Over the past few years, the small displacement supersport class has grown substantially with the quality of the bikes all improving exponentially.

KTM has been offering the RC390 since 2014 and when it first came out it was something of a revelation, bringing true sportbike attributes to this market segment for the first time since the 250cc baby superbikes dominated the streets back in the 90s. Unlike those machines, the KTM remains genuinely affordable but is certainly not alone, so it came as no surprise that they chose to refresh the bike this year.

Yamaha on the other hand has also had the R3 on the market since 2015, but beat KTM to the punch, refreshing their little supersport back in 2019. Little can separate these two bikes, with both of them offering great value at this end of the market. Although some other capable contenders have emerged, like the more expensive ultra track focussed Kawasaki Ninja ZX-25R and the bigger, more muted Honda CBR500R, these two have emerged as the best all-rounders.

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Yamaha R3 Vs KTM RC 390: Styling

Yamaha-YZF-R3-2
Via yamahamotorsports.com

Although important on a sportbike, styling is always a very subjective sort of topic, with only a few objectively ugly sportbikes out there.

The direction these two manufacturers took could not be more different though, with Yamaha, they already had a template to follow, aligning with the R1, outgoing R6 and the R7 which actually followed them all. Although understated, it looks great, especially if you opt for the 60th anniversary red and white option as opposed to the Yamaha Blue.

KTM does not have a big sportbike in their range, in fact as far as sportbikes go the RC390 is technically their flagship. So it stands to reason that the design team had a little more freedom and that freedom was expressed in a rather strange way. Not everyone will agree, but the current KTM design language favors boldness over just about everything else and the redesign is somewhat disappointing considering the bike it replaced was one of the better looking KTM’s on the market, so as far as design goes, the Yamaha has our vote.

Related: Here's Why The 2021 Yamaha YZF-R3 Is A Great Sportbike For Beginners

Yamaha R3 Vs KTM RC 390: Performance

2022 KTM RC 390 cornering rear view
Via: Press.ktm.com

Neither of these bikes is going out of their way to create huge horsepower, they are designed to fit the needs of newer riders and their power figures reflect that, with the KTM making 47 horsepower from its 373cc single-cylinder mill, 5 more than the 321cc Yamaha parallel twin.

The development budget goes to the chassis and suspension on these two little bikes, after making do for years Yamaha finally updated the front forks of the R3 to upside down KYB made units, a big upgrade. It remains light and nimble at around 370 pounds wet, and the steel trellis frame performs well in the corners, even if the suspension components are pretty much all out of the bargain bin. Unfortunately, it has rather weak brakes and will not inspire all that much confidence on track or canyon roads.

In this respect the KTM has the Yamaha beat all ends up, the WP suspension is more or less best-in-class and its steel trellis chassis is incredibly good, it inspires confidence in any corner, baiting the rider into pushing the bike to its limits. The single makes a little more power but a lot more torque, so you can exit corners a lot faster than on the Yamaha. The RC390 is also the first bike in this segment to get lean-sensitive ABS and mid-corner traction control. It is also a little lighter than the Yamaha and you can enter corners with a lot more confidence than on the Yamaha thanks to some pretty decent brakes, but the Yamaha’s brakes are so bad we suspect some similarly powerful scooters can do the same.

Related: This Is What Makes The 2022 KTM RC390 The Perfect Beginner Sports Bike

Yamaha R3 Vs KTM RC 390: Accessibility

2022 KTM RC 390 side view
Via: Press.ktm.com

For a bike to be truly accessible it needs to have a respectable seat height, it needs to be affordable, and it needs to be appealing.

Both bikes have all those boxes ticked, they also make respectable power that still won’t intimidate anyone. These are really fun bikes and even though the KTM has the Yamaha licked in terms of performance, the Yamaha is still the more refined option. It has a smoother power delivery and will almost certainly prove to be more reliable over time, without losing too many fun factor points.

Of the two, the KTM is definitely the clear winner, it is an aggressive little supersport that delivers more of everything and offers exceptional value. If you can’t stand the looks or want something a little more comfortable, then the Yamaha is a great alternative.

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