1. With its multi-colored bodywork and
matching blue wheels, the R3 makes a very
stylish package that looks more expensive
than the Honda CBR300R or Kawasaki Ninja
300. Compliant Michelin tires and well-developed suspension settings combine to
make its ride quality much more plush and
responsive than the rest of the group as well.
The R3’s front rotor is a semi-floating type
for better feel but the set-up still requires a
firm squeeze for quick stops, although the
bike’s light weight, just 369.5 lbs., means its
momentum isn’t hard to arrest.
2. The R3’s small 220mm rear disc and
single-piston caliper actually give excellent control feel, powerful enough for quick
slowing without making lockup too-easy.
Its shorty muffler provides good silencing
without neutering the sonic character of
its high-compression, high-rpm twin. And
while its swingarm may be steel, instead of
the KTM’s fancy aluminum girder design, the
chassis feels more than adequately stiff for
3. This upper view of the R3’s fairing reveals
the slot at the base of the windshield that helps reduce
turbulence at higher speeds. The narrow layout of its
mirrors is the R3’s biggest flaw. We found them completely
useless, which is not only a shame but a serious safety
issue as well.
4. The R3’s instrument layout was the best in the group; big,
bright and easy-to-read at a glance with the most information. Not only does it have clock, fuel level and engine
temperature gauges, but it also includes a gear indicator,
which is very handy with the R3’s high-winding engine, and
you also have a big bright adjustable shift light on top of
the dash that’s probably the most easily noticed unit we’ve
5. The R3’s face may be the most appealing in Yamaha’s
extended YZF family. Too bad about the mirrors.
6. Here’s what a good seating looks like: smooth contours,
narrow at the front and with ideal upholstery density.
Yamaha has managed to imbue the R3 with some high-tech
engineering that raises it above the expectations associated with
this diminutive class, providing very good value for the price. The
R3 impresses with a strong motor that delivers its power with
relative smoothness all the way through the powerband. The bike
gets off the line well and builds power (as well as a small bike can)
all the way up to 9000 rpm (after which it doesn’t feel like anymore power can be found despite the dyno saying otherwise).
The Yamaha also has the best handling and stability of the
group in terms of chassis and suspension. The bike has none of
the jitters so common with small, lightweight bikes. The R3 turns
in effortlessly and remains planted on its chosen line, even when
trail-braking–which tends to stand these small bikes up.
Without question, the most astonishing aspect of the Yamaha
is a level of ride smoothness and comfort at freeway speeds that
would make a lot of larger touring bikes envious.
It’s the pick of the litter for me. —Jeff Buchanan
Stunning is an appropriate word for the R3. Its engine performance hardly seems possible from such a small displacement motor. It has excellent pulling power and throttle response right off
idle and is quick to accelerate through the gears, with an exciting sound and a smooth, linear delivery—easily leaving the Ninja
behind—even though its dyno hp and torque curves are almost
identical. And with excellent gearing from its slick transmission, it
has real passing power when you need it, which isn’t the case with
all these machines. Equally impressive is its ride quality. It handles high-speed concrete freeways with all the comfort of a good
sport-tourer, while also enabling the grip and handling to make
charging bumpy canyon roads a blast. In addition, it has the best
seating for both rider and passenger, and its ergonomics, despite
the supersport style, are not too extreme for all day comfort.
I couldn’t imagine how anything but the KTM would win this
comparison test, but the R3 was the unanimous choice—it’s a
great bike at a great price. —Dave Searle