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Yamaha YZF-R3: First ride

Yamaha YZF-R3: First ride

Snapshot: Yamaha makes a smashing debut in the entry level sportbike category with the new YZF-R3. This machine comes with a 321cc parallel twin engine generating 41bhp of power. It sprints from 0-100kmph in about 6 seconds and pushes ahead to above 170kmph. R3 comes with sharp handling, comfortable ergonomics and a smooth ride.

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Entry level sportbike segment has seen a lot of action lately. Kawasaki, KTM, Benelli and Honda have all been battling out with their low capacity, fun and agile machines teaching new riders and entertaining the rest. Yamaha has been sitting in the pit-lane observing all the others duke it out.

And finally they have an answer with the new YZF-R3. Among much fanfare Yamaha India invited us to the celebrated Buddh International Circuit to get a taste of what the R3 can do on a track.

How does it look?

Design being an important parameter for buyers in the segment, the YZF-R3 has been pencilled with utmost care preserving that R-series character into each of its edge.  It looked great in its images, but standing in front of it you realise how perfect the design is.

The pointy nose, the slim tank, the short muffler and the razor sharp tail, all point towards its racing DNA. Yamaha has introduced two colours for India; black lightning and racing blue, and almost immediately the blue became everybody’s favourite. Black looks a bit bulky but hides away all those curves and creases.

Your next attention will go to the brilliant instrument cluster, with a large analogue revcounter and digital read-out for the speedometer. The host of information displayed is elaborate and legible. Apart from ODO meter, fuel level and instantaneous consumption, engine oil temperature, further more information includes a gear indicator and a shift light telling you when to change gear. The alloy wheel design with split spokes especially add to the sporty character of this machine.

How comfortable are the ergonomics?

The seat height has been kept at 780mm, which is the lowest among near competitors, helps riders of all dimensions get comfortable. The handlebar has been set fairly upright to justify both sporty and commuter friendly riding.

The slim tank allows you to hold it between your thighs and the wide handlebars provide easy everyday riding position. Owners will also appreciate the good build quality of the R3.

Switchgear quality is excellent, although the Kawasaki has it even better, and all the switches and toggles are within easy reach. The softer seat cushion, against its competition, will make longer rides less painful on the bum.

How good is the engine?

The new R3 is powered by a 321cc parallel twin cylinder engine which comes with liquid cooling. It generates 41.4bhp of maximum power at 10,750rpm and a healthy peak torque of 29.6Nm at 9,000rpm. The clutch is soft and it is very easy to get a quick start. Zero to 100kmph from a standstill takes just about 6 seconds and we touched 170kmph on the long straight of BIC with a little more to go. The power delivery is linear with strong mid-range. It comes in very handy tearing through high speed or tight corners.

On the road overtaking manoeuvres will be a breeze with less downshifting and easy power available at higher gears. The gearbox is precise with quick and true shifts, zero misfires detected. Another variable that will leave you impressed is the sound of the engine and exhaust. The twin starts screaming after 9,000rpm and becomes very charming. The exhaust begins with a steady hum when your push the starter, and then becomes brawny as the rpm rise.

An argument rises in the form of absence of a slipper clutch, however, the rear is so predictable that you’ll not need one while pushing the R3. To extract the best out of this twin one must use it gently with smooth power inputs. Quick changes with the throttle and peaking through gears will make the R3 uncomfortable. The first two gears have been setup for acceleration and the 5th and 6th are very relaxed for comfortable cruising. Even the screen works well allowing you to tuck in behind away from the wind blast.

What about handling?

Yamaha has opted for a diamond frame design rather than its class leading Deltabox frame in the interests of saving weight as they told us. And joy of joy it works wonders. Handling is sharp and swift corners are dealt stably. The engine and chassis complement each other so well that even new riders feel confident chucking it through corners at fast speeds.

R3 weighs in at 169kg which is on the higher side, but still very manageable indeed. As the rear suspension has been setup soft for road use, you do feel it takes its toll while riding on the track, with a loose back end, but that too at very high speeds. The MRF tyres try their best to cope with the power and chassis, but fail slightly and we do recommend better rubber for good measure.

Brakes have considerable bite and you need to familiarise yourself with them before riding. Once you understand the brakes and how they react, they respond with seamless stopping power and you don’t feel the disappointment of an absent ABS.

Is it priced right?

The entry level sport category is not starved anymore and there are options to choose from. Priced at Rs 3.25lakh (ex showroom Delhi), the R3 sits between the pricier and less powerful Kawasaki Ninja 300 and the considerably cheaper but more performance oriented KTM RC 390. The YZF-R3 beautifully slides in between its closest performance competitors. It looks and performs better than either of them in the real world.

The R3 has confident handling, its rides well while being sporty or just heading out to the office and looks stunning. Yes at its price it does lack ABS and a slipper clutch, but rest assured Yamaha is looking into the matter. The riding posture is comfortable and will enable you to rack up considerable number of kilometres.

Fuel economy drops way low on a track, some 17-18kmpl, however the R3 will return you a decent figure of 22-24kmpl under regular riding. Yes, Yamaha showed up late to the show, but what a great show the YZF-R3 turned out to be!

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