If there’s one bike that redefined the 150cc segment in India it has to be the Yamaha R15. When it was first launched ten years ago, it made the Indian riders believe that their 150cc motorcycle could also look like a liter class machine they would drool over. And in combination with  the Japanese company’s technical expertise and quality outputs the bike came out to be a winner. In fact the bike lover didn’t mind paying a premium on it as was evident from its impressive sales. The third generation of the bike launched at the Auto Expo last month again got the bike enthusiasts excited and we finally got a chance to sample it at the Chennai racetrack earlier this week.

Looks

Once again with the new R15 Yamaha’s designers have done a fantastic job as the bike looks as sporty as before if not more. There’s a striking resemblance to the much bigger YZF-R1, something that comes as a huge advantage. The front, the rear all look similar including the sleek twin LED units on the front and the LED tail lights. The fuel tank ( 11 liter capacity) is nicely designed too and the fins on top of it add to a sporty character. The instrumentation also resembles the R1 but alas the quality is nowhere close to the original. But the good thing is that this all digital meter is very functional and gives loads of information, all to aid the biker.  As many as 18 parameters are on display here.

Engine

The new super sports model offers a 155 cc, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, SOHC, 4-valve, fuel-injected engine and that is the biggest change in this version 3.0 of the bike. This thanks to a bigger bore as the earlier bike ran on a 149 cc engine. Power has also gone up significantly and now stands at 19.3 PS @ 10,000 rpm. The earlier bike churned out 16.6 PS @ 8,500 rpm. But what hasn’t changed is the peak torque that still stands at 15Nm. The power has gone up for sure but what comes to the aid of this new R15 in a much bigger way is the introduction of some new technologies that make the ride even better. This includes the variable Valve Actuation (VVA) and that is proudly displayed on the fairing. Yamaha says this system delivers top-end power without sacrificing torquey character in the low to mid-range rpm. While we completely agree the power part low end torque can certainly get better. But one can certainly feel that the system results in linear acceleration and high performance character along with better throttle response. Forged aluminum pistons and DiaSil Cylinders are carried over from the previous generation give durability to the engine. And in the blistering Chennai heat Yamaha found a way to keep the engine cooler as well.  A new warmup method now circulates the coolant within the engine itself and the thermostat opens and allows the coolant to circulate through the radiator. This also allows for faster engine warmup.

The front, the rear all look similar to the YZF-R1 including the sleek twin LED units on the front, and the LED tail lights.

Ride & Handling

There are a couple of things that make the new R15 a bike that handles better than before and the Chennai racetrack was a perfect place to understand this. The seat height has gone up slightly and that has made the rider position more aggressive. And then there are the wider tyres (same as the ones used on the R3) and the wider swingarm that really do the trick. These have made the new R15 into a machine that responds naturally to the riders control perceptions. Coming back to newer technologies used on the bike there’s the Assist & Slipper clutch which helps reduce the weight of the clutch pull and provide a low stress shifting during deceleration. The just means smoother downshifts in the same 6 speed gearbox seen earlier on the bike. A good ground clearance of 170 mm and 139 kg of wet weight also contribute to a better ride. Changed in the telescopic forks on the front and monoshock (stiffer now) on the rear also promise changes for good but that will be seen more once the bike hits bad roads, bumps and potholes. And braking needs to have a relook as it can get better despite the discs on both wheels (no ABS).

Verdict

The R15 set new benchmarks when the bike was first launched in 2008. Ten years later the bike continues to do the same.  For the racing enthusiasts Yamaha is also offering a kit consisting of Metzeler tyre along with Daytona muffler and Frame Slider with the new version. This just means that the bike is now more track worthy as well as road worthy. A price RS. 1.25 lakhs may sound expensive atleast on paper but it it worked to Yamaha’s advantage earlier there’s no reason why the same won’t happen now.

Shams Naqvi is an anchor/producer for the News X motor show Living Cars

 

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