The Comet gained massive respect and acceptance from the motorbiking community back in the day, but its glory was short lived. Hyosung is back in the 250 segment, and has brought in a pretty looking dame to fight the battle
Back in 2004, when Hyosung introduced the Comet through its relationship with Kinetic, things were looking good for both the parties – but the market wasn’t ready to absorb a 250cc bike capable enough of beating the thumping Royal Enfield Bullets. It was peak time for the entry-level commuter bikes to blossom and the various 100-125cc Hero-Honda and Bajaj offerings were shaking up the industry. The Comet came in with a bang, and managed to place itself as a niche product in the impossibly dreary marketplace. As a result, it gained praise from all of us motoring hacks. But it died an early death, which wasn’t even valiant.
The Comet was a handsome motorcycle, handled fairly well, and there were romantic songs sung in many reviews about the bike. I was young, and in my early days as a professional. And, like all young guys, I brainlessly fell for the sporty naked body – not to mention the stamp of it being ‘imported.’ The biking scenario in India was dull to the point of boredom at the time, and though the Comet was a bit unrefined and even slightly uncomfortable, all those irksome issues were overlooked. Even their cruiser motorcycle – Aquila – gained a lot of admirers. The strategists at Hyosung were happy that their little experiment worked and Kinetic basked in the glory of establishing somewhat of a cult status for the little known South Korean company.
Now, though, things have changed. Honda is making the lives of quite a few people difficult with rapid changes and developments, Yamaha is finally starting to come of age, and TVS is also gaining strength in their R&D capabilities. Bajaj, ever since its original Pulsar, has been a game changer, and continues to be. The floodgates to the entry-level sprotsbike playfield were opened by Yamaha with their YZF R15. Yes, there’ve been the so-called performance bikes – Pulsar, CBZ and Apache to name a few, but the crowds didn’t quite take to these things the way they popped their eyes in amazement when the R15 was revealed. Much credit of that effect goes to its fully faired body and sports derived riding position – the youth digs this kind of flash!
The R15 instantly became a runaway success – and it did it at a price point which was thought of as the zone of self demolition for any two-wheel maker. Royal Enfield was the only motorcycle manufacturer that could sell its bikes above a lakh, and that’s because it’s considered to be an iconic brand. And that’s where Kinetic fell short – they thought they had established Hyosung as a cult name, which was somewhat true, but it didn’t quite work.
Last year, when Hyosung came in with the GT650R and ST7, I couldn’t help noticing what a quantum leap they’d made in the execution of their bikes. I’m an out-and-out sports bike guy, but the ST7 was my choice of ride between the two. It was comfortable, perfectly powerful, and had a very well calibrated suspension. Plus, it looked a million bucks. The 650, I’ve always felt, has design cues of a Suzuki. There’s some Suzuki Gixxer in there somewhere, and after I rode it, I found out where. The handling, at first, was simply awful – it didn’t suit my riding style. I got the suspension setting changed, and I suddenly found myself riding a track specialist. The GT250R is a mini-650 – it looks that way at the very least.
You can’t help but notice that the GT250R is a relatively bigger motorcycle, compared against its direct rivals – the Honda CBR250R and the Kawasaki Ninja. Even our in-house ape-man, Jared, wouldn’t look bad on this thing. It looks as aggressive as its elder sibling, and the vertical twin-projector headlamps give it an unmistakable individualistic stance on the road. When it comes to automotive examples, style matters, and the 250 has bags-full of it – especially for the segment it’ll fight in. The show-business here is all fine and glorious, but I really hoped for more power to match the ‘pacy’ looks. Plainly, the 28bhp that this 75-degree, V-twin 250 motor churns out isn’t sufficient enough to get you really moving. There’s a severe lack of urgency from the engine, and there’s nothing there lower down the rev range. And that’s where the Ninja demolishes its rivals, the Honda included. The Ninja’s engine is a pearl in a pond of muck, and then there’s the way this Japanese kid handles. There’s a great effort from the South Koreans here, really, and the GT250R is quite a good tool to go corner-attacking on, but the Ninja is sharper with its steering and shifts more impressively. Thankfully, the fuel injection and V-twin configuration makes the GT250R a vibration-free experience. One thing that really got under my skin, though, was the seat – it’s hard, and you’ll want to get off after barely an hour or riding, at most!
The 650N is here because I couldn’t really get my leg across it when it was introduced. And that gave me a good reason to take it along with the 250 – to compare the amount of performance missing in the 250 vis-à-vis the 650 motor. Again, the game has moved so far forward that the 650 just doesn’t feel special enough. Now you have Harley Davidson working on an entry-level motorcycle, and the likes of Triumph coming in soon as well. Sure, their model line-up would be a bit more expensive than the 4.4 lakh retail price of the 650N, but they’re more iconic names all the same. It does, however, feel a bit more comfortable than its ‘R’ specced sister – owing to a more upright seating position, and tubular handlebar. Plus, it handles a little more sedately as well.
The crucial thing here with the GT250R is that Hyosung must get its pricing bang on – otherwise, this will also be a case of what could have been, a result that Ninja has already faced. And since Honda is doing very well with the CBR250R – which also comes with ABS – Hyosung should ideally target 1.9 lakhs for the 250. But, I’m no economist. I do, however, hope that Hyosung prices it right so that the 250 can have a proper future in the Indian market this time around.
|Engine||249CC / 2 Cylinders / 8 Valves / DOHC|
|Transmission||5-Speed / Manual|
|Power||28BHP @ 10,000RPM|
|Torque||23NM @ 8,000RPM|
|Engine||647CC / 2 Cylinders / 8 Valves / DOHC|
|Transmission||6-Speed / Manual|
|Power||73BHP @ 9000RPM|
|Torque||61NM @ 7500ROM|
|Looks like a big bike, and is enjoyably sharp around bendy roads. Slow, but sharp|