It is a brilliant package but still has room for improvement
I am one of those individuals who prefer substance over style. That goes for my clothes too. Where others look at the cool print on a cotton shirt, I focus on the thread count, comfort and fit. It's a practical train of thought that's a constant source of irritation for my wife who gravitates toward the stylish end of the spectrum. That's why she likes the Yamaha R15 V4 more and I the MT-15. And I reckon the new MT-15 in its 2.0 avatar catches up with the R15's styling with its cool colour schemes but not without a proper dose of substance. Let's get into the shiny bits first.
The MT-15 is easily one of the best looking motorcycles in the sub-250, even sub-300cc segment. So I am glad that Yamaha has not tinkered with the bodywork but instead used cool liveries from its larger MT models. I particularly like this grey/cyan combo that I first saw on the new MT-09. Called Cyan Storm, it blends well with the motorcycle's sharp lines and stands out. The new golden upside down fork amps up the premium quotient but more on that later. It still looks fantastic, with its minimalistic bodywork and radical looking LED projector headlamp with LED DRL eyebrows. It has quirky bits too, like the tubular grab rail that extends from the pillion footpeg mounts, or the number plate holder that's longer than the tiny pillion seat!
As expected from Yamaha, fit and finish levels and paint quality are top-notch. However, I am disappointed with the basic switchgear that seems lifted off a 100cc motorcycle parts bin. It is no match to the R15 V4's high-quality switchgear. Even the reverse backlit instrument console is dated and feels basic compared to the R15's unit. Another missed opportunity there. It does get Bluetooth connectivity which shows call and message alerts on the dashboard but skips out on navigation.
The motor too has been tinkered with, the 155cc liquid-cooled motor now makes 18.4PS (0.1PS lower than before) and 14.1Nm (0.2Nm more). This motor has been one of the most technologically advanced motors in the sub 500cc segment and has impressed with its tractability thanks to the VVT technology. It now impresses me even more! You can potter around town at speeds as slow as 20-30kmph in high gear and the motor pulls cleanly without clatter. Add to that the light clutch action, and the MT-15 is one effortless commuter. However, I feel that the update has robbed the motor of its peppy nature. While the previous motor was an eager puppy, the new one feels restrained, especially when you give it the beans. The low bottom end grunt means you have to keep the rev counter north of 6,000rpm to speed up progress. This has you pin the throttle open most of the time.
Out on the highway, the feeling is amplified and to overtake, you have to shift down a gear or two. The motor is fairly refined with a few vibes creeping up at higher revs.
Coming to the party piece, the MT-15 finally gets R15-spec underpinnings in the form of upside-down forks and a cast aluminium swingarm. The MT-15 has always been an agile and sweet-handling motorcycle and its compact dimensions and upright riding position make it almost as fun as a supermoto. While the familiar handling traits are retained, the upside-down forks offer a feeling of stability at the front and allow you to push the bike harder in corners without worry.
The ride quality is on the firmer side and given the laughably tiny pillion seat, I would not bother taking a pillion on the MT-15 so it does not worry me much.
While the new suspension setup impresses, Yamaha has dropped the ball in the braking department. The previous generation motorcycle skipped out on dual-channel ABS and this one too continues to use a single-channel ABS setup. While the front disc brake offers a good bite, it could do with more feedback. The rear disc offers almost no feedback and it is very easy to inadvertently lock up the rear under panic braking situations.
Overall, the MT-15 remains highly accessible to novice riders given its featherweight frame, narrow seat and compact dimensions.
With prices starting at Rs 1.62 lakh, the new Yamaha MT-15 V2.0 costs close to Rs 15,000 more than its previous iteration. While the new motorcycle does get significant updates, it continues to miss out on a lot of kit from its faired cousin the most glaring of which is dual-channel ABS. That said the MT-15 comes across as a premium 150cc motorcycle that besides offering a premium ride experience should keep college-goers engaged for a longer time and is still a viable alternative to the more expensive KTM 125 Duke. The lack of poke from the motor and the potential in the MT-15's package has me yearn for the MT-03 even more. As for the wife, she seems to like the MT-15 V2.0