Yamaha YZF-R15 V3.0 First Ride Review

25 June 2018, 02:59 PM Ranjan R. Bhat

Introduction

Pros – Sweet handling, punchy mid-range, massive street presence

Cons – Uncomfortable riding position, inept headlamp, no ABS

If you have read our launch ride and track-day stories, you must be aware of the Yamaha YZF-R15 V3.0’s superiority on the track. But what about the real world, where it will spend most of its life? How does the R15 perform as an everyday ride? 

Back at the track, the R15 might have paled in comparison with the Ducati. On the street however, it is a completely different story. You can only appreciate the full drama of the R15’s design when it is in town, surrounded by commuter bikes and scooters. The Indian audience has had a long standing relationship with faired motorcycles, and the R15 grabs eyeballs everywhere it goes.

Quality

The R15 was a benchmark when it came to quality, but that is not the case anymore. With the V3.0, there has been a marked drop in the quality of plastic components. There are hardly any panel gaps and the motorcycle feels well put together, but the quality of certain fibre panels has taken a hit. The switchgear has a nice tactile feel to it, but the button on the instrument console requires a lot of effort to operate. This can get annoying when you try to operate it on the move. Unlike the previous R15s, the new bike gets a fibre fuel tank, which means I cannot use magnetic tank bags.

Comfort

There are several reasons to like the R15, but comfort isn’t one of them. I agree that I am not in the best shape right now, having gotten accustomed to riding streetfighters. But even after five days of commuting, there is no sign of me getting comfortable with the riding position. The R15 V3.0 gained 15mm seat height in comparison to the V2.0 and 25mm in comparison to the R15-S. So the riding position is more aggressive and committed than before. It might work well on the track, but on the street it can get too stressful for your lower back and wrists.

Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised with the ride quality. At low speeds, the suspension does a good job of insulating you from bumps and potholes. The ride quality keeps improving as the speed increases, and the suspension starts to glide over the undulations. 

Performance

The R15 V3.0 is propelled by a new 154cc liquid-cooled engine. Apart from the extra displacement, this engine also benefits from a higher compression ratio, making it 2bhp more powerful than the outgoing model. The engine feels docile and smooth in the lower rev range, just like any commuter bike. But then you get a nice punch in the mid-range, and the engine undergoes a change in personality. The exhaust note becomes louder and the torque pull keeps getting stronger right until 10,000rpm.

Gas it hard, and the R15 will chew up the first three gears in no time, going past 90kmph. Keep shifting through the gears, and it will touch 140kmph (indicated) before starting to run out of breath. The R15 is in the sweet spot while cruising at 100kmph on the highway, with enough power in the reserve for a quick overtake.

All through this, the throttle response is crisp and smooth. This especially comes into play while you are commuting. The clutch is light and the ratios are well spaced out to keep you from switching gears too often. In moving traffic, you can stick to the fifth gear, while the second is perfect for stop-and-go traffic. It is very easy to filter out traffic too, as long as you manage to keep the weight off your wrists. Although you can feel the heat on your shins when you are stationary for too long, it is nowhere as bad as other liquid-cooled motorcycles. There is a slight buzz on the footpegs and the tank at low revs, although they get ironed out once you go past 5,000rpm.

The real treat in store however, is when you chance upon a set of twisties. The R15 feels in its element when you are throwing it around corners. It demands just a fraction of your effort leaning into a corner. Once in, it feels planted and sticks to the line perfectly. It will gently forgive your over-enthusiasm and remain undeterred by the small bumps that you might have overlooked. And for those nasty ones, you can make mid-corner corrections without much of a worry. Even if you are in a gear higher while entering the corner, you can just gas the R15 and be sure that the bike will pull through. This specific R15 gets the optional Metzler rear tyre, which costs an additional Rs 10,000.

Back at the track, I had cribbed about the front brake lacking a sharp initial bite. On the street, it makes sense to have such a setup considering that ABS is not offered even as an option. The soft initial bite aside, the front brake packs good progression, feel and stopping power, even on wet surfaces.

Technology

Take a look at the last two generations of the R15 and you will see the bike give a testament of the technology at the time. The V3.0 brings variable valve actuation and slipper clutch to the table. With VVA, the R15 now has two intake valve cams, one for low and mid-range and another for high rpm, the switch happening at 7,400rpm. This helps spread the torque throughout the rev-range. The slipper clutch on the other hand, makes the clutch lighter to operate along with reducing the back-pressure on the engine during high-rpm downshifts. 

It gets a new LCD instrument console with gear position indicator, shift light, clock and a trip computer. The R15 now also gets an LED headlamp. While the illumination is not so much of a problem, the high beam has a very poor throw. There is just a marginal difference between the throw of the high beam and low beam, which means riding the R15 at speed in the dark takes a lot of guts. 

Fuel efficiency

The R15 returned 47.3kmpl in our standard test cycle. It might not sound spectacular for a 150cc bike, but for a high-compression and high-performance engine, it is impressive. A part of credit goes to the VVA system for keeping the R15 frugal when ridden sanely. 

Fitness of purpose

The R15 is a lot more than a poser’s bike, it is a stepping stone into performance motorcycling. It has the traits of a good commuter bike bundled with modern technology and the fun aspect of a supersport bike. And with a price tag of less than Rs 1.5 lakhs, it is within the reach of masses. It does all of this without letting the rising fuel costs play spoilsports. Sure, your back will hurt like hell, but that is just another motivation for you to work on your physical fitness.

Our take

At Rs 1.26 lakhs (ex-showroom), the R15 is pricey for a 155cc bike. You can land yourself a quarter-litre Yamaha for the same money. But there is no way you will be having the same amount of fun on the FZ25. The suspension setup, perimeter frame, aluminium swingarm and the sticky tyres make for one of the sweetest handling packages. We knew it was a great track tool, but now it has proven to be a good streetbike as well.

Photography by Kapil Angane

Gear Check

Helmet: Arai Quantum-J - Rs 45,000

Jacket: Joe Rocket Alter Ego 3.0 - Rs 20,000

Gloves: Ixon Moto HP - Rs 9,500

Pants: AGV Sport Airtex - Rs 6,500

Boots: Sidi B2 - Rs 17,000

 

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