Yamaha is finally letting us ride its entry-level sport bikes. After missing out on the YZF-R125, which is very popular in Europe, it's time to rejoice as the new YZF-R3 makes its debut around the world, including Canada.
This is the Japanese manufacturer's version of a beginner bike. The 2015 Yamaha YZF-R3 will take on the Honda CBR300R, KTM RC390, and Kawasaki Ninja 300 (powered by a similar inline twin-cylinder engine).
The aggressively styled, seductively shaped 2015 Yamaha YZF-R3 features a velvety-sounding short tailpipe, which not only enhances styling, but also contributes to a lower centre of gravity. My tester's Yoshimura Y-Series slip-on muffler (part of the accessories catalogue) elevated those thrills to a new height without being excessively loud or dirty thanks to the emissions-compliant catalytic converter.
The 2015 Yamaha YZF-R3 exudes quality with fit and finish ranking at the top of the segment. At the same time, it has its own unique personality and looks nothing like the YZF-R6, let alone the new YZF-R1, which appears to come straight from international GP racing.
Sporty, yet comfortable
Less radical than the R6, the new 2015 Yamaha YZF-R3 offers a more laid-back riding position that's perfect to have some fun without getting tired. At highway speeds, turbulence around the head is relatively neutralized, not so much around the shoulders and knees. Overall, though, wind protection compares favourably to most rivals.
The seat is just 780mm high and thus remains accessible to riders of all body sizes. Comfort is also surprising for such an affordable machine. Life for the passenger isn't too shabby either thanks to a reasonable perch and ergonomically positioned footrests. The only downside with the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R3 is a lack of legroom for riders 5’8” and taller. You see, because of the low seat and fairly high-mounted footpegs (so they won't affect cornering), the amount of space between the seat and those footpegs is limited.
The oddly designed instrument panel on the R3 provides all the info you need, including the time, gear position, and fuel level. What's more, in typical sport-bike fashion there's a large, analog tachometer next to the digital display.
The 2015 Yamaha YZF-R3's all-new 321cc parallel-twin engine with double overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder has favourable bore and stroke dimensions (68mm x 44.1mm) for top-end power. The high compression ratio (11.2:1) says a lot about the character of this powerplant, which produces 42 hp at 10,750 rpm (3 hp more than the Ninja 300R) and 21.8 lb-ft of torque at 9,000 rpm. Forged aluminum pistons (10% lighter) and a downdraft-style combustion chamber complete this explosive little engine.
There's ample power for two-up riding even on the highway and for passing manoeuvres on country roads. When riding solo, the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R3 turns into a real little gem -- and boy is it fun! Acceleration from 6,500-10,000 rpm is lively, and the engine clearly doesn't mind being revved all the way up to the electronic limiter. Similar to other Yamaha sport bikes, the 6-speed transmission effortlessly delivers quick, clean shifts.
On the podium
|The aggressively styled, seductively shaped 2015 Yamaha YZF-R3 features a velvety-sounding short tailpipe, which not only enhances styling, but also contributes to a lower centre of gravity. (Photo: France Ouellet)
The 2015 Yamaha YZF-R3 proves quite responsive, almost telepathic, on winding roads. Braking late and hard, attacking corners, and getting out in a hurry feel like child's play for this athlete, whose light weight of 169kg (all tanks full) and excellent Michelin Pilot City tires play a big role. Let's not forget the superb chassis, which perfectly combines low-speed agility with high-speed stability. Hitting extremely twisty roads is just as fun, even on less-than-ideal pavement. Given the price, it's hard to find fault with that kind of performance.
In the end, the stylish, racy, and rider-friendly 2015 Yamaha YZF-R3 definitely lives up to the growing hype surrounding entry-level sport bikes. It nicely fills a void below the R6 and is only missing ABS to rank as the segment's best.
- Great build quality
- Rider-friendly bike
- Sharp chassis
- Explosive engine
- Limited legroom for tall riders
- Only bike in its class without ABS