A vessel of this size is not too much for one person to handle (usually Dad), but remains large enough to offer most of the comforts required for a great day out.
Right on the money
This crowd pleaser has good family values.
According to Good Times Marine's Derek Rodway, 18 footers are the most popular runabouts in the pleasure craft world. This sweet spot in the market came about because at that size the vessels are large enough to accommodate a family and a few extra kids, but small enough to go on a single-axle trailer and fit within the family's budget.
Derek Rodway bought his whole family out for the day for this test and judging by their happy faces, the Mariah SX18 certainly hit the spot. Their oldest, Zoe, had a grin from ear to ear, while mum Karen's job was to keep the boys Samson and Asher inside the boat.
TOP FAMILY BOAT
So, why is the Mariah SX18 such a good family boat ? Stress is something you don't want when boating with the family and this package seems to minimise the chances of it by offering lots of creature comforts including shade from the bimini top. The vessel had good enclosed seating and a large cool-storage locker in the bow and simple features such as the separate anchor locker should keep mess from the anchor off the bow seating.
And we can't forget the price. At $37,900 (as tested) this boat has plenty of family appeal. A vessel of this size is not too much for one person to handle (usually Dad), but remains large enough to offer most of the comforts required for a great day out.
But the Mariah is not only about family. When the kids go home the big boys can get out and play ? seriously. Derek and I managed to get this toy to power out to almost 50mph and that definitely had us grinning ear to ear.
ON THE WATER
The test had us pointing the SX18's bow towards the horizon and the Mariah managed to make short work of the small, sharp chop and still managed to keep the crew dry. And while the Mariah is not designed to be an offshore boat, it's nice to know that she can handle a bit of the rough stuff often encountered on busy waterways.
The hull's aft sections had a slight reverse 'planing foil', which keeps bow lift under control and the 18-degree deadrise helps cut through the muck. Inshore the hull was well behaved and carved through the turns with style.
The tested vessel had a 23in prop, so we sacrificed a bit of acceleration (3-30 Knots in 10 seconds), for a reasonable 42 knots on the GPS.
From a driver's perspective, with the bolster seat up, the thick windscreen surrounds cut through my vision (driver height comes into play), but this simple shortcoming disappeared when I sat down into 'through-screen' driving position.
The throttle was also a little close to the wheel for my liking, but the importer Con Amvrazis said they would endeavour to set the vessel up to fit each customer's needs. And he threw in the swish 'Euro' wheel, which is not standard on the US boats.
The boat comes with comprehensive instrumentation and the bucket driver and navigator's seating is very comfortable. There's even a choice of seat configurations; one as tested and another that has seats wrapped around the engine box, which lift and convert into a sun pad.
The portside glove box houses the stereo and offered plenty of space to stow phones, wallets and the like. There's also good under floor storage. The kid's lifejackets live under the large aft seat.
With plenty of cool storage and lots of drink holders, no one's going to go thirsty onboard the Mariah SX18.
The Mariah comes from South Carolina in the USA and, as with many US imports, we Aussies are currently enjoying good pricing due to the high $A exchange rates at present [written days prior to the Federal Election - Ed]. The Mariah's 'wood-free' construction features hand-rolled glass cloth and foam-filled stringers that are glassed directly to the composite floor for added strength. All this is supported by a lifetime hull warranty.
The Mariah SX18 is a classic example of a well-priced feature and performance packed vessel that's more than ready to please the whole family straight off the showroom floor. In this category, it's a question of balance between features, size and price. For me, this package's 40-knot plus performance tips the scales to sold.