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xBhp was born more than 16 years ago and since then we've had a chance to ride or drive hundreds of machines running on two wheels or four wheels, and sometimes even three wheels. We are not done yet, and this list is still growing. In these pages, we take a deep dive in the treasure trove of our ride experiences and bring you all that we have ridden or driven.

Yamaha R3 and MT-03 First Ride :: Almost Perfect!

321CC 41.5BHP 29.5NM

It is a great time to be a motorcyclist. From disciplines to displacement, the Indian market has something for everyone. Among the various classes, the 300-400cc class is the sweet spot. Motorcycles in the class do not overwhelm one but still give them a taste of power and premium. A few years ago, the segment had a stellar entry in the form of Yamaha R3. It looked stunning, the engine was a gem, and overall, it was a motorcycle that deserved the premium it commanded (for the most part). 

Then, it went away as the new norms were enforced. Then the new R3 came and it was part of Yamaha’s portfolio in a lot of countries except ours. It was sad but Iwata has decided to finally alleviate that sombreness. The Yamaha R3 is back and this time, it is not alone! We rode the new Yamaha R3 and its naked sibling, the MT-03 at the Buddh International Circuit a few days ago. They left a great impression but do they have enough to deal with the fierce competition in the 300-400cc class? Let us find out. 

After riding both the Yamaha R3 and MT-03 for some laps around the Buddh International Circuit, we can say that these are near-identical motorcycles. One is a supersport and the other is a naked motorcycle but their differences are, for the most part, skin-deep. The engine, the state of tune, the instrumentation, the features (or lack thereof); everything is shared between these two motorcycles. We’ll start with the looks. 

We like the new R3’s design; LED lighting all around, USD forks finished in gold, and overall a very clean and pleasing presence. The fit and finish are top-notch. The one thing we were left wondering was why it missed out on the current YZF design theme that the other motorcycles, including the R15, follow- a central projector headlamp flanked by brow DRLs. It kind of makes it look different from the other Rs from Yamaha’s stable. 

Not that it does not look good but we believe that it could have stood out even more. The gills on the tank shroud are somewhat of a saving grace. Overall, the R3 is a beautiful motorcycle but not as unique as the old R3 which looked insane with its reverse-inclined twin headlamps. Rest, it is up to you to gauge from the pictures whether it floats your boat or not. 

Then there’s the MT-03 which is in line with all the other MTs out there. A radical design with a robotic face and muscular shrouds make the MT-03 stand out. The fuel tank on the MT-03 feels more muscular than the R3 despite the identical capacity, at 14 litres. The air scoops on the tank shroud are reminiscent of some old Yamaha streetfighters. The USD forks are finished in black which is in line with the darker and intendedly ominous look of the MT-03. 

Overall, both motorcycles will get ample attention on the road. The design may be simple but the execution is flawless. That is something we have come to accept from Japanese motorcycles and these two are no different. We’d like to point out the finish again; it is exceptional on both motorcycles which makes them look premium. 

In terms of ergonomics, the highlight is the 780mm seat height which makes both of these motorcycles much more approachable for a wider group of riders. Predictably, the R3 has a more committed riding position and the presence of a windscreen helped immensely with the windblast, especially at BICs where we could open the taps. The MT-03 offers a more upright and commanding riding position but the usability it gets is evened out by the windblast that one might have to deal with on open roads. 

Now, it is time to discuss the highlight of these two motorcycles- the engine. 321cc, liquid-cooled, parallel twin good for 42 PS of power at 10,750 rpm and 29.5 Nm of torque at 9,000 rpm. The engine is silky smooth and very potent but needs to be revved to get the best out of it. There is not a lot of grunt at the bottom end but if you keep the revs high enough, the reward is a fantastic soundtrack and dollops of power. In the R3, the engine feels right at home and even more so on the racetrack. 

When it comes to the MT-03 though, it feels a little anaemic. Considering the MT-03 is a naked motorcycle that will live in the city for the most part, the tractability could have been better. Maybe different gearing could have helped. On the racetrack, it was not apparent, of course, but the lack of a solid bottom end could be a little nagging in stop-and-go traffic. Even on the highways, one will need to work the gearbox for overtakes. VVA could have fixed it for both motorcycles but they miss out on that. 

Talking about missing out, both the R3 and the MT-03 come without a quickshifter (which is a little sad because it would have gone very well with the engine). Moreover, the lack of a slip-and-assist clutch is even more surprising. Though the clutch is light, it is not the lightest and if you have to modulate a lot, it will get a little tiresome. 

To be honest, these are not (and should not be) dealbreakers because the engine makes up for all of that. The throttle is crisp, the fueling is spot on, the refinement is spectacular, the power delivery is very linear, and as far as we can tell, heat management will not be a problem either because of the engine’s sedate behaviour in lower revs. 42 Ps is a lot of power which makes both, the R3 and the MT-03, very quick motorcycles. Predictably, the R3 has a higher top speed than the MT-03. 

Let us talk about the handling now. Both the motorcycles handle themselves very well. On the straights and in the corners, both are thrilling, engaging, and confidence-inspiring. The chassis is made of telepathy and both of the motorcycles talk to you continuously to make the experience of riding so much better. The R3 and the MT-03 both live up to Yamaha’s high standards when it comes to motorcycle dynamics. 

The suspension is pliant but not so soft that it makes the motorcycles wiggly. In bumpy corners, one might feel a little unsettled but when it comes to smooth tarmac, both of these motorcycles are a revelation. For the most part, the tyres hold both of these motorcycles back a bit. Stickier rubber will make them much better handlers. The basic 298mm front brake with axially mounted callipers also leaves a little to be desired. On the roads, the brakes will work just fine but on a racetrack, both the motorcycles could have used a little more bite. 

In terms of features and electronic aids, you get ABS and that is all. No electronics, a simple LCD, no Bluetooth, no navigation… nothing! This might be a bit of a disappointment but it should not be. Riding any of these two motorcycles will reveal the joy of riding unrestricted and unbothered by tons of electronics trying to keep some degree of control to themselves and not handing them over to the rider. In the realm of organic riding experience, the R3 and the MT-03 both impress equally. 

To finish it off, the Yamaha R3 and the Yamaha MT-03 are fantastic motorcycles. They are usable every day (mostly) and the engine alone makes recommending these two very easy. Simple motorcycles built to perfection and meant to cater to just one thing- an authentic riding experience. Finally, the kicker. Both the R3 and MT-03 will make it to India through the CBU route which makes them… expensive. 

INR 4.65 lakh (Ex-Showroom) for the R3 and INR 4.6 lakh (Ex-Showroom) for the MT-03 is a steep price. The RC390 is almost 1.5 lakh cheaper. Even the Aprilia RS457 is nearly 50 thousand cheaper. Then there’s the RR 310, the G 310 RR, the RTR 310, the G 310 R and the 390 Duke; all cheaper than the Yamaha offerings. Despite that though, the simplicity with which these two bring a smile to our faces has its own charm. And on Charm, there can be no price tag!

And here’s some more eye candy from our time with these two!