Simon Everett steps aboard a new model now taking its place within the ever-popular Quicksilver line-up of dayboats, cuddy craft and coastal fishing vessels. We find out what makes this prospective little winner tick and how she performs on test through the chalky waters of Poole Bay.
They say there is nothing new under the sun, and the sports cuddy runabout has certainly been around since the late 1970s. The concept has remained the same, with the bijou, crawl-in sleeping space below the foredeck and sociable, versatile cockpit seating ‒ but the execution has improved, with higher-modulus laminate and refined design. The Activ 675 is a modern sports cuddy with the additional cockpit space that comes from the convertible seating options, which is a far cry from the traditional back-to-back or twin buckets and stern bench seating that were the mainstays of the sports cuddy layout of old. With age comes wisdom, so after nearly 50 years of sports boat design, we should expect some innovation and advancement.
And advancement is what we have got, right across the board, in terms of materials, design, layout and engine performance. Until the last year or so, propellers had just about reached their pinnacle by the 1980s, and Mercury propellers offer a marvellous blend of beneficial characteristics. That’s the thing ‒ on a pleasure boat one requires a ‘jack of all trades’ rather than a specialist, a propeller that gives good top speed, but at the same time provides good acceleration, holds its grip in turns, can carry a load and provide manoeuvring ability. It is a difficult trick to pull off and necessitates compromise in all areas, but the Mercury leisure propellers have evolved to do just that ‒ losing on the roundabouts but gaining on the swings.
The Enertia three-bladed propeller fitted has replaced the Laser II in the Mercury line-up. The Laser II was the industry standard for this type of boat and has had a good 30-year reign. The new Enertia is made from a special ‒ exclusive to Mercury ‒ stainless steel alloy, designated X7, that allows the blades to be made thinner and with more aggressive rake angles, and yet is stronger and more durable. The benefit comes through with improved grip on the water at all revs, while the hole shot is similar to what you would expect from a four-bladed prop, but the top-speed efficiency is that of a three-blader. It’s a very clever blend of blade shape and angles, and it is also fitted with the customisable exhaust porting that was already present on the old Laser II.
Attached to the propeller is the all-new Mercury 200hp with its angular lines that give a sporty look and nice balance to the lines of the boat. At 200hp it is just one step down from the maximum rating. Although Quicksilver say you can use a 115hp on this boat, I think you would soon find it a bind unless on limited, enclosed waters ‒ either that or you would have to run it very hard all the time to get the best out of the boat. On the face of it, the 200hp seems a very sensible option. This new V6, 3.4-litre engine line comes in 175, 200 and 225hp, and is even lighter than the 2-stroke Optimax of the same power, lighter and ‘torqueyer’ (is that a word?), and with a greater power-to-weight ratio and fuel efficiency than its predecessors. It has sharp lines for the eyes to fall upon too, in an all-new, modern design profile. It adds a bit of sparkle to the boat, with the engine having cut facets that complement the panels of the boat. To help with daily maintenance, there is an access flap in the top surface of the cowling ‒ push down and the lid opens, providing immediate access to the dipstick and the cowling latches for those times you need to take the cover off entirely. It makes perfect sense ‒ the futuristic cowling is more watertight, more streamlined and easier to handle than the previous externally clipped cowlings.
As a package, it goes together well. In terms of performance, the 200hp provides brisk acceleration, quiet cruising and a genuine 40-knot top speed. The auto trim that was fitted is innovative too ‒ we tried it in both manual and auto modes, and while I was able to squeeze an extra 0.5 knots out, the auto trim gave a very pleasing ride and adjusted to weight distribution about the boat to retain a good angle of attack. So, no matter where people sit, the electronic trim will give you a well-chosen trim angle, automatically ‒ all you have to do is drive. If you prefer to remain in charge, simply switch the trim into manual mode and be in charge of the trimming yourself ‒ although this boat doesn’t require much trimming, if I’m honest, even in some chop, thanks to the very supportive hull pad and chines aft.
That hull is quite deltoid in plan, but I found there is sufficient lift forward thanks to the sizable strakes and reversed chine that runs forward as far as the stem. One might be forgiven for thinking this would make the ride harsh, which, if driving like an idiot, it might be, but under more normal circumstances it didn’t manifest at all. In fact, I was waiting for that telltale arrest of the plunge, but it didn’t come and she cut her way through better than expected. As a consequence of the automatic trim tabs, she runs very flat, and even hard turns don’t elicit much in the way of heel, which I fancy many modern boating families will appreciate, but hardened boaters will be surprised by, and it does limit the turning circle somewhat ‒ added to which, if you try to force the issue and turn tighter than the boat really wants to, the prop lets go despite being a quite aggressively raked version that will hold in turns better than a more standard prop shape. The point at which this happens, though, is hardly likely to worry anyone in normal use, but you should be aware that the tendency is there nonetheless. The auto trim can be turned off, which transforms her into a fun, driver’s boat, but the angle of heel is still reduced through those large strake surfaces.
In a straight line the acceleration is impressive: the hole shot from that new prop is blistering, going from stopped to 20 knots in under 4 seconds, and onto the plane in a heartbeat ‒ well, maybe two. The electronic throttle control was precise and linear. The first electronic throttles were more like switches with two settings ‒ all or nothing ‒ but the new one is much smoother and more easily managed. The side placement provided a relaxed driving position for me, with elbow supported on the gunwale and fingers on the throttle top, giving a fulcrum to use the lever against and prevent the sudden thrust that can occur if you have no support. The dash is fresh and modern, with a hint of Scandinavian influence in the black and grey surround, and the switches and instruments are sensibly laid out, giving the navigation screen pride of place ahead of the wheel. Square engine gauges might have matched the screen better, but I don’t think they’re incongruous. The view from the helm, surrounded by a very retro-styled windscreen, is good ‒ there is sufficient height to see the water in a wide arc ahead and to each side.
The seating arrangements and sociability make good use of the limited space. There is a fridge, for instance ‒ an important addition. To extend your boating season, a diesel heater provides a more tolerable interior climate on those crisp autumn or spring days, or for overnighting with the bimini enclosure up. Lounging around is the main focus, with rotatable seats and a convertible aft seat that can be laid flat to create a full sunlounging deck. I was surprised to see the open transom, though, especially on a family-orientated boat. A transom gate wouldn’t be difficult to fit and it isn’t a deal breaker. There is the option to have a sun pad on the foredeck too. The gunwale seat folds away to leave the walkway clear for transom access to the helm ‒ as do the side-mounted steps from cockpit to foredeck. Offset to port, they allow more room amidships for a generous cuddy access.
The term ‘cuddy cabin’ is a bit ambiguous. There is one, of course, but be warned ‒ the deckhead is low and it is more of a crawl-in cuddy than a step-down cabin. Once in, though, there is plenty of room to lie out, full length. Take the infill out and there is U-shaped seating for three, but limited foot space. There is also a sea toilet, installed on rails, that pulls forward from half below the cockpit sole to be made ready for use. I would think of it as an emergency convenience rather than a regular ablution solution. There is stowage within the cuddy, down each side and below the cushions, in traditional format. The natural lighting is very good, augmented by small spotlights to lighten the darker corners, or for reading by. A couple would find it plenty roomy enough. I think the maximum complement of seven aboard will be a bit of a squash, unless just being used as a conveyance and party base.
For the money you seem to get a lot of boat and one that ticks a lot of boxes, but you can see where the manufacturing has been done to a price and in some components poorly finished. If you look in detail, the final finish, on the face of it is polished, but the attention to detail isn’t there. For example, the lazarette cover is of varying thicknesses and the glass matt hasn’t been flo-coated. One of my pet hates, particularly in any planing craft, is the use of self-tapping screws into the laminate, it speeds the build, but doesn’t have the same structural integrity as through-bolted fittings. So be aware that to keep the price reasonable, something has to give. She has a bit of everything, as in a jack-of-all-trades-but-master-of-none kind of way. The water sports capability is there, with superb acceleration for pulling, enough top speed to provide excitement and the ability to metamorphose the seating arrangements from supportive on passage to relaxed lounging at rest. For that reason, she is going to find a wealth of admirers, and for under £65,000 including VAT too. Put the new car on hold and have some fun away from the traffic jams!
Dry weight: 1234kg
Fuel tank: 230 litres
Water tank: 45 litres
Max. power: 225hp (115‒225)
Max. personnel: 7
CE design cat.: C
RPM Speed (knots)
2500 (plane) 12.1
5900 40.8 (manual trim), 40.3 (auto trim)
As tested with Mercury F200XLDS DTS SC and hydraulic steering, active trim, smart edition, electric windlass, foredeck cushions, Flexiteek decks, mooring cover, marine toilet with holding tank, bimini with camping cover, Zipwake dynamic trim:
RRP: £66,605 (inc. VAT) (offer price £61,795 (inc. VAT))
Test boat supplied by RIBS Marine, Little Avon Marina, Stony Lane South, Christchurch BH23 1HW
Telephone: 01202 477327