Five things you will love about the new Yamaha YZF-R3 and four things you won't
Yamaha recently launched the YZF-R3 in India and in earlier stories we've discussed how it compares on paper to its competition and what goes into the YZF-R3. Having spent 10 laps at the Buddh International Circuit on the Yamaha YZF-R3 we got a quick taste of what the motorcycle will be like. Having taken some time to introspect, here's our list of things you're going to love about the new Yamaha and, of course, things that you won't.
The Yamaha YZF-R3 is a pretty quick little motorcycle. Rishaad hit 178kmph at the end of the BIC's long straight and lighter racerboys were overheard quoting 181. These are speedo indicated numbers but they are, at the very least, respectable if not impressive. More importantly, the Yamaha was able to put 150kmph on the digital display in multiple places on the circuit without undue effort from the rider. The Yamaha might appear to have a peak power deficit to the KTM but if that's got you thinking the Yamaha's slow, back up and reconsider. The KTM may turn out to be faster and quicker overall, but the Yamaha's neither slow nor lazy. It's performance is in the same mode as the R15, smooth and effortless.
There has been some talk about Yamaha taking things too far on the cost-cutting front with the tubular steel frame instead of the R15-style steel beam frame. But again, this kind of talk is a lot of hot air. Engineers approach chassis design from a purely functional perspective. It must produce a certain rigidity and place the engine and other bits in places and orientations that create good handling. A tubular frame, beams, diamonds, trellis' and so forth are just various paths that lead to the same overall goal.
Set your worries aside, the Yamaha YZF-R3 is a terrific handler. It's got great cornering clearance and Yamaha's once again found that terrific balance between quick responses and mid-corner stability that make the R15 (especially the version one) such a pleasure to ride no matter what your skill level is. The R3 feels similar - it's responsive, friendly and when you make a mistake - I made more than a few - it's going to soothe your nerves rather than rap you across the knuckles.
There are little clues to the Yamaha approach to ergonomics on the R3. The clip-ons, for instance, are mounted above the triple trees and the footpegs aren't drastically rearset. This creates a friendly riding stance that is sporty but won't make enemies with your wrists three hours into a ride. The ultra-low seat height not only feels good to use in spirited riding but it also makes it easy for the shorter inseamed to ride it confidently. The first generation R15 was exactly this blend of sporty and friendly and so is the R3. In fact, it throws a not-so-flattering light on the version 2.0 R15 whose more committed, focused ergonomics might feel better at the racetrack than earlier but alter the riding experience and make it less comfortable on the street and less versatile overall.
Quality and refinement
It's a Yamaha and we've come to expect industry-leading quality from them, and from Suzuki also. The Yamaha positively gleams high quality and everything from the plastics to the metals sit just right and finish levels feel great. The people at Honda, it saddens me to say, should be learning from the two smaller Japanese manufacturers - their bikes just aren't on the same plane on this front. We know from the R15 and the FZ series that Yamaha's plastics are impossible to get a-rattle if you take care of the motorcycle and the R3 makes that same promise. The Yamaha 321cc twin also keeps a tight control over the vibration and harshness on the move and the entire rev range is full of a willing creaminess that's going to go down very well.
Yes, ride quality. The R3 isn't sprung anywhere close to as stiff as the KTM and that's going to stand it in good stead. The comfy ergos and a plush ride (we expect to confirm this at the road test) should make it easy to live with the R3 in the real world. What we can say confidently, however, is that the R3 is not too soft. The Honda CBR250R, to quote an example, has an excellent suspension setup for the real world. However, it just cannot handle the racetrack where it descends into a wallowy, unweildy mass. In fact, it's the significantly stiffer setups on the one-make race CBR250Rs that actually shows how positive and neutral the Honda chassis is. That's the risk of making suspension too soft. Fortunately, the 10 laps showed that the R3 isn't that soft and there's no wallowing to whinge about until a very high pace. At that pace, the racer boys will find the responses a little too blunt but for me and you, the Yamaha's got the suspension setup very, very right. Again, the effectiveness of the ride quality is something that we will confirm when the test bike arrives in our garage.
It's over Rs 1 lakh more than the KTM RC390
Yes, we know we quoted the price difference between the RC390 and the R3 was just Rs 65,000 and that's our fault - we somehow managed to compare the KTM ex-Mumbai to the R3 ex-Delhi. Our bad, apologies. However, at Rs 1 lakh more, the R3 is going to be a considered purchase not an automatic shoo-in over the KTM. You do get vastly better quality, the sophistication of a second cylinder and all but justifying that price difference is not going to be automatic. On the other hand, and this is how we would read the situation, if you've got your heart set on a 250-300cc class twin-cylinder machine, Yamaha's lowered the price bar very nicely and while we wait to compare it head to head with the Kawasaki Ninja 300, the R3's certainly looking like a vastly better deal.
It's too smooth and too civil
This is a strange problem to have. A smooth, unstepped power spread is a good thing. It makes it easy for new riders to use more of the power allowing that progressive arrival of more torque to create speed without fear. However, between the Yamaha's refinement and the linearity of the power delivery, it makes the Yamaha feel like it isn't doing much work. You think 120kmph and then look down and realise you're going 30kmph faster. Usually, this sensation fades quite a bit once the calmness of the racetrack environment is swapped for the chaos of the street. But we are slightly worried that the Yamaha won't feel as involving as its capabilities and performance should make it.
ABS isn't even an option
There's no beating about that bush, that's a terrible decision on the part of Yamaha. We all get that India is a price conscious market and ABS uptake is slow, but not even offering it as an option is just bad news. Whether you say KTM offers it as standard for Rs 1 lakh less or you say Kawasaki's Ninja 300 doesn't have it either, Yamaha's R3 should have had ABS. Ideally as standard but definitely as a priced option.
The MRF tyres on the Indian YZF-R3
Indian bikes get MRFs and not Michelins
MRF is, without a doubt, at the forefront of Indian tyre makers making performance tyres. However, in the case of the R3 they've created a tyre that'll be terrific in almost every situation you encounter. They will probably be excellent in street use, grippy in the twisties and all that. But when you hit a racetrack, you'll find the tyre's capabilities fall a bit short of the chassis and that isn't a nice feeling. Chances are you'll be very happy with the MRFs but if you're a track junkie, your best option might be to hit up a KTM dealership to source the excellent Metzelers that are OE rubber on the RC390. It's an additional expense, sure, but trust us, it'll be worth it.
More from OVERDRIVE on the Yamaha YZF-R3 in India:
Starts Rs 3,50,180
Starts Rs 1,64,143
Starts Rs 2,98,000
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