2015 Yamaha YZF-R3 | FIRST LOOK

AIMExpo News: Finally, the Ninja 300 Has Some Competition

First Look at the all-new YZF-R3 from AIMEXpo 2014:

From Naked Springs to the track on Yamaha's 2015 R3 with the Texas Tornado Colin Edwards:

Focus on the entry-level market has reached fever pitch this year, with Honda updating and enlarging its smallest CBR, Kawasaki just two years from making the Ninja 250 and much more potent 300, and KTM threatening from the sidelines with the Indian-built RC390.

Bring on the YZF-R3, Yamaha’s first small sportbike in more years than we can remember. It starts with a 320cc parallel-twin engine with a DOHC, four-valve-per-cylinder head, and fuel injection. It has forged pistons, offset cylinders, and a counterbalancer for smoothness. Going big is an important tactic for Yamaha, giving the R3 a 26cc advantage over the Ninja and a 34cc head start on Honda’s single-cylinder CBR300R. Yamaha doesn’t list power, but says it has the “most in class.”

Styling takes cues for the current R1 and R6, and the matte silver/blue version we touched at the show had very good fit and finish. Overall, the R3 looks more substantial than its entry-level intentions would indicate. The instruments include a gear-position indicator.

But the steel-tube frame chassis has been kept compact, with a 30.7-inch seat height and a short reach to the clip-on bars. The saddle is narrow toward the front to further improve leg-over comfort. KYB suspension holds up the 10-spoke aluminum wheels; the shock is adjustable for spring preload. While the sculpted swingarm looks like aluminum, it’s steel.

Claimed wet weight is 368 pounds, 11 pounds up on the Honda single but under the Ninja 300 SE by the same amount. The R3 might pack a few more cubes, but it’s totally price competitive. MSRP is $4,990, which compares favorably with the Kawasaki Ninja 300 SE’s $5,199 and is even within a new iPad of Honda’s CBR300R at $4,399. For now, there’s no ABS version; both Honda and Kawasaki offer ABS versions. Yamaha will have the R3 in showrooms by February.