Yamaha R3 Review
Bike Tested: 2015 Yamaha YZF-R3
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 3.90 lakhs
The Yamaha R3 balances good comfort, performance, design very well but at a price!
The wait has been long but has it been worth it? That is debatable but what is not is the fact that Yamaha is back to its true colours, of offering performance motorcycles and products for enthusiasts, after having turned its focus to mass market volume centric offerings in the past few years or so. People had stopped having any more hopes from the brand with the tuning forks in its logo but all is now forgiven with the arrival of the R3. Indian bikers are more happy with the fact that we get the more powerful R3 and not the R25 in India. Yamaha had showcased the R25 Concept at the 2014 Auto Expo to gauge public response which naturally turned out to be extremely positive. So with the Yamaha R3 finally on sale in India, we rode the bike for a few laps at the Buddh International Circuit to judge what this YZF machine has to offer!
Motor Quest: Yamaha unveiled the R3 in 2014, putting it on sale in 2015 in many parts of the world. The R3 is the bigger engined version of the R25 which was unveiled last year, the concept model making its debut at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show.
The Yamaha R3 is a very attractive looking bike. It definitely looks way better in person and has the striking Yamaha elements. The way the headlights have been designed, give the front a wide look while the rear looks very sharp. The interesting design bits are the Y-spoke alloy wheels and the parking light which sits on top, right below the visor. There are ‘320’ badges at the front and rear, revealing the displacement of this R machine. The R3 comes in two colour options, the sober looking black and the eye candy, dual-tone, blue-silver (aka Racing Blue), the latter colour has the wheels finished in blue and makes for interesting visuals.
The Yamaha R3 gets an analogue digital instrument cluster with a programmable white shift light on top. The tachometer is analogue while everything else is digital, this Yamaha also getting twin trip meters along with a host of other display like current and average fuel consumption too. There is also oil trip meter and oil change indicator on the R3. Switchgear quality is top notch and since the bike has daytime running lights, there is no switch for turning on the headlights. The quality, fit and finish of the Yamaha R3 is excellent with no ill fitting seen anywhere on this locally assembled machine.
Powering the Yamaha R3 is a 321cc, twin-cylinder, 8-valve, liquid-cooled, DOHC engine. This motor belts out 42 PS of power at 10,750 RPM and 29.6 Nm of torque at 9000 RPM, figures which definitely are better than the Kawasaki Ninja 300, its chief rival in the Indian market. With more power and torque, along with peak output coming in at lower RPM than the Kwacker, the R3’s engine feels very tractable and has good enough low-end juice for city riding. Mid-range is also quite strong with urgency setting in post 6000 RPM. The bike redlines with enthusiasm at close to 13,000 RPM where the redline is marked on the meter. The parallel-twin mill of the Yamaha R3 is super smooth and vibe free, even when you hit the rev limiter. The motor delivers power in a very linear way, there is no shove or push at any RPM.
The twin-pot powerplant of the R3 is no doubt the standout of this bike
The engine sounds sweet and that makes redlining it such a joy. Further complimenting the powerplant is the light clutch and smooth shifting 6-speed gearbox, both making the ride experience such a delight. 100 km/hr comes up in third gear and the R3 should be marginally quicker than the Ninja 300 to the ton, yet still being slower than the KTM RC 390 in the sprint to 100 km/hr. There is good amount of punch till around 170 km/hr, the speed which we managed to hit on the long straight of the Buddh circuit. Even when we skipped a few gears to gauge in-gear acceleration, we were quite pleased with the urgency with whim the R3 would pick up pace. Heating is a non-issue and a real world mileage of around 28-30 km/l is expected.
There is of course a lot of tech going into the engine to offer such excellent and effortless performance while keeping NVH to a bare minimum and smoothness throughout the rev range. The bike uses DiASiL all aluminium cylinders (with a 7 mm offset), 12 hole injectors and forged pistons. The Yamaha R3 has a much bigger bore than stroke, making the engine an oversquare one, a type of engine configuration that results in better top-end performance. While the R3 isn’t an all-out track bike, the fact that it carries the R moniker means it will be used on the track and that’s where the omission of a slipper clutch comes as a big surprise, more so considering the Ninja 300 has had it since years now and the RC 390 will be getting it soon.
The hardware on the R3 reveals the cost cutting done by Yamaha
So while performance is all good, disappointment sets in when you come to the dynamics part. No, it’s not that the R3 is not a good handler, in fact, it’s very good when it comes to taking corners with confidence. But the hardware on the bike feels a bit inferior, more so when you factor in the younger sibling, the R15, a bike launched in 2008 which has superior components. Yamaha has elected to go with a diamond frame which is more cost effective than a beam frame, so on paper, the R15 comes with a superior perimeter chassis and aluminium swingarm, the R3 using a steel section swingarm. This also translates on the road as the same razor sharping handling of the R15 isn’t replicated on the R3, it feels a bit soft and the suspension is on the softer side for a more comfortable ride.
The R3 can’t really match the R15 in handling, let alone the knife sharp RC 390. This is where the problem lies, Yamaha took an established recipe and came up with their own dish, the recipe being the Ninja 300, so similar frame, tyre sizes, engine, etc. are common between these two Japanese motorcycles. But what Yamaha is forgetting is that the Ninja 300 came more than three years back and the R3 does nothing more to take the game forward. The brakes are good but there is no ABS (no radially mounted brakes either), not even as an option, a shocking omission. The tyres lack the grip expected from a bike with so much performance, the company opting for cheaper locally sourced MRFs (not radials like the R15) instead of the Michelin or Pirellis seen overseas. There are no upside down forks either which the R125 gets in Europe.
The Yamaha R3 does have very good high speed stability and perfect 50:50 weight distribution. Yamaha has used a very long swingarm on the R3 (almost as long as the one on the new R1) which aids in high speed stability. The handlebar is nice and wide for easy manoeuvrability, the seat height at 780 mm is low enough for short riders but is a bit short for really tall riders. The rearview mirrors are easy to adjust and give a very good view of what is behind. The action on the levers is very positive and the riding position is a bit leaned in but far from being dedicated, making the R3 a good bike of choice for long rides.
I might come across as unsatisfied but the fact is, when Yamaha makes a performance bike, more is always expected from them, the segment needs to be redefined, here the R3 is a me too product. It doesn’t bring anything new or exciting to the segment, in fact, it’s very much like the Ninja 300 in quite a few ways and the sales of the entry-level full faired Kawasaki is testimony to the fact that there are few takers for what is better known as a beginners bike in other countries. As a motorcycle, yes the R3 comes across as a potent product with excellent performance, good (not spectacular) handling, top notch quality and high comfort. But at its price with the lack of ABS, the R3 seems squarely aimed at Yamaha fans alone and does a good job in meeting their requirements.
The Yamaha R3 is the first genuine alternative to the Kawasaki Ninja 300, offering strong performance, nimble handling, good ride and high comfort. It’s priced at a premium (caused by the CKD route), putting the motorcycle in the hands of limited people in the country.
* Gorgeous styling, turns heads and looks the part
* Terrific engine, high on refinement, low on NVH and loaded with enthusiasm
* Good handling and ride quality, fun yet comfortable motorcycle
What’s Not So Cool
* No ABS, not even as an option. All that hue and cry about ABS and yet Yamaha chooses to ignore
* No slipper clutch, R DNA et all but compromise on hardware for what is still far from an attractive price
* Price, even with no middleman to take commission (like Bajaj in case of Kawasaki), the R3 is expensive
Alternatives: Kawasaki Ninja 300, KTM RC 390
Picture Editing – Sri Manikanta Achanta
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