When news of the 2017 BMW Motorrad G 310 R first broke, punters around the world sat up and took notice, for this is the first sub-500 cc BMW bike in almost 40 years. After some fits and starts, plus rumours and innuendo, the G 310 R is finally on Malaysian shores, at a head-turning price of RM26,900.

But, what is BMW’s intention in marketing such a small capacity machine, considering it has been, for the last four decades or so, been producing premium sports-tourers, luxury touring bikes, super bikes and adventure machines? For one thing, the rider demographic around the world is changing, and the current crop of motorcycle riders is ageing rapidly, especially in first world countries.

For another, the emerging economies of Asia have seen a burgeoning middle-class, with the commensurate spending power. For the young rider in these markets, a basic kapchai or scooter will not suffice, or perhaps to fulfil the need to show that such a rider can afford a “proper” motorcycle.

So, to tap into this as yet unexplored area for BMW Motorrad, a tie-up with Indian manufacturing concern TVS was initiated, and the first fruit of this labour is the G 310 R. Some BMW fan-boys and purists might ask, “is it still a real BMW Motorrad?”

To find out the answer, BMW Motorrad Malaysia invited paultan.org to the 2017 BMW Motorrad Nightfuel event in Penang, and along the way, allowed us a crack at the new R nineT Urban G/S and R nineT Racer. But, the one we were there to ride, and find out what was what, was the G 310 R.

It is no secret that the author finds small motorcycles fun to ride, despite what some in the industry might say. There is a lot to like about a lightweight two-wheeler that moves in an interesting manner.

In this respect, when we were handed the keys to the G 310 R, we had high hopes. With engineering by BMW and manufacturing by TVS, what was not to like in this package?

For a start, both riders and non-riders were taken with the looks of the G 310 R. While not breaking new ground in the styling stakes, the G 310 R has balanced proportions, and a striking paint job in BMW Motorsport colours.

On the first approach, the G 310 R certainly appeared full-sized, and when it was parked next to the author’s Street Triple, it was actually a touch taller at the tank, and wider with it. However, dropping into the 785 mm saddle showed it exhibited a certain rider-friendliness for the Asian physique.

If you’re used to the racer stance of BMW Motorrad’s ‘S’-series track weapons, or the nose-bleedingly high seat of the big GS-series adventure bikes, there is none of that here.

Flat-footing easily with our 168 cm height, we reached forward for the handlebars, and found the reach to be, well, not short, but comfortable for a normal street riding position. However, the design of the G 310 R places the rider in a deep pocket between the fuel tank and the rear seat hump, and we wondered if this was going to be an issue during high-speed work.

Seeking to find out, we started up the G 310 R, lighting up the monochrome LCD instrument panel, and bringing the 313 cc, 34 hp/28 Nm, liquid-cooled thumper to life. The G 310 R sounds like a typical single-cylinder machine, with a muted thump-thump-thump coming from the engine room.

Pulling in the clutch, very little effort required here, we clicked the gearbox into first. Throw on the gear lever is short, and while it exhibited the occasional “clunk” noise, especially in upper gears, gear engagement was precise, save for the occasional hunt for neutral at the stop light.

In all six-gears, though, engagement was precise and we did not have a single missed shift during the time we had the G 310 R. Clicking through the gears, the G 310 R proved to be very sprightly, and rapidly wound up to its near 10,000 rpm redline.

As we paced the baby BMW thumper on the toll highway, we found that the engine torque and gearing was a near perfect match, especially at highway speeds. Roll-on torque for quick over-taking was almost instantaneous, and the engine never bogged down, provided it was in the right range.

Lower speed riding around town and in heavy traffic made being in the right gear imperative, as there was not a lot grunt lower down in the rev range. Keep things boiling at 7,000 rpm or so and you’ll be right.

As we blasted down the highway, winding the throttle open at clear stretches, there was enough speed from the engine to easily break the speed limit, and then some. While you’re not going to be keeping up with any multi-cylinder machines, the G 310 R had enough go to comfortably consume the distance between Penang to Kuala Lumpur in a little over four hours, despite the weekend traffic.

This did take a heavy toll on the 11-litre tank though, as we zapped through a full tank across in a little over 180 km with the little orange light coming on, throttle to the stop. We would think something closer to about 350 km in range would be the norm for most riders.

Doing such a speed run on the G 310 R, we naturally needed to tuck in a little, and get our chin on the tank. This is where the slightly smaller size of the G 310 R showed itself.

While the sloped rear of the fuel tank allowed the rider to get down, the pronounced hump of the pillion seating made placing the rider’s rear end further back a little difficult. However, we made the best of what we had, and in that respect, we found the G 310 R a fairly able highway cruiser, at about 130 km/h.

If you’re not in that much of a rush, then the bike works fine, and we did our run with a backpack filled with video and camera gear, including a laptop. But this raised another issue, one of vibration.

We accept that all single-cylinder engines will vibrate – it is inherent in the design. In the case of the G 310 R, the vibration became more pronounced at about 75 km/h, but settled down at 120 km/h before coming back in the higher reaches of the rev range.

Calming things down a little, we took the G 310 R for a roam around city streets, and in this environment, it performed well. Light and nimble, the G 310 R’s 158 kg weight helped in this regard, along with the (not too wide) handlebars, making nipping in and around traffic a breeze.

We noted that the G 310 R came fitted with Michelin rubber on the 17-inch wheels, and we liked them. While not as supremely grippy as proper race rubber, there was enough feedback from the contact patch to let us corner the G 310 R with confidence, either at low or high speed.

Diving into corners, the lightness of the G 310 R’s steering made this a no-effort manoeuvre, but be aware that with lightness comes a certain amount of twitchiness. Relax, do not over-control the handlebars, and you will be fine.

Braking on the G 310 R is by Brembo, using its cost-conscious Bybre brand on single discs front and rear, with two-channel ABS as standard. Suspension is with upside-down non-adjustable forks in front, while a 10-position pre-load adjustable monoshock can be found at the rear.

We found the braking on the G 310 R to be slightly above average, with lever effort at the sturdy cast alloy lever being smooth and progressive. As for the suspension, the spring rate for the author was almost perfect, but putting a pillion in the back caused the G 310 R to sag noticeably.

Coming back to the looks, we found it to be quite stylish, as mentioned earlier, and even non-bikers were taken by its lines. There is a certain amount of cost-cutting going on though, when we examined the G 310 R a little closer.

Absent is any form of DRL, and except for the tail light, there are no LED lights to be found, with lighting being an all-halogen bulb affair. On the tank, plastic covers are used to give the G 310 R its styling lines, with the metal fuel tank hiding underneath.

Not a new trick, of course, and one that allows manufacturers to produce several different model types using a “generic” tank. In any case, despite some signs of building to a budget, the rest of the G 310 R exhibited a quality of build we have come to expect from BMW.

A case in point is the frame welding, which is neat and splatter-free, while the swing arm stay is concealed with a proper metal cover, not a plastic piece as is typically found in lower-end machines. The pillion grab rail is a proper cast alloy piece as well, and includes slots for strap-on luggage and bungee cords.

Inside the cockpit, we found the LCD readout to be glare-free and legible. While some of the wording is a little hard to read due to the thinness of the font, the numbers are suitably large.

The G 310 R is a little oddity in the Malaysian market though, as are other 300 cc machines like the Kawasaki Ninja 300, and before it was discontinued, the Benelli TnT 300. Due to local licensing regulations, Malaysian riders will have either a B2 license, with a 250 cc limit, or a B-full, which is unrestricted – less common is the B1, with a 500 cc limit.

What this means is that any rider wanting the baby Motorrad will need a B-full license. No, we do not recommend running around on the G 310 R with a B2 – it invalidates your insurance for one thing, and you would be breaking the law.

Where does that leave the G 310 R? In the quarter-litre class, there are a multitude of choices for the rider. These include the KTM 250 Duke – due to have the 2017 model released in Malaysia soon, along with the Kawasaki Ninja 250 SL and the Benelli TnT 25.

That we are comparing the G 310 R to the current crop of 250 cc motorcycles available locally is no accident, as the disparity between the G 310 R and the KTM Duke 390 is too wide, a difference of 90 cc as opposed to 50 cc. Thus, being in the quarter-litre class, makes the G 310 R something of a premium product, as 250 cc singles go. The premium is obvious, with the 2017 BMW Motorrad G 310 R priced at RM26,900 and the next most expensive model up the Motorrad range is the F 800 GS at RM61,900.

So, who needs a BMW Motorrad G 310 R? If you want the cachet of the BMW brand name, along with a small displacement motorcycle that performs well in the handling, braking and comfort stakes – answering the earlier question if this is indeed a real BMW – the G 310 R is a good choice, being alone in its class, as it were.

Certainly there are other options to go right against the G 310 R, notably the KTM 250 Duke, and a lot will come down to the buyer’s choice and budget, along with sales and support options – you can get this bike for as low as RM390 a month through BMW Credit Malaysia financing.

In the case of the author, the best recommendation he could give would be, in the words of a young shaver, “can I have this as my first bike?”