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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
2020 colour options
New for 2020, the Yamaha R3 will be available in an M1-aping Icon Blue or stealthy Midnight Black.