Yamaha YZF-R3 vs Kawasaki Ninja 300 vs KTM RC390: Comparison Review

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  • Dec 23, 2015
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A bit late to join the party, can the Yamaha YZF-R3 hold fort against two extremely able competitors – the Kawasaki Ninja 300 and the KTM RC 390.


Yamaha YZF-R3 vs Kawasaki Ninja 300 vs KTM RC390



If you plan to make a purchase in the entry-level performance bike segment so far you had the Kawasaki Ninja 300 and the KTM RC390. The Ninja 300 has earned the reputation of being a reliable, well built, and refined offering in this class. The KTM RC390, on the other hand, has an edge in terms of affordability and equipment. Yamaha had been absent from this till the recent past when they introduced the YZF-R3. So what does this one bring to the table and is it enough to beat its rivals in discussion here? We spend a day riding on the ghats of Amby Valley to find out.



YZF-R3 vs Ninja 300 vs RC390



Design and Features: 

Yamaha YZF-R3: rating_4.0_rating

Kawasaki Ninja 300: rating_4.0_rating 

KTM RC390: rating_4.0_rating

Choosing one out of the three purely in terms of design is a tough task. The KTM RC390 sports an edgy design, with that angry bird-like front and the cowl-looking pillion seat. Adding to the overall design are those orange highlights all around – on the frame, alloy wheels and some more bits on the fairing. Although not as sharp as the the RC390, the Yamaha YZF-R3 manages to look young and aggressive. My personal favorite design elements on the R3 were the old R6-inspired headlight and the stubby exhaust. The large and curvy tank adds to the overall appeal of the bike. Of the three, the Kawasaki Ninja 300 is the only one to sport a matured look. Inspired by the ZX-10R, the baby Ninja gets sharp lines flowing right from the front fairing to the rear panel. However, the large green fairing would have looked a lot more attractive had it got mild graphics on it. 



Yamaha YZF-R3, Kawasaki Ninja 300 and KTM RC390



In terms of features, the RC390 tops the list with the Ninja 300 and the R3 following respectively. Starting from upside down forks, fully digital instrumentation, ABS to projector type headlamps with DRLs, the RC390 gets a long list of features. The list of features on the Ninja 300 and the YZF-R3 is relatively short. The most substantial feature on the Kawasaki offering is the addition of a slipper clutch. The Yamaha on the other hand gets an extremely informative instrument cluster that displays fuel efficiency apart from the standard speedo, tacho and two trip meters.

Yamaha YZF-R3 engine

Engine and performance: 

Yamaha YZF-R3: rating_4.0_rating

Kawasaki Ninja 300: rating_3.5_rating 

KTM RC390: rating_3.5_rating

In terms of design and features all three motorcycles are on par, but when it comes to engine and performance the battle gets a bit more intense. With the engine at the core of all motorcycles in this class, each of the three offerings brings something unique to the table. Let’s start with the oldest then. 


The Kawasaki Ninja 300 sports a 296cc parallel twin unit. All of the 39 horses of power is delivered extremely smoothly. Although the peak power comes as high as 11,000rpm, you don't quite need to push it right up to the red line to extract its best. Thanks to a strong mid-range and a well disposed 27Nm of torque the Ninja feels comfortable at any speed. However, the only downside that the Ninja 300 has is its 172kg weight. While it makes the least power and torque in relation to its competition, it is also the heaviest of the lot and it shows. 



KTM RC390 engine



The KTM RC390  is exactly the other end of the spectrum compared to the Ninja. To start with, although it’s a 373cc single-cylinder unit, it makes the most power and torque in this comparison. Consider its 44PS and 35Nm rating, and its 159kg weight, it doesn't come as a surprise that it is the fastest among the three. Acceleration aside, it is the least refined of the lot. Being a single pot-unit, the engine feels rough and is quite vibey too. 



Kawasaki Ninja 300 engine



In terms of specifications, the Yamaha R3 falls exactly between the RC390 and the Ninja 300. It sports a 321cc parallel twin unit that makes 42PS and 29.6Nm. Figures aside, the R3 also manages to find the best of both worlds. It accelerates faster than the Ninja 300 and is considerably more refined than the RC390. What really impressed us was the R3’s mid-range that ensures you don't quite have to work the gears while making an overtaking maneuver.



KTM RC390 handling



Ride, Handling and Braking: 

Yamaha YZF-R3: rating_4.0_rating

Kawasaki Ninja 300: rating_3.5_rating 

KTM RC390: rating_4.0_rating

Thanks to the 159kg weight and the super sticky Metzeler tyres, the RC390 is unarguably the most fun to ride motorcycle on a twisty road. Show it a series of bends and the RC390 takes them on as enthusiastically as a kid running towards an ice cream truck. While the stiff suspension gives it great handling dynamics, it steals ride comfort off it. Being on the stiffer side, the suspension is too harsh to be ridden on the kind of roads we have in the city. Keeping in mind that it has ABS and Metzeler rubber, the RC390 is super impressive in terms of braking. 



Yamaha YZF-R3 handling



When compared to the the Ninja 300, the Yamaha R3 has a marginally softer setup that give it superb ride quality. What further helps its cause is the riding posture. Thanks to handlebars that are relatively taller and forward-set foot pegs, the R3 gets feels extremely comfortable to ride. That is not to say that it can’t take on a series of bends. Although it won't be as confident as the RC390, it is almost on par with the Ninja 300 if not better. 



Kawasaki Ninja 300 handling



While the RC takes the cake in handling and the R3 in terms of ride quality, the Ninja 300 falls behind in both. It's neither as comfortable as the R3 nor an enthusiastic corner carver as the RC390. In fact, thanks to its weight the Ninja 300 also falls behind in terms of braking. One thing common between the Ninja 300 and the R3 is the need for better tyres. 



Yamaha YZF-R3 Ride



Living with it:

Yamaha YZF-R3: rating_4.0_rating

Kawasaki Ninja 300: rating_3.5_rating 

KTM RC390: rating_2.5_rating

Most people who buy this kind of motorcycles not only use it for leisure rides but also for their daily commute. And that is exactly the reason why this it is important to consider this aspect before making the purchase. 


The RC390 scores the least in this mainly due to the track-focused riding posture, the hard seats and the engine that heats up swiftly. Although the Ninja 300 isn't as aggressive as the RC, it isn't as comfortable as the R3. The Yamaha offering offers phenomenal comfort for city rides as well as long distance cruising. 



Yamaha YZF-R3 vs Kawasaki Ninja 300 vs KTM RC390 rear




Yamaha YZF-R3: rating_4.0_rating

Kawasaki Ninja 300: rating_3.0_rating 

KTM RC390: rating_3.5_rating

All things considered, now it all boils down to the price. The Kawasaki Ninja 300 is the most expensive of the three at Rs 3.75 lakh. The Yamaha YZF-R3 has been priced at Rs 3.42 lakh and the KTM RC390 is the cheapest of the lot at Rs 2.18 lakh (all prices ex-showroom, Mumbai). 


Even after spending an entire day with these three motorcycles, it is difficult to pick the best one of the lot. Like I said at the beginning of the review, each of these motorcycles brings something unique to the table. Although the Ninja has the most refined engine of the lot and has a good ride-handling balance, it loses out in terms of its pricing. Meanwhile, keeping in mind that the R3 offers a great combination of ride, handling, performance and looks, it steals the title in this comparison. However, if the 3.42 lakh price tag of the R3 is too much for you the RC390 is quite a good second option to consider too.