Hyosung Aquila 250 (2007)

Korean manufacturer Hyosung has hit a sound note in the production of a maneuverable lightweight with a V-Twin and classic cruiser lines.

If big displacement isn’t a major concern and if you’re in the cruiser market for something new that can still rival many of the “deals” to be found in the Used department of the classified section, Hyosung’s Aquila 250 is worth careful consideration. With classic good looks, a high-revving engine and excellent road handling characteristics, the Korean-built cruiser is at the very top of the lightweight class—a class that will now most certainly become more active as insurance rates for bigger bikes continue to soar.

In a category where its legitimate classmates are the Honda Rebel 250, Suzuki Marauder 250 and Yamaha Virago 250, the Aquila offers the all-important V-Twin configuration—as opposed to Honda’s parallel Twin and Suzuki’s big single. It also generates the segment’s top horsepower/torque numbers, according to the painstaking  research compiled by Canadian Biker’s Quebec-based stringer Bertrand Gahel in his annual bible for motorcycle shoppers, Le Guide de la Moto. 

While the Aquila’s air/oil-cooled 249cc Hamamatsu motor kicks out a tidy 26.8 hp (at 9,200 rpm) and 15.7 ft/lbs. torque (at 7,300 rpm) the others do this:

Honda Rebel 

18.5 hp at 8,250 rpm

14 ft/lbs. torque at 4,500 rpm

Suzuki Marauder

20 hp at 8,000 rpm

15.3 ft/lbs. torque at 6,000 rpm

Yamaha Virago 

21 hp at 8,000 rpm

15.2 ft/lbs. torque at 6,000 rpm

Obviously the rest of the field produces its maximum power earlier, but the HyosungAquila, with a 12,000 rpm redline, revs eagerly and with nearly no detectable vibration. The analogue speedo, however is entirely too optimistic. The indicated top speed is registered as 160 kmh, but 130 is really just about it. After all, despite roller bearing camshafts, dual overhead cams, and four valves per cylinder, this is just a 249cc motor. Having said that, it’s also the newest mill in the class—the others do seem to be getting long in the tooth and the Yamaha is the only one aside from Hyosung to offer the V-Twin. The downside is its cold-blooded nature on start-up, where liberal and prolonged use of the handlebar-mounted choke lever is mandatory.

Shifting too is a pleasant affair as the five-speed transmission responds crisply to light prods and engages each ratio with positive action. Fifth is nearly an overdrive in function, but third is the most flexible gear and in that selection the motor will rev quickly as high as 10,500, which translates to about 110 kmh.

In third, you can still allow revs to cycle down a long way before the engine begins to lug, but power is prone to fade quickly as you roll off the throttle, which governs twin downdraft Mikuni carburetors. 

As an aside here, Jim Hannah of Victoria Motorcycle Sales in Victoria, BC—from where we picked up our press unit—reports that Hyosung is developing a 1000cc fuel-injected replacement for its 650 model. 

Though leg room is generous and the broad saddle comfortable even for a six-foot, 200-pounder such as myself, the bike really is intended for smaller riders. However, some of Hannah’s smaller-stature customers have found the broad 14-litre fuel tank actually splays out their legs to an uncomfortable degree. The byproduct of this strained position is predictable: the rider must “toe-in” to make shifts, and this becomes a source of irritation in short order. Hannah’s solution has been to shim the shifter out, but it’s an ergonomic he wishes the factory would address.

In a perfect world, I probably would not have been the test rider of this unit. However, five-foot-six, 150-pounders are in short supply at the Canadian Biker office, so I drew the straw for the assignment. Initially, I assumed a person of my physical stature would simply overwhelm the bike. This proved not to be the case.

Indeed, I was quite taken with its abilities to accommodate me on a pure comfort level. Regarding performance, the front end neither wavered at top-end highway runs nor did the preload adjustable rear-set shocks completely surrender for anything less than the harshest potholes. In point of fact, the Hyosung Aquila 250 acquited itself better in terms of holding the road than many bigger, more expensive cruisers that immediately spring to mind. 

The advantages of the lightweight class are too often dismissed as trifles, but the sheer mobility of the category in corners and in cut-and-thrust actions, and their attendant ease of movement in parking lot situations make enormous contributions to a beginning rider’s sense of confidence. And even for veteran riders, dealing with heavier motorcycles can be a chore on certain days. 

Weight can be a relative thing though—in the Hyosung’s case, at 170 kg, it’s the class fatty by a fair bit. The Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha all tilt the scales at the 137-139 mark.

But, the 275mm single front disc and rear drum brake setup benefits from the bike’s comparatively slight build. Though reviewers elsewhere have referred to the system as wooden, I’m frankly baffled by the criticism. To me, it seemed quite capable of making quick, controlled stops, though it did seem as though the front brake lever might be spanned a little wide.

Smartly dressed in chrome and pinstriping, with valanced fenders and dual staggered pipes, the Hyosung Aquila 250 strikes all the right chords for the classic aficionado and announces its presence with a gentle burble at start-up that lifts to a higher-pitched rasp when you crank it up. 

Fitted with a detachable pillion and Shinko rubber (110/90-16 front, 150/80-15 rear), and offered in four colour choices, the Aquila 250 lists at MSRP $4,895. This price tag puts it in the ballpark with the rest of the class—the Marauder, at $4,699, is the least costly, but I’m still not sure why it’s the only cruiser in the Suzuki lineup not given the Boulevard designation. That’s another story though. 

The chain-driven Aquila 250 will find its best home with riders at the entry level, or even those with two or three years experience. 

Still, as a cost-effective runabout that can capably function at cruising speeds, there’s much to be said for this well-sorted Korean machine, regardless how long you’ve been on the road.