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In case you’ve been out of the loop for the last two years, Sea-Doo’s grand experiment worked. The innovative, low-cost Spark has proven a qualified success, taking over as the best-selling model in the industry. Now entering its third year, the Spark returns for another go-round, sporting a few subtle enhancements, a tiny bump in price, but all of the same features that proved so successful the past two years.
New And Improved
Changes to the Spark are few, but that’s not to say they’re not welcome. One obvious change is in color. Sea-Doo’s new palette includes the familiar Vanilla (white) and Pineapple (yellow), in addition to three bolder choices. Key Lime is a bright, almost neon green; Blueberry is a similarly bold electric blue. The final color, Chili Pepper, adds a red choice to the mix. Observation? The blue and green in particular seem brighter and deeper than the original hues. For ’16, that primary accent color is also now carried over onto the seat, giving the boat an added dash of style.
A more subtle change is found in the craft’s handgrips. Like all Sea-Doo models for 2016, they feature a broad palm rest that makes for more comfortable riding. The added real estate is found on the grips aft side, and is made of the same rubber. In addition to comfort, the pad also provides a little more leverage.
The final change is likely unwelcome, but reality. For 2016 the Spark gets a minimal jump in base price, going from $4,999 to $5,199. Sea-Doo held firm in 2015 so it’s probably no surprise that the price would creep up slightly in 2016. It’s still in the $5,000 ballpark, however, so that’s good news.
As to the returning boat, cue up the Spark’s now-familiar list of greatest hits.
First there’s the hull and deck material. To save weight and lower cost, Sea-Doo developed a material called PolyTec, formed from polypropylene with long-strand glass fibers for reinforcement. It’s somewhat flexible yet surprisingly durable, and offers up a trendy matte finish that stands apart from traditional shiny fiberglass. The bow remains open, showcasing the boat’s ExoSkel internal support frame. Less material means less weight, but for those that want a front storage compartment one is available as an option and bolts easily in place.
Complimenting the lighter hull and deck is a lighter, lower horsepower, less expensive engine. The Rotax 900 ACE is offered in both 60hp and 90hp configurations. I’d strongly recommend the latter for all but the most cost-conscious consumer, as the added power really brings to life the boat’s fun factor. Top speeds are the lowest in the industry, but on such a light, agile craft they don’t feel it. The base engine’s 40 mph top speed and the HO version’s 48mph top speed feel quite fun on such a small craft and aren’t that far removed from the speeds of other introductory models. Considering the boat’s weight advantage, they also equate to an impressive power-to-weight ratio.
The Spark isn’t the fastest boat – in fact, it’s has the lowest top speed in the industry – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun.
Elsewhere options include Sea-Doo’s Intelligent Brake & Reverse, excellent for enhanced low-speed control as well as stopping power at speed; multiple graphics packages that can personalize the boat to your own style; a flip-down boarding step; and the choice of a two or three-passenger configuration. Opt for the three-up and the upgraded power if you’re into towing. Stick with the two-seater if your goal is solo performance with the occasional passenger.
Buyer Be Aware
Things to keep in mind when considering the Spark? When optioned up to the three-seater and bigger engine, the price approaches other introductory models. Some of those models are likely a better fit for those who live on bigger and rougher waterways or frequently ride with a full complement of passengers, but they lack the Spark’s playful size and style. Still, be realistic about where you ride and what you want out of the craft.
And again, the 60hp engine is fine for those who want a true basic, inexpensive craft, but in all honesty the 90hp upgrade is a lot more fun. It feels considerably faster, and lets you really push the boat into all those old-school maneuvers that most of today’s models forget, like spinouts and powerslides. The 90hp HO engine upgrade also includes Touring and Sport modes, letting you choose a tamer, more fuel-efficient power curve for everyday riding, then stepping up to Sport mode for when you really want to feel the benefits of the added power.
One last thing to consider is accessibility. Sea-Doo loves to tout this one, but it’s worth emphasizing. Yes, the Spark is affordable, making it accessible to that many more buyers. Finance one and the payments are little more than your monthly coffee tab. But that accessibility also extends to other areas. You don’t need a big SUV to pull the Spark, a big deal for those with less towing power. You also don’t need a big amount of space to store one. The Spark’s size means it can fit it almost any garage.
Clearly good things do come in small packages.
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