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MCN Awards 2015: Best Sub-500

Published: 18 October 2015

The winner of the sub 500 category was the sporty little Yamaha R3, proving that you don’t need an all-out sportsbike to be able to have fun on the road. It provides enough to leave you happy without necessarily wanting for more, and with its low down torque, it’s both fun and usable.

This has been one of the busiest years for the MCN road test team in recent memory, and it’s been a long time since we’ve seen the thick and fast introduction of so many exciting new bikes. 2015 has seen the arrival of great new adventure bikes, cruisers, retros, 125s, A2 licence-friendly machines and scooters, while also being hailed as the return of the superbike. 

The MCN awards are our pick of the best metal to be released this year and covers multiple categories. Over the next week, we will reveal all the winners, so keep checking back.

Best Sub-500
Yamaha YZF-R3

 

‘Sporty and a little bit naughty’

Yamaha are relative late-comers to the sporty A2 licence category, but their new R3 was worth the wait. It’s easy to ride, fun and desirable.

As for the R3’s rivals, the KTM RC390 is the no-compromise nutter of the A2 bunch. It handles and goes well, but it’s vibey and the suspension is often a little too crashy for our pot-holed roads.

At the other end of the spectrum is the commuter-friendly Kawasaki Ninja 300, while the R3 sits somewhere in the middle and is a perfect mix of sporty fun and everyday usability.

The Yamaha’s 321cc parallel twin-cylinder engine is willing and loves to be revved. But if you just want to pootle around town it has lots of torque low down, so you don’t need to rev the knackers off it to beat that car away from the lights.

I’m 6ft 1in and the R3 is quite small for me, but it’s not cramped and I can easily spend all day in the saddle. Its smaller dimensions will make it popular with shorter riders and those who are perhaps lacking a little confidence in the early stages of their biking career. The handling is extremely precise and the suspension is plush, without compromising too much on performance. New rider or veteran of the roads, you’ll be able to enjoy the R3 in the corners.

The Yamaha is a perfect introduction to sportsbikes for first-time motorcyclists. Sure, the riding position isn’t as extreme as a ‘proper’ sportsbike, but that’s exactly what makes it so good. You can concentrate on riding without thinking about aching wrists or whether or not you’ll ever be able to straighten your legs properly again. I’m not sportsbike obsessive, but I would spend money on an R3, and I wouldn’t be able to stop smiling. 

Specification

Engine 321cc (68 x 44.1mm), 8v parallel twin
Claimed power 41bhp@10,750rpm
Claimed torque 22ftlb@9000rpm
Frame Steel diamond
Kerb weight 169kg
Tank size 14 litres
Price £4799
PCP  £1154.70 deposit, 36 monthly payments: £79, final payment: £1897

Click here to see our review of the YZF-R3


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