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Ten-thousand dollars is kind of a psychological barrier price point in any recreational market, and the personal watercraft market is no different. Sea-Doo offers a variety of models below that threshold, but the one that walks closest to the line is the 2018 Sea-Doo GTI SE …equipped with a 90hp engine. No, at that horsepower this recreational-targeted craft won’t win any drag races, but it will provide more than the basic thrills, possibly surprise you with a few amenities…and impressively stretch your gas budget.
The Spark Effect
Engine: Three-cylinder 899cc
Fuel Capacity: 15.9 gal.
Stowage Capacity: 30.8 gal.
Seating Capacity: 3
MSRP: Starting at $9,599
If that 90hp figure sounds familiar it’s because you’ve likely seen it elsewhere in the Sea-Doo hierarchy. The 899cc Rotax 900 HO ACE is the engine that launched with the ultra-affordable Spark. It’s a lightweight and compact powerplant that Sea-Doo paired with yet another Spark innovation; the lightweight PolyTec hull. Rather than fiberglass-based, PolyTec is polypropylene, fortified with long-strand glass fibers for added strength and rigidity. Together, the 900 engine and PolyTec hull lower the 2018 Sea-Doo GTI SE’s weight to only 640 pounds. But make no mistake, it positions this craft solidly in introductory territory. Punch the throttle and you’ll note acceptable acceleration, but on average only about a 43 mph top speed.
Is that enough to satisfy prospective buyers? Let’s just say it depends on that buyer. Those that want a reasonably priced craft for the kids or summer home, prefer to leisurely cruise and tour, or just place an emphasis on fuel efficiency will likely give the craft a thumbs up. Those that enjoy top-speed runs that stretch the arms upon initial acceleration and blow back the hair at the top-end will likely be left wanting.
Still, the GTI design is a fun ride. The shallow-deadrise hull is a more playful alternative to the precision GTX line, able to spin and slide with the appropriate finesse at the saddle, throttle and handlebars. The craft can also carve an aggressive turn when desired. Add in excellent stability in calm and rough conditions and you’ve got a versatile platform.
The 90hp GTI SE’s top speed may be quite conservative, but features are beyond basic. Intelligent Throttle Control (iTC) offers riders a choice of two acceleration curves, a base “touring” mode that is aimed at everyday riding and the more aggressive “sport” mode that is almost a must to showcase the craft’s playful side. Also possible to select is a fuel-saving “eco” mode that makes the most out of every drop in the tank. SE-specific features add those little luxuries, including a touring-style saddle with welcome back support, electronic variable trim to enhance acceleration and top speed or just match the boat’s attitude to conditions or load, swim platform mats with Sea-Doo logo, the additions of trim position, fuel consumption and clock to the information display, and an aft reboarding step.
Possibly the 2018 Sea-Doo GTI SE’s most useful feature, however, is the standard Intelligent Brake & Reverse (iBR). iBR allows the craft to start in neutral, and be shifted into forward or reverse through alternating use of the standard throttle and the iBR lever located on the left side of the handlebars. iBR can also provide braking power at speed to rapidly slow the craft should you encounter a sudden obstacle. All actions are accomplished via a modified setup at the reverse bucket. Deploying it partially deflects thrust to keep the boat stationary, deflecting it fully redirects that water into reverse thrust, and deploying it at speed redirects thrust to rapidly slow the craft’s forward momentum. iBR is ideal on an entry-level craft as it truly enhances the rider’s control, especially in tight confines like the launch ramp or dock. It’s also quite intuitive, meaning operation will quickly become second nature.
The Spark’s Big Brother
One could argue the 2018 Sea-Doo GTI SE with the base 90hp engine is effectively more of a grown-up Spark. It offers much of the same basic appeal, but with the ability to comfortably navigate far bigger waters, carry larger passenger loads in comfort, travel longer distances (fuel capacity is nearly four times that of the Spark) and haul far more gear (the GTI storage capacity is almost 31 gallons compared to the Spark’s optional, less-than-eight-gallon front compartment).
The 2018 Sea-Doo GTI SE also hits the desired, sub-$10,000 price point. Yamaha’s identically priced VX also boasts similar passenger capacity and size, as well as RiDE, Yamaha’s electronic reverse and deceleration answer. Kawasaki’s STX-15F is $100 more expensive and does not feature modern electronic reverse, but easily outperforms both. Expect 53 mph from the VX and 62 mph from the 15F.
Clearly Sea-Doo is banking on its brand and features list – not to mention the fuel-efficiency of the 90hp engine – to make its case at this price point. Your need for speed will likely determine if you agree.
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