Yamaha is responsible for rolling out India's first supersport motorcycle in the 150cc segment and this was the beginning of a new class of motorcyclist – one that was not just looking for a commuter – one that was willing to buy a 150cc for a slightly higher price tag because it promised sports performance and design. The R15 has been in the Indian motorcycle market for years, has seen a couple of generation changes and no doubt is a success story for Yamaha India. We're most thankful for the fact that with the R15, 150cc motorcycles were considered to be capable of being something more than just a thrifty commuter. Now, Yamaha aims to recreate a similar storyline for the streetfighter sibling of the R15 – Yamaha MT-15. But will it?
Unveiled first in Thailand in October 2018, Yamaha MT-15 created quite a buzz over its arrival in India over the months. And why wouldn't it? We knew it would be based on the R15, so we knew we'll get to ride a well-performing motorcycle because the R15 has proven itself already. Besides, it would carry the MT nameplate, which holds value like of the R of the R15 or the R1.
The MT-15 obviously takes after the larger MT series motorcycles like the MT-09. So, it gets a frowny face with a split set up for the DRL and a projector headlamp underneath. The lines and edges all over do look nice. However, I would say the plastic quality and the switchgear could've been better as it is on the R15. The baby MT only gets a neon highlight around the alloys, unlike the international-spec MT-15 which had neon coloured alloy wheels. We would've liked to have neon alloys here in India, but that would add to the price.
By now you know that Yamaha MT-15 is based on the R15, so its the same engine and chassis. But what are the differences? It is a streetfighter so there's no fairing, you sit much more upright compared to the R15, you sit lower since the seat height is slightly less, and the engine has been tuned for better low and mid range performance.
Since the MT-15 has lost the fairing so it's lost some weight as well and this shows in how it handles. We test rode it on the Budh International Circuit, and the MT-15 was rather quick in switching directions on corners. The ride dynamics with the riding posture, and how light it feels on the handlebar will allow novice riders to enjoy a motorcycle with a sporty disposition.
The MT-15's suspension setup is the same as the R15 with conventional forks up front and a monoshock at the rear. I'll refrain from commenting upon how much does the suspension contribute to how comfortable it is yet, but the setup gels alright with track riding and is stiff – but only enough. Use this bike right and it can help you learn a thing or two.
Since we've visited the subject of comfort – the seat cushion isn't all that soft. It wasn't much of a bother on a race track, but on the streets, it could get a little uncomfortable. While short riders will love the riding stance on the MT-15 and I was too at 5.5 feet. But taller ones may feel cramped.
The gearshifts on the Yamaha MT-15 are expectantly very smooth and it gets six of them. However, it does tend to lose some punch in the higher gears. But having said that, even if you slow down even in the fourth gear, the engine does not start to knock as you open the throttle again.
Braking on the MT-15, with a single disc on both ends, is proper. The bite from the rear brake is quite crisp, considering it is a rear brake. The front one, however, felt a tad too hard. The single-channel ABS (anti-lock braking system) responds well without intruding the ride much.
The overall package called the Yamaha MT-15 is an impressive one. It handles very well, will be more comfortable than the R15, and looks good too. The only niggling thing is the price tag. It isn't all that smaller than the R15 and is substantially higher than the FZ25 in Yamaha's own product portfolio. And then, there is the competition with lesser price.
During the launch of the MT-15, we were told that the target audience for the baby MT were 'young males living in metros'. Well, I'm not a male specimen of the human race and I did like the MT-15 very much - just saying.