41mm fork that offers compression and rebound damping clickers, but no spring preload adjustment. Out back it's the opposite, the single shock offering only preload. Niceties include dual trip meters, a pair of bungee hooks on the tailpiece, ample underseat storage and a helmet lock, as well as a multi-position brake lever and adjustable footpegs. The seating position is boy-racer tight, but the seat itself is broad and comfortable.

While its 64 horsepower and 42.3 lb.-ft. of torque are fairly respectable, the newly fuel-injected powerplant is buzzy, slow-revving and has a decidedly coarse six-speed transmission. A fighting weight of 473 pounds doesn't bode well for the bike's handling, either. Although it looks modern and sophisticated, the fork doesn't bestow the chassis with great feedback or bump management, and the dual-piston front brakes lack power and feel.

In terms of overall build quality and performance, the GT650R is 70 percent the bike that a current SV650 is at 80 percent of the Suzuki's $7499 price tag. To offset this harsh reality and add some peace of mind, the Hyosung comes with a two-year warranty that will lure some riders making the inevitable used-versus-new-bike purchasing decision. Other than a brake lever that continually popped out of its number-one setting, our testbike was solid during the 1000 miles we rode it.

Hyosung's game plan reads like that of Hyundai, a Korean manufacturing giant that was nearly laughed out of the American auto market by the media and consumers when it arrived in 1986. After proving itself with simple, sturdy econoboxes, Hyundai now steals unit sales from Japan Inc. and Eurocentric brands. We expect Hyosung's motorcycles to be on par in much less time.

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