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YAMAHA R3 (2019-on) Review

Published: 11 January 2019

Yamaha’s new YZF-R3 mixes practicality with usable performance

Yamaha R3 at its launch

Yamaha’s new YZF-R3 mixes practicality with usable performance

  • At a glance
  • 321cc  -  41.4 bhp
  • 74.3 mpg  -  230 miles range
  • Medium seat height (780mm)
  • Suitable for A2 licence
  • New: £5,299

Overall Rating 4 out of 5

Yamaha have given the A2-compliant Yamaha R3 its first update since its launch in 2015 to help bring it in line with the rest of the manufacturer’s sports machines and act as a stepping stone between the A1-friendly Yamaha YZF-R125 and 116bhp Yamaha R6.

Riding the bike on road and track in Valencia, Spain, the R3 has been morphed from a respectable, well-rounded sportster, to a head-turning R1-inspired pocket rocket.

Although a more sports-orientated model than the previous machine, the R3 remains a practical all-rounder, with Yamaha keenly aware that many of the riders purchasing this machine will do so as an only mode of transport.

Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5

Yamaha have developed the new R3 to be more engaging than the previous machine, without sacrificing any of the everyday practicality.

In order to achieve this, the Japanese firm have gifted the bike with new gold non-adjustable 37mm upside down KYB forks, which replace the conventional items on the 2015 version. Designed for greater rigidity, the rear shock now also features a stiffer spring and revised standard preload and damping, too.

The result is a predictable, well-handling motorcycle that would be just as at home on the daily commute, as it would be charging along your favourite backroad. The stiffened springs give good feedback and are still able to soak up any potholes and speed bumps with ease.

Yamaha R3 handling

At no point on our 155km road ride did the bike feel out of shape or incapable of tackling the surface before it. Combined with a comfortable seat, sitting on the R3 is a nice place to be and you would easily be able to cope with longer stints in the saddle on both motorways and rural routes.

Alongside the suspension, the 2019 R3 also benefits from new Dunlop Sportmax GPR300 tyres, which replace the previous OE Michelin Pilot Streets. Offering adequate dry road grip, but lacking feel when pushed particularly hard on circuit, they would be perfectly acceptable for daily use, however should be replaced if trackdays are on your agenda.   

What’s more, the brakes are lifted straight from the old model, with the ABS cutting in noticeably at the front end under rapid deceleration and pushing back against the lever.

Yamaha R3 on the road

The riding position has also been tweaked, with the clip-ons now 22mm lower than the previous incarnation, as well as being two-degrees more open. Although more sporty, it’s by no means a focused over-the-front stance and the R3 remains a comfortable and easy-to-use motorcycle.

Alongside this, helping you to corner is a revised fuel tank and cover, which now sits 20mm lower and 31.4mm wider above the knees, allowing you to hug the tank more firmly mid-corner for greater control.

With a low seat height of 780mm, a light clutch and a kerb weight of just 169kg, it’s ideal for those stepping up from a 125cc machine, or shorter riders and was perfectly capable of scything through Valencian traffic jams, as well as cutting through the glorious mountain roads.

Engine 3 out of 5

The new machine shares the same practical 41.4bhp 321cc parallel-twin engine as the previous incarnation, with Yamaha keen to retain the same forgiving, novice-friendly nature achieved with the old bike.

Although non-threatening, the motor is far from dull, revving cleanly all the way to its 14,000rpm redline in a linear fashion, whilst delivering a thrapping throaty soundtrack, reminiscent of a mini-twin race bike.

Yamaha R3 on track at Valencia

On a twisty road, it can be incredibly engaging, with the rider having to work the slick gearbox hard in order to keep the motor buzzing in the upper echelons of the rev range. This is important, as the bike can feel gutless below 5000rpm when you really want to press on.

Around town, the ratios are perfectly acceptable, with the bike happily cruising between third and sixth gear depending on the scenario, with enough left in reserve to keep ahead of the traffic at all times.

Unfortunately, although the gearbox felt crisp on the road, when pushed on track during the launch, the bike did occasionally fail to shift into fifth gear and also jumped out of fourth into third under hard acceleration.

Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5

Although it’s much too early to talk about the reliability of this machine, owner reviews on MCN’s test of the previous version indicate a solid build quality, with no recorded faults.

Insurance, running costs & value 4 out of 5

At £5299 cash and £5396 on the road at its launch, the 2019 Yamaha YZF-R3 comes in at exactly the same price as the 2018 out-going machine, making it serious value.

What’s more, on top of the upgraded suspension, aerodynamics, styling, gauges and riding position at no extra cost, the R3 is also very well priced alongside its rivals. 

At £6099 on the road, Honda’s 2019 CBR500R produces just 5.5bhp more than the Yamaha at an additional cost of £800. At 192kg wet, its also considerably heavier than the R3, cancelling out some of that power advantage.

That said, the Yamaha is £50 more expensive than the base model Kawasaki Ninja 400 and the KTM RC390. However it is £100 less than the World Superbike championship inspired KRT edition Kawasaki.

Equipment 4 out of 5

Alongside the vastly improved styling, the Indonesian-built machine has also received a new full LCD display, which replaces the part digital design on the older bike.

Sitting above a set of MotoGP-inspired machined triple clamps, the new dash is logically structured, with all of the necessary information noticeable at a quick glance.

Displaying your speed most prominently, there is also a gear indicator, adjustable shift light, fuel consumption information, rev counter and even trips for fuel reserve and oil. What’s more, despite the piercing low sun on the day of our test, it was also easily readable in any light conditions.

Optional extras

To help give your R3 a more personal touch, Yamaha have produced a series of accessories to sit in tandem with the bike. Ranging from an Akrapovic slip-on end can, to a pillion seat cover, the range goes much further than simple aesthetics, with both a tank and pillion seat bag also offered as part of the manufacturer’s commitment to practicality.

What’s more, from March 2019, Yamaha will also sell you a ‘Sports Kit’ consisting of a larger double-bubble screen, number plate bracket, crash protection and LED indicators in one complete package.

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 2019
Year discontinued -
New price £5,299
Used price -
Warranty term Two years
Running costs
Insurance group -
Annual road tax £42
Annual service cost -
Performance
Max power 41.4 bhp
Max torque 21.8 ft-lb
Top speed 115 mph
1/4-mile acceleration -
Average fuel consumption 74.3 mpg
Tank range 230 miles
Specification
Engine size 321cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled DOHC parallel twin
Frame type Tubular steel
Fuel capacity 14 litres
Seat height 780mm
Bike weight 169kg
Front suspension Telescopic upside down 37mm KYB forks
Rear suspension KYB shock, pre-load adjustable
Front brake Single 298mm hydraulic disc, two piston floating caliper
Rear brake Single 220mm hydraulic disc, single piston caliper
Front tyre size 110/70/17
Rear tyre size 140/70/17

History & Versions

Model history

A new model for 2015, this is the first time Yamaha have updated the R3 format. Although the old bike was a perfectly credible small sportster, the new machine has been littered with upgrades, including upside down forks and re-worked styling to make the bike look more grown-up and bring it in line with the rest of Yamaha’s sportsbike range.

That said, the new machine still shares many similarities with the old bike, including a 780mm seat height, the same 321cc capacity engine and a production line in Indonesia.

Other versions

Whilst there is only one version of YZF-R3, the bike sits in a long line of sporty Yamaha’s; ranging from the CBT-friendly YZF-R125, to the supersport YZF-R6 and the YZF-R1 superbike.

Yamaha also produce a naked MT-03, which uses the previous generation R3 as a platform to form a more upright street bike. Both machines share the same engine, chassis and wheels, with the only changes really found in the styling and ergonomics. 

Owners' Reviews

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Photo Gallery

  • Yamaha R3 at its launch
  • Yamaha R3 left side
  • Yamaha R3 sweeping bend
  • Yamaha R3 on the straight
  • Yamaha R3 handling
  • Yamaha R3 rear view
  • Yamaha R3 right side
  • Yamaha R3 mid-corner
  • Yamaha R3 on track at Valencia
  • Yamaha R3 left and rear
  • Yamaha R3 front and left
  • Yamaha R3 on the road
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