Boat Tests

September 16, 2013

2014 Sea-Doo Spark: Back to basics!

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Every time I get the chance to take the helm of a Sea-Doo, I’m always thrilled with their innovative new features. However, these advancements have had a major impact on the price of the company’s personal watercraft, which are now luxury goods that require a significant investment.

In the '90s, you could buy the most powerful Sea-Doo watercraft for approximately $6,000, while now you have to budget at least $15,000 for a similar machine. In the current economic climate, it's not surprising that the market has crumbled, particularly when you consider the price of gas.

BRP recently invited us to the launch of a brand-new model, and we have to say that before the presentation we really wondered what we'd be getting. Nowadays water sport enthusiasts are looking for highly versatile vessels that are roomy, fuel efficient and, above all, make it possible for you to spend the whole day on the water. Personal watercraft are not exactly known for meeting these criteria.

Imagine our surprise when the Sea-Doo Spark was unveiled. It's a brand-new model that meets the needs of today's market perfectly. This new personal watercraft is compact, agile and light—and has room for two! But at US$4,999, its base price is what really blew us out of the water. At this price, you could buy two Sea-Doo Sparks and enjoy them as a family. Or you could buy a boat as well as a Spark for fun in the water. In short, they've made personal watercraft affordable again. You can hang out on the dock with your family and friends while keeping a Sea-Doo Spark on hand to have fun in the surrounding water. The Spark is just another addition to your collection of summer playthings!

The secret behind the Spark
Designing a new personal watercraft to be affordable without losing its essential character is no easy task. You don't want to create a low-end machine with outdated technology. So BRP redesigned the whole thing from scratch, a project that took eight years to come to fruition. The key to the new Spark is unquestionably its new Polytec hull. Rather than using fibreglass, as other models do, they designed a new hull using a polymer material that is both lighter and cheaper. This sturdy hull is made up of two main sections that are screwed together: an industry first. The advantage to this is that it only takes a few seconds to separate the two sections and get easy access to its mechanical parts, instead of trying to get through a smaller entrance under the seat.

The Spark’s style also stands out from the other models. It's offered in five colours, also a first, while its Exoskel architecture gives it uncommonly modern lines. Take a look at the wide-open space up front. It feels a little strange at first, but you quickly get used to it.

Under the hood, the designers used a brand-new engine that was recently introduced in BRP's snowmobiles: the three-cylinder, four-stroke, Rotax 900 ACE, the base model of which produces 60 horsepower. If you want a little more mph, you can opt for the HO (High Output) version, which reaches 90 horsepower. This engine uses a closed-loop cooling system and transfers power through a direct drive jet propulsion

The Sea-Doo Spark is designed for two passengers but can just as easily transport three with the optional 3up configuration. With this feature, you can legally use the machine for water sports, but the configuration is far from ideal for long trips. Besides, the Spark is really designed for small bodies of water and for having fun rather than for long family trips; there are other models meant for that.

Fun and reliable
Once you hit the water, you will see how easy it is to operate this watercraft, just like older models. With a magnetic (not chip-enabled) key, a small digital indicator and a touch of the throttle, you’re ready to go.

Even equipped with the base engine, the Sea-Doo Spark performs well overall. Its power-to-weight ratio is a real advantage and reduces the impact of the smaller engine. However, when you really try to push the machine on a curve, you can feel its limited power during sudden accelerations. Thanks to its additional power, the 90-hp HO version provides better balance. While its top speed is nothing to write home about, the power behind its pick-up impressed us. After all, the Spark is designed for fun. On top of that, it’s nice to find a light, manoeuvrable personal watercraft. Other modern models may offer more comfort and stability, but their capabilities are also more limited. With the Spark, we thoroughly enjoyed performing a variety of manoeuvres and acrobatic moves while the adjustable stabilizers ensured that the machine gripped the water well. The designers soundproofed the watercraft using the D-Sea Bell system, making it a remarkably quiet machine, much to the delight of those living by the water.

Even though the Sea-Doo Spark’s base model is rather bare-bones, which is perfectly fine, you can load it up with practically all of the technology featured on pricier models. This includes the Intelligent Brake and Reverse (IBR) system and a manual reverse system. The only thing the Spark doesn’t offer is the manual or automatic suspension offered on other models.

This model’s launch is very timely and the product is just what the doctor ordered for today’s market. Once again, BRP has hit a home run, offering a brand-new model that is affordable, efficient and provides everything we’ve come to expect from Sea-Doo.

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