Yamaha knew what the benchmark was when they entered the 250 to 300cc motorcycle category with its Yamaha YZF-R3, and in almost every way they have met or exceeded expectations, ultimately developing a stylish small-displacement sporty motorcycle that is new-rider friendly but with just enough power to keep experience riders entertained as the odometer climbs.
Not only does the Yamaha YZF-R3 look the part, but it also offers up good braking power, super-relaxed ergonomics, and an engine with a little more power than the Kawasaki Ninja 300 at almost all parts of the rev range. Brakes have good power with just a small amount of feel missing in the beginning of the pull, likely a result of Yamaha also using brake pads that don't stimulate newer riders.
Aerodynamics seem to be better than the Kawasaki Ninja 300, which, along with the engine, help during freeway rides, plus the dash is slightly better, offering up a gear position indicator in place of the Kawasaki Ninja 300's useless “Eco” indicator. Unfortunately, the Yamaha's bump in power comes at the expense of additional vibrations through the handlebars and footpegs, plus some heat on the right side of the motorcycle, near the leg area (what I guess can become uncomfortable during longer rides).
Bigger concerns are the non-adjustable (except for rear spring pre-load) suspension and the tires, which combine to zap most of your confidence in the motorcycle the second you try to get aggressive on a twisty road. We'd say you could overlook this, but it Yamaha's FZ-09 big bike taught us anything, it's that poor suspension is not something to pardon.
For newer riders especially, it's important for a motorcycle to instill confidence from the work 'go,' and the Yamaha YZF-R3 is a few updates away from providing that sensation. If you'd like to throw suspension and tires its way, the Yamaha YZF-R3 could be the motorcycle for you, as otherwise its everything we want from a little sportsbike.