The first generation R15 had a few things going against it. The high price tag for a 150cc, R1/R6 from the front but under-tyred skinny, unassuming rear but these didnt stop it from becoming the weapon of choice for riders serious about performance riding. It set the base for many riders who have graduated onto bigger machines now. The second generation was to cater to the faction of riders for whom the aesthetic appeal is prime. In the process, the longer wheelbase and fatter rear tyre entirely compromised on what was so likeable about the first version - handling.
Version 3.0 however, has got it all. Cues from the latest YZF-R1 and R6 are evident, making the new R15 look fast even while standing still. Split LED lamps separated by an air-intake, feeding a variable valve timing equipped 155cc engine that promises to match the go with the show.
Although the quality of components seems a tad lower than before, some of the glaring bits being the welding marks on the Deltabox. In spite of this, theres absolutely nothing to fault the design with, its a top-class looker.
This pint-sized 155cc motor has not only grown in capacity from 149.8cc thanks to a 1mm wider bore but also gets more power. 16.3 per cent more to be precise and thats with the help of a larger air-box, 30mm intake port and the new VVA (Variable Valve Actuation) system. Using a solenoid to operate low and high-rpm cams, the VVA system ensures optimal low-end grunt under 7,400rpm while not sacrificing top-end performance at higher rpms.
All this looked good on PowerPoint as we were taken through the product briefing but only a ride on the new motorcycle would settle the anticipation. Rightly enough, the MMRT in Chennai was the chosen proving grounds, just as it was 10 years back when the first R15 was launched. Saddled up, this R15 feels compact yet accommodating.
The arms stretch out to the low-set clip-ons that are placed further from the triple clamp and levelled to it. The feet fall perfectly into place on the rear-set footpegs. The riding position feels committed, possibly a tad too much for the road but perfect for the track.
Theres a noticeable change from earlier in the way the engine builds up revs from a standstill. Theres no lugging in lower rpms and the new VVA system could maintain smoothness in fuelling even in fifth gear while doing 50kmph. Theres ample torque to help with the smooth acceleration. Once past the 7,000rpm mark though, redlining through the gears of the 6-speed transmission, the R15 displays a change of character and comes alive.
Between 7,000 and 10,000 revs, the engine has a lot of go and the rapid pace didnt even warrant the use of the sixth gear.
Throttle response is sharp while the rev limiter at 11,500rpm is soft in its cut-off. Even off throttle transitions inducing engine braking are smooth from higher rpms while downshifts are aided with a slip and assist clutch preventing rear wheel hop. It has to be mentioned that the engine and gearbox have the smoothness thats second to none in its segment.
The braking did leave a little to be desired with the absence of feel and feedback on the lever but the ride quality and handling left us impressed. The 41mm telescopic fork absorbs undulations at high speed swiftly, to not transmit shocks to the rider while even feeling taut around corners. The handling is neutral and forgiving with just a hint of aggressiveness at turn in due to the reduced trail and shorter swingarm. The R15 V3.0 retains stability at its peak velocity and is even easy to flick from side to side at pace.
The handful of laps around the Chennai track left us yearning for more. That alone signifies that even through the years, the R15 retains its charm and want in its third iteration. While a test in road riding conditions will tell us more about commuting with the motorcycle, Yamaha is fully prepared for the varied uses that the bike will see. From track only exhaust and Metzeler rear tyre to frame sliders, USB port and even a skid plate, Yamaha will offer these as optional extras. But the sweetest part of the deal is the price tag that separates it from the competition as a unique offering.