Saturday, December 9, 2023

2018 Yamaha R15 V3 Review, Road Test

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2018 Yamaha R15 V3 Review: We give you every single detail in this review. Perspective comes from RC200 owner. Grab some popcorn and get Ready To Read

Now usually we start a review with a short introduction about the product that is being reviewed. This time, however, I was a bit worried because the product that is the subject of this story is already so famous that its introduction is just not needed. Oh Yes! We’re talking about none other than the Yamaha YZF R15 V3.0. Back in 2008 when Yamaha launched the first generation of this 150cc sportbike, the crowd was amazed. This thing kick-started the 150cc supersport segment and that’s exactly why it is also titled as the ‘Original Gangster’ by its fans. Done with the prologue, now let’s find out what this third generation of the R15 brings to the table.

Massive Overhaul

Park the current and previous gen R15’s side by side and you can rarely spot any similarities. This new generation bike is inspired from the 2015 YZF R1 and the 2017 YZF R6. The design is striking and will turn heads no doubt. The bike particularly looks great from the rear, where the R6 inspired tail and the neatly placed LED taillight grab eyeballs. The front now has an all LED headlamp setup. Taking the centre stage is the faux ram-air duct. This bike gets a fully fixed windscreen unlike the previous generation which had a floating screen.


The design aside, it now also gets a different engine. The engine capacity is upped to 155cc which is a bump of 5cc. It gets new pistons, new camshafts and most of the components are redesigned to make them lighter, stiffer and more reliable. The party trick however is Variable Valve Actuation or VVA as Yamaha calls it. This system is similar to Honda’s V-Tec and what it does is switches between camshafts at higher and lower rpms. The cams feature different profiles to aid efficiency at lower rpms and performance at higher rpms. All of this has also resulted in increase in the compression ratio.

The chassis also gets subtle updates. The ‘Deltabox’ frame is now wider and the swingarm is shorter and wider to accommodate the wider rear tire. The wheelbase now is smaller owing to the sharper rake and the smaller swingarm. Small things like the new triple clamp have also been updated and are now more in line with the YZF R1. You might not notice but the new heel plates are different and we love how they look. They also help you lock your feet much better while cornering.

The suspension too is changed. Upfront you get bigger 41mm forks and at the rear, the shock is revised to account for the increase in weight. Stopping duties are now handled by a bigger 282mm disc and ByBre calliper-master cylinder combination at the front and a Nissin calliper at the rear. The setup is similar to the one on the FZ25. However one does regret the absence of ABS, especially since this will be the go-to bike for most beginners.


The instrument readout is now a full digital display. The unit has two tripmeters, a fuel efficiency meter, a shift light at the top and the usual tell-tale signs. However the unit looks bland and we wished for a more futuristic looking console.


Accessories and Customisation
Just like the previous generation, Yamaha has introduced some accessories for this R15. Yamaha offers fairing protectors or frame sliders are they’re commonly known. These will help protect the fairing during light crashes and spills. This generation also has a phone charging facility that hides under the aft-side of the front fairing. The go fast bits include a Dagrex exhaust which is meant for closed competition use. Also on offer is the Metzeler rear tire which our test bike came fitted with.


Saddle Time
Hop onto the saddle and the first thing you notice is the new riding position. You are more canted forward and that’s due to two things – the increased seat height which is now 815mm and the sharper rake. Riders less than 5 feet, 5 inches will find it a bit hard to maneuver at slow speeds. Look closely and you’ll realize that the new handlebar now has no risers. Its low set which again puts you in a race-ready position. The tank has good recesses which help you anchor your thighs while attacking corners. The seat feels plush and thanks to the clever design, it has more room than before.


Thumb the starter and get going you notice how smooth the engine feels. The first gear is tall and that’s good when you’re in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Well spaced gear ratios mean very few gearshifts. But you wouldn’t even mind shifting because the gearbox is one of the slickest in business. It shifts with a surefooted feeling and dare we say it missed a shift. And now you have the added benefit of the slipper clutch which means you could downshift whenever and wherever you like without being concerned of the rear wheel locking up. Also the clutch is light which means there will be fewer aches in your left wrist even in the harshest of our traffic conditions.


We also noticed how tractable the engine is. Doing around 30 kmph in 4th gear is no problem at all. The engine takes time to build power but once in its zone it shoots pasts smoothly and linearly. You do find some vibes creeping in at around 5000 rpm and near the redline but that won’t bog you down. The fun starts above 7000rpm where speedo screams ‘VVA Activated’. Although the power is still linear but here the engine is eager to rev.

This is also where the engine changes its soundtrack to rortier and bass filled note. The engine now redlines at 12,000 rpms, a bump of 1500 rpm from the previous generation. You can use all the revs and that’s exactly what Yamaha engineers wanted. Clearly the VVA is not just a marketing thing, it is the real deal. While being stucked in traffic, I also noticed how well the R15 managed heat dissipation. The engine temperature stayed within the comfortable range and although your legs do feel some of the heat, its far from uncomfortable.


However, there is a complaint. In the higher gears, the performance does drop by a margin and the sprint from 130 kmph to the topspeed takes longer than you’d expect. This we suspect is down to its heavier mass and taller 6th gear which aids cruising. Also the R15’s engine isn’t a perfect loud or torquey like the one in KTM’s RC200. It does lose momentum near the top-speed. Nonetheless, this engine is a gem of a motor and will be loved by both, enthusiasts and novices.

It’s all in the handling


If there was something that purist raved about the R15 was its handling. This puny little machine amazed people who thought that these machines are best suited only for the streets. The R15 V3 is no different. We were ferrying a 70kg pillion around and even then the R15 never broke a sweat. It was astonishingly light on its feet and darted into corners like it owned them. You could turn-in late and still exit with sufficient speed.

The best word to describe its handling is – MAGIC. Chasing a tighter line and want to change, a simple flick is what required to change lines. You could absolutely throw it around corners and it still is capable of doing more. The R15 is like a hot Italian ballerina on a twisty-windy road. It loves to dance around corners and even makes a novice like me look like a hero. The Metzeler rear tire also helps in this regard. It stays planted and gives plenty of feedback even on wet roads.


Coming to the brakes, the new R15 gets a bigger disc and an upgraded braking setup. The ByBre setup felt good on the road, it offered great stopping power and bite. The new master cylinder also works well and the new lever offers good feel. I was delighted at just how good the lever felt, it had almost zero slack. On the track however you’ll be left wanting for more feel as the rubber brake lines does cause a bit of disconnection between the rider and the front wheel. Same cannot be said of the rear brake as it lacks both stopping power and bite. It also felt very numb during situations which required us to use both the brakes.

Is that all?


Oh no! There’s a lot more to this R15. Being an owner of the KTM RC200 I was surprised how well the throttle response to the inputs of my right wrist. The RC can stutter at low speeds due to the slightly inconsistent fuelling and the short-gearing. The R15 is exact opposite it feels relaxed and you can smoothly roll-on the throttle without worrying about snatchy or jerky throttle transitions. This also helps during mid-corner throttle roll-on, where you can feed the power early before exiting the corner.

The big deal though is the ride quality. The well-tuned suspension means very little of the road’s imperfections are felt by the rider. The low speed ride quality is almost unbelievable. Even though this is a supersport, it just glides over bumps and potholes and filters them with a sophistication which no bike of this class can match, save for the versatile CBR 250 and 150 cousins. At high speeds the suspension does get caught out on some of the sharp bumps but that completely acceptable. The front fork is tuned towards a slightly softer side, but I honestly never complained as on the street it felt perfect.


Wallet-minded peeps don’t worry as we got some good news for you. The increase in the weight and compression ratio hasn’t affected the fuel efficiency by a huge margin. Riding two up with a mix of highway sprints, touring and mild city traffic – it returned an amazing fuel economy figure of 38 kmpl. And that was when our pillion weighed in at a solid 70 odd kilos. Riding solo and with a little less weight expect overall average of around 45 kmpl in actual riding conditions. And that puts to shame most 125 and 150cc mopeds. Feeling amused? You should be.

To Pillion or Not to Pillion?


As we said earlier we also ferried a pillion rider with us just to give you all the low-down on the pillion comfort of the V3. As can be expected, this new generation R15 isn’t very pillion friendly. The seat is slightly plusher than the previous generation but it still isn’t comfortable. Short rides around the town are no problem, however, on longer rides the seat can cause a numb posterior. Also the seat to peg distance isn’t very high so if you’re any higher than 5’6, you will feel cramped on the rear seat.

The Not-So Good bits


Enough of the praise, now let’s dive into some of the not-so-good bits. Something which took me around two days to come up with! Firstly the plastic quality, although the name Yamaha is synonymous with high quality plastic and mechanical components here they’ve downgraded a bit. The tank now is made of plastic and feels slightly less premium. Also there are panel gaps exposed especially on the sides which don’t do justice to the premium-ness of this machine. The switchgear quality though is contrary to this. The buttons for the high beam, low beam, the kill switch and the horn and indicator turn buttons feel and look premium. They’ve nice tactile feel to them and that just makes the experience of riding this bike a touch better.


One thing that is an eyesore is the weld quality of the headlight holder frame. It looks industrial and simply doesn’t go well with the overall theme. Even the bolt cover which opens the rear seat feels tacky and slightly cheap. The throttle grips felt good but the colour is prone to fade. The coolant tank is positioned low down below and although it has the underbelly fairing to protect it, a sharp and tall speed-breaker could possibly crack it open.


The LED headlights which look absolutely slick could do with better throw as during night rides the illumination on offer felt lacking. And lastly, the cutouts for the tail section aren’t grooves for the pillion to hold onto but they’re part of the design and are made of out plastic which can possibly break if excessive force is applied. However, allow me mark my words. This still didn’t bother me in the ample time spent with the R15. In fact there isn’t any specific point that will put you off from buying this machine.

2018 Yamaha R15 V3 Review, Verdict


The R15 has improved by leaps and bounds in this present avatar. It’s got new refreshing looks, a new chassis and new tech while still offering the same value that it offered before. Its great fun on and off the track and can also double up as a daily commuter. An added bonus is the amazing fuel efficiency on offer. So summing it all up, it is hard to ignore the R15, especially with its on-road price tag just a shade under INR 1.45 lacs. It sure does miss out on ABS and can do with better quality components but that’s it. There isn’t really anything else on the R15 that doesn’t work in its favour. Its an all-rounder on a budget, a machine that is fun to ride and yet not demanding to own.

Omkar K
Omkar K
Our features writer is always on the boil to bring you the best in the automotive space. Be it two wheels or four, he gets the job done and craves for more stories, always.

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