Words: Syed Shiraz
Photography: Neelanjan Chakraborty

Not too long ago, almost all motorcycle manufacturers were emphatically synonymous with their USPs, which made buying a two-wheeler much simpler. For example, people who wanted fuel-efficiency went straight to the erstwhile Hero-Honda showrooms; Bajaj was entrusted with ferrying a family of five (plus vegetables), and Yamaha was the default choice for performance seekers. I feel those were good days for the companies too, as they all also precisely knew their target customers.

Well, a lot has changed. Hero Honda is not hyphenated anymore; Bajaj has stopped making scooters altogether; and Yamaha does not figure on top of the list of a fast-bike buyer. But, with the launch of the much awaited YZF-R3, it looks like the tuning fork logo is all set to stamp its authority once again in power games. We got to briefly sample Yamaha’s latest at the Buddh International Circuit, and thought of letting you all know whether YZF-R15’s elder sibling has got what it takes to compel others to perform a reality check…

Yamaha-YZF-R3

Yamaha, more often than not, designs the best-lookers across all segments, and the R3 is no exception. Without getting all poetic about those sinister eyes or that luscious derriere, let me just tell you that if you like it in pictures, you will love it in person. The proportions are absolutely spot on, making the R3 a motorcycle with perfect form.The bike is available only in two colours — Midnight Black and Racing Blue. I reckon it’s the latter that will get the most bookings; I’ll take the all-black motorcycle then, thank you. Oh, but I love the blue wheels of the, er, blue bike… Okay, I might have to flip a coin to choose.

Yamaha R3 colors

And beauty is not just skin deep here; the build quality too is typical Yamaha (read “excellent”). Plus, the instrumentation is a marked improvement over the Plain Jane unit of the R15 as other than the basic speedo, rpm, odo, etc., readings, it also tells you which gear you are in, and whether it’s time to shift up, among other things.

Yamaha R3 instrumentation

You will also notice that there is no switch for headlamps other than the high/low beam selector. That’s because the headlights come on the moment you crank the engine. No, you can’t switch them off while the engine is running. The low beam stays on as a daytime running light and, yes, the R3 does come with a pass flasher as well.

Yamaha R3 seat height

Swing a leg over and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to realize that the seat height is less than the R15’s! At 780 mm, it is 20 mm shorter than the R15’s saddle, making it much easier for shorter riders (like me) to plant both feet on the ground! The ergonomics are perfect and it doesn’t take long for you to get comfortable on this bike and press the starter button. That’s when the 321 cc liquid-cooled parallel twin wakes up with an energetic burble and settles at around 1,100 rpm. Sharp blips of the throttle inform you that the bike indeed has potential…

Yamaha R3 top speed

Well, 42 PS at 10,750 rpm and 29.6 Nm at 9,000 rpm are better than the Ninja 300’s anyway, but it’s the progressive build up of power that puts a smile on your face right from the word GO! Of course, the acceleration is not ballistic like the KTMs but this Yamaha is definitely livelier than the Ninja 300 right off the mark. In fact, it feels quicker than the Kawa throughout the rev range! The gear ratios of the super smooth six-speed box extract all that power beautifully, and you won’t be left wanting for grunt at any point in time on our roads. The BIC is a fast track and I did not feel the need to constantly bang through the cogs to remain in the powerband — such is the torque spread of this bike!

Top Speed

The tacho redlines at 12,500 rpm and the bike pulls hard enough to take you beyond 100 km/h in third gear with absolutely zero vibrations! The maximum I could manage on the long straight was a speedo-indicated 175 km/h, and it had felt that the bike would cross 185 km/h with ease. Moreover, despite living near the redline for the better part of the day, it DID NOT HEAT up at all!

Yamaha R3 on track

And now comes the most crucial part of a sportbike — handling. I say ‘most crucial’ as no matter how much power you have under that tank, you will be humiliated at the hands, er, foot pegs of a better handling bike, not only on a racetrack, but on public roads as well.

Yamaha R3 vs R15

I am happy to report that Yamaha has kept the R15’s legacy intact — its bigger brother handles like a dream. Turn-ins are a cinch and the bike is astoundingly stable in corners — and this was on a damp track! It inspires so much confidence that you start leaning the bike more and more on every corner, despite being a first-timer at the BIC!

Yamaha R3 on BIC

It’s equally stable on straights, and even taller riders had no issues ducking behind the fairing to avoid the wind blast. Thankfully, that stability hasn’t come at the cost of flickability, and the R3 is beautifully fluid in chicanes, requiring next to no muscle power to pick the bike up from full lean and diving immediately into the opposite side with zilch effort.

Yamaha R3

Oh, and those stoppers are incredible! While whiners are already crying for the lack of ABS, and rightly so to be honest, let me reiterate that the brakes are phenomenal. The bite and feel is second to none, and the rotors (298 mm & 220 mm at the front and rear, respectively) continued to shed speed like clockwork without any fade or squeal whatsoever. The brakes not only prevented an overzealous me from landing on gravel, their progressive feel also allowed me to keep on them while leaning over! Super. That should also tell you a thing or two about the grip provided by those MRFs (the whiners won’t stop whining about them too).

Yamaha R3 silencer

Fellow journos who have ridden the Ninja 300 on track said that the Kawasaki feels softer than the R3. Well, they may be right. The Yammie’s suspension tune felt perfect on the track, and though we can only comment about its on-road behaviour once we have tested it on some, my gut feel tells me that it is going to be a smooth operator on less-than-perfect tarmac as well…

Yamaha R3 Video

You can check out the following video if you want to see the motorcycle in action. The video also comprises a walkaround, and the engine/exhaust note.

(Facing Issues? Watch it directly at Youtube)

The R3 with all fluids (including 14 liters of fuel) weighs in at 169 kg. The RC390 tips the scales at 170 kg and the Ninja 300 is the heaviest of the lot at 172 kg. Though the difference isn’t much, it would be interesting to check how these bikes fare in a drag with just enough fuel to last 400 meters… The RC might still come on top but the times should be close. Really close.

Yamaha YZF-R3 rear

Both the R3 and the Ninja will fight for top-speed honours (the KTM is out, thanks to its limiter) and from the looks of it, the Yamaha should emerge as the new king in this area.

And the new emperor won’t heat up like the KTMs; won’t vibrate like them either; would still be almost as quick and agile, and FASTER; would have a much more comfortable saddle and riding position; would be easier to ride in chaotic city traffic and, being a Yamaha, peace of mind would come guaranteed. Plus, it would be substantially cheaper than its closest rival, the Ninja 300.

Yamaha R3 motion pic

That being said, at INR 3.25 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), it still is expensive than the RC390 by more than a lakh rupees. So Rajiv Bajaj can sit back and relax. The KTM is more expensive than the R3 internationally and we can’t thank Bajaj enough for giving us access to a world-class product at an unbeatable price. But, despite being a bomb of a bike, the RC (and even the Duke) does have quite a few niggles. In striking contrast, the YZF-R3, on first impressions, comes across as THE perfect bike in the class.

Let’s see if that’ll be the concluding line of our exhaustive road test review of the R3 in the near future, when we get the bike for a longer duration and put it through our road test rigours on regular roads…

Cons:

  • No ABS
  • No Slipper Clutch
  • Could have had a better price tag

Pros:

  • Best-looking bike in the segment
  • Fantastic engine & gearbox
  • Lightest in class
  • Able handler
  • No unnecessary sounds, and very well-controlled NVH
  • Typical Yamaha quality

** Fuel efficiency, pillion ride comfort, etc., to be tested once we get to spend some quality time with the bike.**

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  • Sahil Ahemad

    Hey bikeadvice you got r3 and r15 side to side pic? other the above one

    • Ravi Krishan

      I think pic no 7 contains both

    • Syed Shiraz Shah

      Sahil, not yet. Will get one for you when we get a test unit for road testing 🙂

      • Sahil Ahemad

        Appreciate that (Y)

  • Prabhat

    I was dissopointed when you said that absence of ABS is OK . How can absence of a crucial SAFTY feature in a premium performance bike is “ok” ?

  • DurgaPrasad P

    For US its Michelin, but for India its MRF..!!

    Comparing to Ninja300, the R3 looks more comfortable and a better choice.

    @Bikeadvice : Comparing to MRF Revz C1 & FC1 with the R3s MRF tyres which will provide better road grip??

    • Syed Shiraz Shah

      Yes DurgaPrasad. The R3 certainly looks like the better choice when compared to the Ninja.

      And we are actually testing the new MRF Revz! Once you read our initial report (https://bikeadvice.in/rc390-mrf-revz-c1-fc1-radial-tyres-test-500-kms-1-week-review/) and compare it with what I have written about the R3’s MRFs, you shall get the answer 🙂

      • DurgaPrasad P

        @Syed Shiraz Shah : Nice review !! Waiting for comparison review from you with RC and Ninja…

        So R3 doesn’t have MRFs from Revz category, but they are better tyres. Nice to hear and we got a better bike now. Expecting more motorcycles like this to come for Indian market.

      • Syed Shiraz Shah

        Plus one to that! And thanks for the kind words Durgaprasad 🙂

    • retipser jay

      We are 50 more years(luckily not light years) away to get anywhere close to the US or even atleast 8 years away from being equal to China …
      We have other priorities,like wasting public money in a sanctimonious parliament house..LOL…
      These bikes don’t really make a big difference there..a beginner bike is generally a used one there as they upgrade faster and the bikes are cheaper..we will never get there in the near future…we have very intelligent people at the helm..

      We don’t even take time to suggest a beginner rider to invest in proper gears and learn riding..we don’t even have proper licensing…MRF is still good :D:D all they suggest including this portal is to take it to race track for a beginner rider..how shallow/sham sham..

      • Syed Shiraz Shah

        I seriously don’t know what’s wrong with you man! Your negativity is really appalling. People like you simply fail to see the bright side of things. Anyway, to each his own. But where the hell did we recommend “beginner riders” to take their bike to the race track? Also, FYI my ignorant friend — NO TRACK will allow you to ride on it WITHOUT PROPER RIDING GEAR. Stop cribbing, and start riding!

      • retipser jay

        I just laid bare the facts. i can quote articles on beginner riders but i wouldn’t defend. You also need to accept that people come with different perceptions including you. ANd you call me an ignorant friend. Between,my reference was not with reference to a track. I have ridden on tracks here and outside this country. So,i have limited understanding of riding gear requirement and thanks for the awakening 🙂
        And thanks for taking it personally :D)…cheers..

      • Zohaib Khan

        hmmm, ok thn……..
        Apki baat sansad bhavan mei zarur uthai jayegi until thn happi to c u here
        Gud bye

      • retipser jay

        typical…cheers and good bye

  • navjeet singh

    its time for celebration friends. r3 has arrived. dreams are coming true.

    • Syed Shiraz Shah

      Exactly the sentiments of many Yamaha fans 🙂

  • Vivek Jkumar

    The bike is nice and cool, but pricing doesn’t make sense. Rc390 is priced around 2.5lakhs and has better engine and power compared to r3 and r3 gets priced 3.25lakhs,one would prefer Rc390 over this. And Rc390 price is equal to Honda Cbr250r, so I think Honda and yamaha need to consider their pricing according to market, and we see Cbr250r buyers going down by the years thanks to duke and rc

    • BikeAdvice

      R3 is NOT a direct rival against CBR or any other single cylinder 250cc -390cc
      But yes, people will compare them specially against the RC390… when they are out to buy a performance quarter liter…
      And we agree, pricing of R3 ‘could have been better’….

    • Dileesh

      Lots of false conclusions my friend. RC390 has better engine and power compared to R3 is like comparing an Accord with a F1 car just because both are 2.4 Litres ! RC390 has more displacement, is a single cylinder and hence has more torque and power. Still it is a single cylinder and way cheaper to manufacture than a two cylinder engine.
      CBR sales is going down due to two reasons
      1) Anticipation of newer model (which never comes) added to the rumors of stoppage of older model.
      2) Aged design that is given no update over a period.
      Any body who have the basic idea of different motor cycles and still wants a motorcycle like a CBR 250R will never go for Duke or RC (at least in their current form and function) just because there is a cheaper model out there. CBR offers much better road presence, is more comfortable and is way more refined and reliable than any KTM sold in India.

  • N_K

    Will go with KTM its more affordable to my pocket & so with remaining saved amount ( 1lacs ) will definitely add fuel.. why to spend more man if I get same or more specs with Rc-390..
    KTM go ahead we are with you.

    • BikeAdvice

      Twins and singles ride differently, have different behaviors…
      RC is awesome…. R3 is fantastic.. both in their own respects… 🙂

      • kp

        Glad some one said that!Thanks bikeadvice

  • Julian Bennet

    Nice and smooth review Shiraz.

    I can see that you has a great time at BIC.

    • Syed Shiraz Shah

      Thank you Julian! Yes, a fast bike on a racetrack is heavenly, to say the least! 🙂

      • Julian Bennet

        Just watched the video. Seems the R3 is one hell of a handler. Also the exhaust note is good to hear.

      • Syed Shiraz Shah

        Absolutely Julian!!! 🙂

  • kp

    Good first ride report!waiting for complete road test

    • Syed Shiraz Shah

      Thank you kp! Will bring the full road test review once Yamaha gives us a bike for the same 🙂

  • Zohaib Khan

    Shiraz, i hav to say today tht as u knw v’all r an extemest abt an evry set of wheels on tarmac today, test reviewing each one of thm wid our highly involved mind, nd heart, & tastes, likes nd dislikes nd puting thm each1, in our invisible countdown order smwhere in mind for frthr reconnaissance as to our liking, nd the same habit goes for my basic love of reading journals frm othr journalists bt a vry few nd selected ones who,s telepathic like words nd writings been my inspiration frm mi kidhood to why and how, one can live & love a thng dat is acutaly a nonliving, nd i feel proud to accept tht aftr a months of a readings of yr storys & reviews wid “painstaking sharp eye’s” told u ! “thts wht wid habit” alwys been open fr criticism finding it none. Thnx for making mi vry few favourite writers list lil more elaborated nd long wid yr fine & selective use of words widout being bound in a parameter tht can spoil a feel of a reading, you earned tht praise all by yrself…

    • Syed Shiraz Shah

      Thanks a ton for your kind words Zohaib!! Much, much appreciated! 🙂