2020 Yamaha YZF-R15 Review
Motorcycle Test by Wayne Vickers – Images Rob Mott
I’ve been spending some time on a few of the smaller offerings of late. Having ridden Yamaha’s MT03 (Link) and more recently I was thrown the keys to the tuning fork mob’s latest little jigger, the YZF-R15.
We don’t have the history in Australia with this model, but Yamaha’s third iteration of the ‘R-15’ brings some solid updates over the previous models. It’s clearly intended to give Yamaha dealers something to compete with things like Honda’s CB125. And it’s hard to deny that this has a lot more flair. But can it back it up?
Well, it certainly looks the biz. Clearly some resemblances to its bigger brothers for those more sportily inclined amongst us. Styling wise it cuts a fine figure. Lots of nice touches. A familiar looking Deltabox frame and slightly larger swingarm to house a bigger 140 section rear tyre compared to the old model. Even the tail unit looks like the R1 setup – albeit smaller and with thinner plastics. Probably best to not compare them side by side, but in isolation it’s a pretty bloody good thing. Paint finish is nice too, and I rate the ‘Thunder Grey’ colour scheme – I’ve always had a thing for red, grey, silver or black though. Other than my current Tiger (which is white) and my race bikes – all of my bikes have been either red, grey, silver or black – or a combo of them all. I’ve only just realised that. Maybe I’m too predictable.
The riding position is sporty but not uncomfortable. New riders won’t feel like they’re too far forward on their hands and it will allow them to explore the bike’s potential as they improve their skills. It actually steers surprisingly well for a bike that’s sub 5 grand new! The seat itself isn’t bad either – and the suspension does a decent job of soaking up bumps.
Controls are all quite simple and traditional. Clutch (a slipper!) and brake feel is good, and the box does its job. Single twin caliper disc up front does a reasonable job of pulling things up – and while that might seem light on in terms of power compared to bigger bikes, remember that this thing only weighs a little over 130 kilos.. And isn’t going to be slowing from big speeds. You’ll see the shift light come on in top gear at about 135 km/h if you have a long enough straight. And some assistance from a downhill or tail wind.
The thing that I didn’t really gel with personally is the engine. While it’s new variable valve actuation (VVA – think Honda Vtec, but different) might have seen a 20 per cent increase in power over the previous model with it now churning out 18 horsepower, it comes with a mechanical engine noise that’s not especially pleasant to my ears at least. You could be generous and call it character perhaps? You do sort of get used to it… but it doesn’t feel refined at all. Maybe the exhaust needs to be louder to drown it out 🙂
While the fuelling is also not fabulous – you don’t really notice it all that much at that sort of power level as you generally just smash the throttle open, but it could do with some work – needs saying. Powerwise, well it does ok from a 150 cc single but it’s no race engine. Yamaha have made some updates to improve breathing and output compared to the older model, but it still doesn’t really like going up hills at speed very much – you’ll get used to pedalling the box, which in itself is no bad thing. It is kinda fun keeping the little mill on the boil. Its happy enough to rev.
Handling wise it’s fun enough to punt along. Everything gels together pretty well. You forget how much corner speed you can hold on a bike that weighs around 130 kilos… It certainly teaches you to maintain momentum. It’s actually good fun and a bit of a giggle. Suspension and brakes seem up to it with no obvious weaknesses there.
Nice dash too. Simple. Easy to read. But like a few other bikes I’ve tested lately – no engine temp? Is that a thing now? Apparently you can customise the ‘Hi Buddy’ greeting so it says your name on start up too which is kinda fun. You’d have to mess with your mates bike and change that wouldn’t you..? Surely I’m not the only one that thinks that way 🙂
Apparently this is the number one selling sports bike on the planet. Sure – that’s mostly in markets where they aren’t competing against bigger sportsbikes, but there’ no doubt that Yamaha considered that and the audience that it already has when deciding to bring it in.
It will be interesting to see how the new YZF-R15 sells compared to the YZF-R3, the latter being the slightly bigger brother with a much nicer engine. That price though… less than 5 grand. For a new road bike with a factory warranty? Hard to argue against. Amazing value.
Final word, indulge me for a moment – Once upon a time (30 years ago!) Yamaha built a four cylinder FZR250RR that made 45 hp and revved to 17 thousand rpm or thereabouts. I nearly bought one as my first bike, but ended up with Honda’s gull-arm CBR250RR pocket rocket – and yes it was black and silver with red wheels. What a great little screamer it was too. I put nearly a hundred thousand kays on mine before trading up. Imagine what they could do now if they had a real crack at it… And it’d be a proper YZF-R. I know the market is different now, but still. With an emerging market in places like India for this smaller capacity stuff, is now the time to revisit the past and see just how much performance you can get from a proper 250 or 300 race rep that could sell in numbers? I hope so. Would make a great entry level proddy bike class platform and give KTMs RC390 a rival…
Why I like it:
- Pretty amazing value really
- Decent controls and handling
- Fairly well finished for the money
I’d like it more if:
- It had a better engine – that engine noise is not nice
- Make it a real YZF-R for our markets, with the focus on performance
- Or just bring in the MT15 as your entry level bike
2020 Yamaha YZF-R15 Specifications
|Engine||155 cc single, SOHC, four-valve|
|Bore x Stroke||58 x 58.7 mm|
|Maximum Power||18 hp at 10,000 rpm|
|Maximum Torque||14.1 Nm at 8500 rpm|
|L x W x H||1990 x 725 x 815 mm|
|Tyres||100/80-17 (F), 140/80-17 (R)|
|Brakes||282 mm (F), 220 mm (R) – No ABS|
|Seat height||815 mm|
|Front suspension||Forks with 130 mm of travel|
|Rear suspension||Monoshock, 97 mm of travel|
|Fuel capacity||11 litres|
|Kerb weight||138 kg|
|RRP||$4799 ride away|