Yamaha R15 V4 first ride review: Still the beginner track junkie’s go-to motorcycle?
Say hello to the Yamaha R15 V4! Nope, unlike the last generation, Yamaha hasn’t watered it down for India. Remember how we never got USDs like other markets did? That’s changed! We get the real deal! The bike also brings with it significant design changes and you could easily mistake it for the new R7. Along with that you also get segment-first features like a quickshifter and traction control and with that it has also become the most expensive R15 to date. There are also a bunch of variants to choose from — standard colour schemes where the quickshifter is optional, the Racing Blue colour scheme which we are reviewing that gets all the bells and whistles and the R15M and MotoGP edition colour ways, also fully-loaded. With all these changes, does R15 V4 remain the benchmark of the segment in terms of price to performance? Read on to find out!
Yamaha R15 V4 design
The R15 V4 is a gorgeous looking machine. It gets a redesigned front end and the bike now resembles the bigger R7 and for that, it gets a big thumbs up. The fairing design is more than just a cosmetic update. The bike is now more aerodynamic with a lower drag coefficient and it offers better wind protection too. In the flesh, the motorcycle looks imposing too! Especially if you keep it next to the R15 V3. In the new fairing also sits a new bi-function LED projector headlamp with new DRLs on either side, reminiscent of the ones found on the R7 and R6. This new setup does a great job of illuminating the road ahead of you and I barely found the need to use high-beam.
Start taking a few steps back and the bike starts to look familiar again. It has the same rear section as the R15 V3 and I’m not complaining. The design is cohesive and it works well together, though the pillion seat is still one floor high and your date won’t be particularly happy about that. Now the R15 V4 is available in a few colour schemes, namely Metallic Red, Dark Knight and this Racing Blue variant you see here. The racing blue variant costs around Rs 6000 more than the standard colourway and for that you also get the quickshifter which is standard on the R15M and MotoGP editions.
Yamaha R15 V4 engine
Yamaha has decided not to mess with the engine on the R15 and has stuck with the same 155cc, single-cylinder, liquid-cooled engine that gets VVA. It continues to make 18.1bhp although it does now make its peak torque of 14.1Nm a 1000rpm earlier. Now in terms of performance, the engine is not one that will blow your mind with its acceleration or power delivery. But it definitely is involving to ride. The VVA system works as advertised and helps in giving the bike a wider powerband and that along with the peak torque being delivered slightly earlier makes the bike more forgiving to ride allowing you to carry a gear higher into a corner, while still getting a decent amount of drive out of a corner. The engine continues to be mated to a six-speed gearbox and gets the same slip and assist clutch ensuring a light and easy to operate clutch lever.
Since this is the Racing Blue colour scheme, it gets a quickshifter as standard. It is optional on the standard colour schemes but comes as standard kit for the R15M and MotoGP editions. The quickshifter is not a gimmick. It works above 2000rpm and 20kmph and is rather smooth when shifting higher up in the rev range. The shifts are however slightly clunky if done when the tacho needle is in the lower end of the range so you’ll be better off using the clutch for the slow speed shifts. Continuing with the theme of rider aids, the R15 V4 (all variants) get a traction control system as standard. Thankfully, the system is pretty non-intrusive and you can see the TC indicator light come on if you are a little extra generous with your throttle input on loose surfaces. You can also switch the system off altogether. But it is nice to see manufacturer's spec ‘entry-level’ bikes like the R15 with kit like this, something you’d otherwise only find on significantly higher-performance vehicles.
Yamaha R15 V4 Chassis and handling
The R15 V4 now gets USD forks. Something that was missing on the V3 despite it being standard equipment on the international variants of the same. Now, in theory, a USD setup is bound to work better because the setup is more rigid and less prone to flexing under load, considering the outer tubes are what the triple clap is mounted on. But how does it work? Well, the bike is on the stiffer side to better go with the sporty intent of the bike. This stiffer setup paired with the Deltabox frame that we all know and love is something that you will really appreciate when you take the bike to a race track or to your favourite set of twisties. The bike is quick with direction changes, planted when fully leaned over and knows how to hold a line. Now, despite the suspension setup being set up for sport application, the bike does a good job of soaking up bumps and potholes without sending shocks down your spine.
Now, with the V4, Yamaha has tried to make the bike a little easier to live with. First with the better wind protection and then the clip ons. They have been pushed out and made wider meaning that they are easier to reach and put less strain on your body. This also means that you need to put in less effort to tip the bike into a corner with the added leverage of wider bars. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this is as comfortable as a naked bike, but it is just a touch easier to live with. One thing the bike would certainly benefit from however and this isn’t a costly upgrade either are tank grips. The redesigned tank is nice and roomy and will properly accommodate even taller riders. But the surface is extremely slippery and you can’t hold on to it with your knees for too long without it constantly sliding off. This is where the tank grips would come into play allowing you to better grip the tank and keep your upper body relatively relaxed. But then again this won’t be too expensive a fix what with so many aftermarket solutions available.
Another chink in the R15 V4s armour would be its braking. The front brake seems to have decent initial bite and feedback but over the course of a few kilometres, you lose quite a bit of your braking performance thanks to brake fade and the feel at the lever starts to become rather spongy. Even the ABS kicks in a little earlier than I would like.
Yamaha R15 V4 features
Now in terms of features, the bike comes with a new instrument cluster that displays more information and also gets a dedicated track mode that showcases things like a lap timer and a tachometer that starts at 6000rpm just like the flagship — The Yamaha R1. The cluster is now also Bluetooth enabled allowing you to pair your smartphone for notifications and such. The Yamaha link app also shows your information like last parked location and bike health history which is nice but the bike does miss out on turn-by-turn navigation which is something Yamaha could have added. Interestingly the buttons to toggle through the different readouts and to switch between Street and Track mode are mounted on the handlebar instead of on the cluster itself. Neat feature, this.
Apart from this, the bike gets features like the quickshifter, traction control and the new LED headlamp unit. But it still doesn’t get LED indicators as standard. Which is definitely a miss.
Yamaha R15 V4 verdict
Talking about price, the Yamaha R15 V4 is a solid update that brings a lot of worthwhile upgrades to the table, bits like USD forks, a quick shifter, traction control and modern styling. All this for anywhere between Rs 10-15 thousand more than the V3 depending on which variant you get (The Racing Blue R15 V4 costs Rs 1.75 lakh ex-showroom). For all the extra goodies you get on the bike I feel that the premium Yamaha is demanding for the V4 is justified. The bike also sits in a sweet spot between the KTM RC 125 and KTM RC 200. So in that sense, the Yamaha R15 V4 is a great buy and still remains a great tool to hone your track riding skills, and one that is uncompromising on the performance front.