2012 Kawasaki STX-15F Review

Short on features? Maybe. But long on power...

Story by Jeff Hemmel, Photography by Kawasaki, Nov. 09, 2011
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A one-time flagship, in recent years Kawasaki’s STX-15F has morphed into an entry-level model. And despite not many changes in all that time, it remains a worthy contender at its $9,499 price point. The reason? Certainly not bells and whistles. More like power. At 160 hp, the 15F remains the most potent of the price-point boats currently on the market.

Punch It

That power makes the 15F an interesting candidate, especially when weighted against more feature-rich machines like the 130hp Sea-Doo GTI series or Yamaha’s 110hp VX models. Is it enough to sway your opinion toward a more basic, possibly even dated-looking craft? It is if you like speed. With a 1,498cc, dual-overhead cam engine, the 15F hits 30 mph in about two seconds, and moves smoothly to a top speed of about 62 mph. That’s a big advantage over its competition, and one that you will certainly appreciate as your skill levels grow with experience. That power is also geared low enough to pull skiers and wakeboarders with a little more ease.

2012 Kawasaki STX 15F

The boat’s handling compliments it well. As befitting its one-time flagship status, this hull spent some time early on carving up racecourses far and wide. It powers in and out of turns without the loose feeling of some of its competition, and offers up a predictable nature during straight-line drag races with friends. That solid, predictable ride will be a welcome one to newcomers who would rather forego the surprises, but may detract from the boat’s overall playfulness. Still, it’s confident, and ready for whatever you throw at it.

2012 Kawasaki STX 15F

Though the seat height has raised over the years, the STX platform still retains a low-slung profile. Again, that position works well with the boat’s more aggressive demeanor. You feel close and connected to the water. It is, however, a different feel than the majority of today’s market. You may feel cramped at first, but embrace it and you may be surprised. Kawasaki’s steering position also allows for a relatively easy transition to a standing position for those that want to absorb rough water with their legs, or simply prefer to get out of the saddle on occasion.

Embrace It

2012 Kawasaki STX 15F
2012 Kawasaki STX 15F

Entry-level boats are getting a little less entry-level in terms of features, but Kawasaki sticks to the status quo on the 15F. Storage has always been addressed, with a large bow tub combined with handy glovebox and small, split-seat bin to provide 23.5 gallons of storage capacity. Fuel capacity is 16.4 gallons. Off-throttle steering concerns are addressed with an electronic enhancement that increases pump thrust should the throttle be released in conjunction with a full-lock turn. That provides some directional control. A magnetic key theft prevention system provides security, while a secondary key can be used to limit RPM to tone down the craft for true beginners.

From the driver’s position, the info display is exceptionally easy to read in direct sunlight. That’s a plus. Key info is also displayed well, with speed in large numbers. A rear grab handle is located at the aft end of the seat. Below, a tow hook and small platform reside above a spring-loaded boarding step.

Faults? I’m still not a fan of the reverse lever located to the right hand side of the console. Newer Kawasaki craft have relocated that lever to the left, allowing you to operate throttle and reverse simultaneously. Don’t expect to see the change here.

Check It

The look of the 15F continues to veer more toward the sporty in 2012, with a “candy thunder blue” replacing last year’s bright red as the accent color on the bow storage hatch and rear section of the split seat. The hull remains bright white, with a silver saddle.

2012 Kawasaki STX 15F

But can the STX-15F still compete with the flashier entry-level competition? In terms of sheer features, no, especially not given that the boat’s price now sits in the mid-9s. Again, however, we come back to that power, and what a buyer wants from their investment. Breaking the 60 mph mark, and accelerating hard out of the hole may not be necessary at this end of the market.

But come on, it sure is fun…

2012 Kawasaki STX-15F Specs
Length 122.8 inches
Beam 46.5 inches
Curb Weight 844.5 lbs
Engine Four-cylinder DOHC EFI
Displacement 1,498 cc
Bore and Stroke 83mm x 69.2mm
Compression Ratio 10.6:1
Rated Horsepower 160
Fuel Capacity 16.4 gal.
Combined Stowage Capacity 23.5 gal.
Colors Jet White/Candy Thunder Blue
Price $9,499

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