Yamaha R3 vs KTM RC390 vs Kawasaki Ninja 300 – Road Test Preview

In the past few years, riders wanting an entry level sportsbike had to choose between the Honda CBR250R and the Ninja 250. Now, in addition to those two bikes (which are still sold in some markets), newbies can get their bigger brothers, the CBR300R and Ninja 300 and very soon they’ll be able to swing a leg over what will potentially be the best of the lot – the all new Yamaha R3 and KTM RC390.

The Ninja 300, R3 and RC390 offer the biggest capacity and power for riders in countries that have licensing restrictions for learners. Therefore, these three bikes will most likely attract the most buyers who want as much performance as they’re legally allowed to have while on bike restrictions.

Of the three bikes, we’ve only ridden the baby Ninja (in a test against the CBR300R in which we favored the Kawasaki). The RC390 hasn’t made it to the United States yet and the Yamaha R3 isn’t available anywhere until around March next year.

But with prices and specifications available we can already begin to see how the market is going to be pan out. Yamaha is clearly looking to dominate Honda and Kawasaki after coming so late to the party. The R3 has more horsepower than the Ninja and weighs less. In worse news for Kawasaki, the Yamaha R3 does all this while costing slightly less than the Ninja 300 ($4,990 for the R3 and $4,999 for the Ninja or $5,299 with ABS)

There’s one critical flaw the R3, though. For some reason that to us defies all reasoning and common sense, Yamaha Motorcycles USA has decided not to offer the R3 with ABS – even as an option. A motorcycle aimed squarely at new riders and you can’t even pay extra for ABS? In our view, ABS should be standard on learner bikes, but to not even offer it as an option borders on negligent in our view. We’ve contacted Yamaha to inquire why this is the case and will update accordingly.

We’ve banged on about the importance of ABS before and the science clearly shows its beneficial. Thankfully, KTM have done the sensible thing and are releasing the RC390 with ABS as standard. Costing $5,499, it’s obviously the most expensive of all the learner sportsbikes, but for that extra money you’re getting a lot. Firstly, the KTM pumps out 43 hp from it’s 373cc single cylinder engine. The Ninja and R3, both two cylinders output 39 and 42 hp respectively. Not much in it really, but the RC390 weighs 340 lb wet – a massive 43 lb less than the NInja 300 and a still impressive 28 lb less than the R3. That will make a big difference to performance. The KTM RC390 also provides slightly more powerful brakes and on paper at least, better suspension.

Of the three bikes, the RC390 is definitely the more aggressive, with the R3 offering the most relaxed riding position. In fact, the Yamaha R3 is probably more similar to the CBR300R in dimension and style, just with more grunt. Both the R3 and RC390 will be available early in the new year and we’ll bring you a full review of them soon thereafter. In the interim, have a look over the full specifications below.


KTM RC390Kawasaki Ninja 300 ABSYamaha R3
Engine Type373.2 cc single296cc 4 stroke, parallel twin321cc 4 stroke, parallel twin
Bore And Stroke89 mm × 60 mm62 mm x 49 mm68 mm x 44 mm
InductionBosch EFI (throttle body 46 mm)32 mm x 2 keihin with dual throttle valveTCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Compression Ratio1:12.510.6:111.2:1
Valve TrainDOHC, 4 ValvesDOHC, 8 valvesDOHC, 8 Valves
Horsepower44 hp @ 9,500 rpm38.89 hp @ 11,000 rpm42 hp @ 10,750 rpm
Torque25.81 lb ft @ 7,250 rpm19.91 lb ft @ 10,000 rpm21.18 lb ft @ 9,000
Drive Train
Chassis / Suspension / Brakes
Front SuspensionWP-USD Ø 43 mm37 mm telescopic fork41mm KYB telescopic fork
Rear SuspensionWP-MonoshockUni Trak with gas charged shock and 5-way preloadKYB single shock
Front BrakeSingle 300 mmSingle 290 mmSingle 298 mm
Rear BrakeSingle 230 mmType Single 220 mm petal discSingle 220 mm
Front Tire110/70Z R17110/70-17 M/C 54S110/70-17M/C 54H
Rear Tire150/60ZR17140/70-17 M/C 66S140/70-17M/C 66H
Rake23.5 degrees27 degrees25 degrees
Trail98mm (3.9 inches)93mm (3.66 inches)94mm (3.7 inches)
Wheelbase53 inches55.31 inches54.3 inches
Seat Height32 inches30.9 inches30.7 inches
Wet Weight340 lb383 lb368 lb
Fuel Capacity3.4 gallons4.5 gallons3.7 gallons
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  • edward

    i love the ktm but it dosnt fit into any wera race class there are 300cc dual but not a 375cc singloe class

    • Ikjot Singh

      Well many brands like ktm and ducati only use single/win or twin cylinders respectively. What they do is make their motorcycles engines of more cc than the segment and try to reduce the no of cylinders. For example , one of the main segments in motorcycles are 1000cc 4 cylinders, so what ducati does is take away two cylinders and add 200cc {1000+200=1200cc}.This might not make the engine produce as much hp as a 1000 inline four but it reduces the weight, so the ducati weighs about 160kgs. Thats almost less than a honda cbr 250 which is a single 250cc engine.

      Another example for 600cc class
      1.600cc inline 4s- cbr600rr, r6,gsxr-6,zx-636r
      2.Triumph daytona 675 (3 cylinder)
      3.Ducai 848 (2 cylinder)
      4.(upcoming)ktm rc790 (2 cylinder)

      This principle may not give an equivalent top speed to the other bikes in the segment (like 600) but reduce weight and give a better acceleration and hairpin speed( in short words lightwieght, fast and better turning speeds)

      So the ktm rc390 follows this concept and has the best power to weight ratio in this class.

  • kravin moorehead

    hey man the rc390 is way more serious than all the others in this segment,the Honda cbr 300 great bike,should not be in the conversation.The Ninja barley can hang on,the story here is the grunt of the single 390cc vs the twin 321cc,not just on paper,the KTM is better all around,lighter, stronger,and yes more comfortable.