The handling on turn-in is predictable, with a stable feeling mid-corner and no twitches from the Thailand-made Michelin Pilot Street tyres. Our test rider’s 14-stone frame put demands on the suspension that may well sit outside the R3’s design parameters, but it never protested. One section of the Calafat circuit where we tested the bike features a quick succession of corners that require direction changes and a stolen shortshift through the gears at the same time. It’s the kind of rider behaviour that will unsettle a flighty machine, but the Yamaha is too neat and tidy for that. Bumps in Calafat’s surface are in the ideal place to throw the R3 off its path, but the bike soaks it all up without so much as a shrug. On the road, as on track, The YZF-R3 is stable without being stubborn when asked to turn in and the suspension never cries foul as it copes with the bike being thrown this way and that.
The engine is lively enough to entertain yet has enough poke to pull a taller gear than is ideal. The 41.4bhp motor gives its first gentle wave of extra zip as the needle strikes 5500rpm and then it starts to pull again at 7000, keeping going through 8000rpm as well. But its strongest surge comes at 9000pm, which is where it delivers a peak torque output of a sliver over 21lb-ft. It then runs hard to 11,000rpm, when a small white LED flashes on the top of the instrument cluster to suggest that the rider gets busy with his left foot. This is the Yamaha’s strongest powerband, but the R3 feels anything but peaky. The new engine inherits much from Yamaha’s R1 and R6, with lightweight forged pistons that are 10% lighter than traditional cast items to reduce inertia and are also stronger for increased reliability at high revs. Carburized con-rods are lighter and more rigid than standard ones, a DiaSil cylinder means less internal friction (and more power) and the cylinder is also offset from the crankshaft, keeping the piston running truer on its downstroke to reduce power losses.
The R3 is the first geared bike made in Yamaha’s new factory in Indonesia. Indonesians buy seven million new bikes and scoots every year – a third of them are Yamahas – and the company have opened their own factory in Jakarta’s Pulogadung district. The R3 is a version of the 250 made for riders in the Far East, where there are different licence restrictions. The ‘made in Indonesia’ sticker on the frame may concern some, but the finish on the R3 is good. The bodywork and paint is lustrous, there are tidy details like the sculpted handlebar ends. The only parts that stand out as signs of cost saving are the chunky rear brake and gearshift levers.
The £4799 launch price is £100 cheaper than the main rival, Kawasaki’s Ninja 300, and it’s £200 less than the nutcase KTM RC390. It’s quite a chunk more than Honda’s £4299 CBR300R and an even bigger slice on top of Kawasaki’s forthcoming Ninja 250SL – but the Yamaha is playing a different game to those two. It represents very good value, and a fuel economy return of around 60mpg is the icing on that cake. Yamaha UK have put the R3 on their Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) scheme and its initial price is £79 a month.
The instruments get the essentials across clearly. The digital speedo is prominent alongside an analogue rev counter. There are two trip meters, two fuel economy readings, odometer, fuel gauge and a water temperature gauge. The R3 also tells riders how long it’s been since an oil change and alerts the rider when the next change is due. The handlebars are clip-ons, but they’re mounted above the yoke and give a generous lift for more comfort on the road. The screen offers further road manners, while the optional accessory version is shorter and offers less shelter for those who want a sportier outlook. Brakes feature ABS as standard and the system works well, not intruding even during braking from high speed unless you are in an emergency stop scenario.