Yamaha R3 review: Capable, simple & sweet

Yamaha R3 price, engine, design, features: review

The Yamaha R3 was sold in India for a few years before the looming BS6 emissions norms knocked it off sale prior to 2020. About four years later, it’s finally set to return to India, and it'll arrive along with its sibling, the MT-03, which was never sold here – we’ll have a separate review for the MT, so stay tuned.

The bikes will be coming to India as CBU imports so the models you see here will be pretty much identical to the motorcycles sold in India, except for local requirements like a front number plate and a saree guard. Yamaha does intend to localise these bikes to some extent in the future, but they will be sold as imports during 2024, at least. That will have an impact on the price, but we’ll get back to that later. For now, Yamaha took us to northern Thailand, where we got to spend three days riding both bikes across some of the most spectacular riding roads I have ever experienced. 

Yamaha R3 design, comfort

While the Yamaha R3 you see here will be new for India, it has actually been out in this form overseas for about three years now. That explains why it doesn’t have Yamaha’s latest design philosophy that you’ll see on the likes of the R1, R6, R7, and even the R15, with its centrally-mounted projector lamp. Nevertheless, it is certainly a handsome and sporty-looking bike, with a sharper headlamp design than the older model – I thought it was a very good-looking motorcycle.

What helps to significantly elevate the look compared with the old R3 is the new USD fork. At 37mm, this is not as chunky as what you’ll find on the single-cylinder KTMs or BMWs, but it still adds a more sporting and capable look. The layered side-fairing is also very nicely executed, and I particularly liked the side-mounted Yamaha logo on the fuel tank that lies just behind some gills – just like you’ll see on the bigger R1. The tail section and the exhaust are very similar to the model that came before. 


Just like before, the riding position remains very friendly and accommodating with a low, 780mm seat height. This may look like a racy motorcycle, but it seats you in a very forgiving manner. The lean-down to the bars is manageable for a full day of riding, and the footpeg placement is not extreme either. It's a world of a difference when compared with the current R15 and it might even be more relaxed than the new Hero Karizma XMR. Strangely enough, tall riders at this event (three of us were just over 6-feet-tall) unanimously thought the R3 was more comfortable than the MT-03.

Yamaha R3 performance, engine

Another very similar aspect when seen in light of the outgoing R3, is the engine, and if you have ridden the BS4 R3 the memories will come flooding back. The 321cc parallel-twin engine still makes 42hp and it still loves to be wrung out all the way to its 12,000rpm redline. But low speed tractability is also very nice – you can lazily ride around in 4th or 5th gear below 40kph, and the R3 responds without any signs of complaint. City riding should be quite peaceful, but the clutch is a little heavier than I’d have liked for bumper-to-bumper traffic.


Nevertheless, the open road is where this motorcycle thrives. Power builds in a smooth and linear arc and you’re entertained by a nice exhaust note at high revs – although it can sound quite nondescript when cruising at low speeds, almost like a single-cylinder engine. Expect a 0-100kph time in the mid-5-second mark, and a top speed of over 170kph.

Yamaha R3 ride, handling

Another area with no major changes is the chassis, apart from the new USD fork. At 169kg, the R3 remains a light feeling and very friendly bike to manage. Handling is quick, low effort and capable, but some of the roads around Thailand were so good that they were pushing the bikes slightly into the zone of discomfort. Some corners were 3rd or 4th gear sweepers at triple digit speeds, and the rear could feel a little soft in this situation, especially if the corner was mildly bumpy. 


The Dunlop tyres felt greasy on the edge and it felt like you had to be extra careful and measured with your throttle inputs when leaned over. Better tyres will do this bike wonders. I’d have liked stronger brakes as well and like the tyres, they’re fine for regular riding, but you do wish for more performance when riding hard. Still, there is undoubtedly a huge amount of potential in this platform, as demonstrated by Rajini Krishnan and Rajiv Sethu who have won the last three championships in the Indian Supersport 300-400cc category on highly-tuned Yamaha R3s.

While the R3 is not particularly hard-edged in stock trim, it also happens to be quite reasonably comfortable in its suspension set-up. Thailand’s beautiful roads weren't really a yardstick to measure this, but I suspect this bike will feel similar to the old R3, and the old R3 was quite good in India.

Yamaha R3 quality, fit and finish

Quality, fit and finish are at pleasingly high levels, and you get the sense that these are solidly engineered bikes that will make for steadfastly reliable companions. On the other hand, the R3 is an excessively simple bike when compared to its latest rivals. There is no TFT display, no traction control, no quickshifter, no slip-assist clutch, and there's no adjustable levers either. While there is undoubtedly plenty of charm to a simple, yet rewarding-to-ride bike, this will also prove to be a big challenge for Yamaha in India – the R15 is much better equipped, especially in the context of its asking price.  


Yamaha R3 verdict

Being a CBU, the Yamaha R3 is expected to cost between Rs 4 lakh-4.50 lakh (ex-showroom). That places it below Kawasaki’s ludicrously expensive Ninja 400 (Rs 5.24 lakh), but well above the KTM RC 390 (Rs 3.18 lakh) and even the upcoming Aprilia RS 457 is likely to cost less – and that bike is more powerful and much better equipped. As things stand, Yamaha is unlikely to sell the R3 in big numbers, but those who do buy it will probably end up being quite happy with their decision. 

All prices ex-showroom, India

Also see:

Yamaha R3, MT-03 video review

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