Handling on the Aquila Pro was held back by the subpar rear suspension. It turns in quickly and readily, but the sporty radial tires don’t hold a line particularly well. In tighter or bumpy corners the back is so loose, it knocks the light-steering front off-line easily. It also feels tall and top heavy, perhaps due to its healthy ground clearance. On a smooth, fast road it’s an absolute joy to motor out of long, sweeping corners. The Star handles like a prototypical cruiser should, fairly light-steering (if a little bit floppy) at low speeds, and getting more stable but also heavier-steering once MPHs build. It carries its weight very low, with a minimum of cornering clearance, but not dangerously lacking. Hopping from one to the other, it was easy to feel like the Star had a flat tire at elevated speeds (it didn’t).
In the end our choice was between a well-worn old shoe, and the newest pumped-up kicks. The old shoe that is the V Star Custom delivers as a basic entry-level cruiser, with nothing particularly impressive or depressing about it, other than obvious age. Dealing with a choke and a petcock after all these years was interesting, but might be a needless distraction for a new rider. We don’t see it as a particularly good ride for a mid-to-tall-sized rider, as even a beginner will outgrow it quickly. That leaves shorter riders, who might love the compact size and styling, but still might outgrow the horsepower.
The Hyosung GV 650 looks like a total winner at the spec sheet, and at first glance, but that’s why we have these tests. It is an impressive machine in many aspects, especially at the price, but it let us down in a few key ways. The biggest issue was a cracked radiator on our second day of testing. We got it fixed and finished the test without another hiccup, but the event itself made us leery of the bike. The mechanic who fixed it said the radiator was installed improperly, putting pressure on the bolts, which may have caused the crack. During the overheating itself, the temp gauge never read higher than 3 bars (of 10), while later on it read as high as 4 in hot, slow riding. That said, for a bike that was so hot the insides of the exhaust pipe glowed red, it recovered without a hiccup, running smooth as ever.
Even setting aside that incident, it’s not a good candidate for an entry-level machine, with a little too much power and responsiveness on tap for a new rider. A rider switching from sportbikes will appreciate its characteristics far more than a total newbie.
In the end, between its total suitability for both shorter and newer riders, as well as a hiccup-free performance, the Star V Star Custom wins this test. It’s not without warts, but it does what it does very well, while the Aquila Pro needs some work.
||2012 Hyosung GV650 Aquila Pro
||2013 Star V Star Custom
||Red, white, black
||2 years (1 year parts and labor)
||Liquid-cooled 90-degree V-twin
||Air-cooled 70-degree V-twin
|Displacement, bore x stroke
||647cc, 81.5 x 62mm
||649cc, 81 x 63mm
||DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
||SOHC, 2 valves per cylinder
||Carbureted; 2 28mm CV carbs
||35°/ 6.3 in.
||35° / 5.7 in.
||Cast aluminum, 3-spoke
||Dual 300mm discs; 2-piston calipers
||298mm disc; 2-piston caliper
||270mm disc, 2-piston caliper
||Inverted 41mm fork, 5.1 in. travel
||41mm fork, 5.5 in. travel
||Dual shocks, preload adjustable; 3.5 in. travel
||Single shock, preload adjustable; 3.4 in. travel
||Digital speedometer w/dual tripmeters, coolant temp gauge, fuel gauge, clock
|Average fuel mileage
Why, you Savage!
Even further down in this budget-oriented neck of the woods is the Suzuki S40, or The Bike Formerly Known as Savage. A single, wheezy air-cooled cylinder powers the little bike that’s even cheaper, even smaller, and of an even older design than the V Star. When you read last year’s Ryca custom kit story on our website, you’ll see the S40 has a chance to be a super-cool ride as well. (http://www.motorcyclecruiser.com/features/1204_crup_ryca_cs_1_cafe_racer_project/
But while it’s large enough not to qualify for novelty status, it’s definitely not in a class with these two machines in terms of power, comfort, and capability. It is, however, over a grand cheaper. www.suzukicycles.com
:: 6 ft., 193 lbs., 33 in. inseam
If you are a large-sized human, wanting to save a few bucks or just get a small machine for whatever reason, forget it. In my estimation, the minimum bike for a guy my size starts at about 750-800ccs. My butt hits the pan on the seats of both these bikes, pushing right through over-soft foam, though on the Star I can fold myself in and get to the soft spot in the middle.
The funny thing is that the Hyosung might have broken that barrier, if not for a few construction issues. I actually like the it-is-what-it-looks-like vibe of the bike. They literally took a sportbike, dropped the seat, and put forward controls on. Half the point of a cruiser (at least originally) is that they’re elemental, unlike many modern cruisers (Harley included) that disguise things to make them look more “old school.”
The Aquila Pro’s motor is sweet, and hauls around my burgeoning beer gut with gusto. It could use a custom seat to replace the poorly designed stocker, and a set of basic aftermarket coil-over shocks. Both these items could be had for under $1000, making it an intriguing possibility. I really wanted to like this machine—it’s sized right for me, with that great motor—but honestly, it scares me a little. With shocks that out of whack and with potential build issues like not mounting a radiator properly, I just can’t pick it. Even if the Star doesn’t fit me in so many ways.
:: 5 ft. 6 in., 160 lbs., 31in. inseam
My pick for this test is definitely the V Star. It fits me better than most bikes I’ve tested. I have plenty of room to stand up, with clearance under my ass. This bike is stable, and I can take it over 100 mph without feeling any wobbles. I wasn’t too impressed with the engine though. It has a nice sound, and I can actually get it to do a little wheelie, so for my weight, it’s got some power. However the top end is weak; there’s no power for passing going uphill. The shifter issue bugged me too.
The GV650 Aquila Pro was a bit too big for me, with a stretch to the bars and pegs, plus it’s a bit too wide across the middle, which is a more important issue for stubby people than seat height. I actually enjoyed the power of this engine and the power band, and it felt like a nice cross between a cruiser and a sportbike. It was a lot of fun to ride, until it almost caught fire on the side of the freeway.
The Hyosung is a remarkable motorcycle, however in my opinion, the Star was by far the better cruiser of the two.