Simple Solutions: 2016 Sea-Doo GTI SE 130


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People tend to overthink things. Whether its ordering a meal or deciding what shirt to wear, it’s usually best to go with your gut, that instinctual feeling that has usually kept you on track your whole life. Sure, wandering the floor of your local Sea-Doo dealership can be thrilling, as the latest features, bells and whistles, and iridescent hues call your name.

But if you’re looking for your first watercraft purchase – something that’ll comfortably fit in your budget, yet meet all of the “must haves” on your check list – it’s best not to get caught up with everything else. With literally 20 different vehicles to choose from, Sea-Doo has either made it incredibly easy to find that “perfect fit” PWC, or incredibly more difficult. So, if you’re like us and suffer from “Goldilocks Syndrome,” you’ll be grateful for the 2016 GTI SE 130.

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Unlike so many within Sea-Doo’s “Recreation” segment, the GTI SE 130 is an ideal in-between that scratches all the itches you might have while not selling you more than what you really need. Sharing the same 132.6-inch long hull as the sporty and supercharged GTR 215, and the luxurious GTI Limited 155, the GTI SE 130 dials back the option meter, offering more steak and less sizzle.

Earning its “SE” designation over the entry-point GTS 130, the SE offers a padded, folding swim step, BRP’s electric VTS (Variable Trim System), upgraded digital dash navigation (operated via toggles on the handlebars) including a live fuel consumption calculator, and of course, Sea-Doo’s Intelligent Brake and Reverse system (iBR). This tacks on an additional $2,100 over the bare-bones GTS 130, but the brakes are worth it alone.

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Beneath the hood is the tried-and-true naturally-aspirated V-Tech 1503 Rotax, it’s 1,494cc four-stroke 3-cylinders cranking out 130 ponies with little strain. In fact, toggling into “Sport” mode (from the initial startup’s default “Touring” mode) ramps up the acceleration curve and gives the SE 130 a little bit more to brag about. The GTI hull design has proven itself as a stable-yet-playful platform, and the SE 130’s use of Sport mode lets it shine.

As is with all Sea-Doos, its closed-loop cooling system keeps harmful debris from penetrating and obstructing the engine’s cooling. Most importantly (at least for your pocketbook), is its use of 87 octane. Shaving that extra change per gallon especially when topping off its 15.9 gallon fuel cell sure does feel nice.

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The single-piece “Touring” bench is lightweight and its removed with the flick of the rear-mounted handle. It’s thickly padded and slightly tiered to give a faux stadium-style seating arrangement, with a vinyl band for passengers to hold on to. Sea-Doo has mastered the art of narrowing the saddle at the knees and widening it at the seat and has slightly incorporated this tactic with the GTI models, giving it a far more contoured design than any other equally-priced competitors’ model. Storage space is more than adequate with over 30-gallons to stow your goods (split between a deep glove box and front bin). Sea-Doo’s commitment to physical comfort is carried all the way up into the newly designed “palm rest” hand grips that offer significant wrist support.

While the vehicle is physically identical to its siblings, its colors (available in either black-and-white with Manta Green touches, or Maldives Blue-and-white) and graphics are gracefully conservative. Tipping the scales at just 790 pounds, the GTI SE 130 is also not the bear to load and unload by oneself that larger full-sized runabouts can often be. That lightweight and shallow V-hull reiterates the GTI’s playfulness on the water. It’s very responsive to weight shift, which can be great when riding solo, or a bit disorienting when riding 2 or 3-up. The weight shift of a passenger can literally alter the ski’s course if the driver isn’t attentive. It’s not a negative, but a behavioral characteristic that can be when towing a raft or wakeboarder. We had great fun getting the tail to wag the dog, as it were.

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Our test model GTI SE 130 – like many other GTIs we’ve ridden previously – has only one flaw that we can dare call noteworthy: drivetrain noise. Above 30mph and all the way to its maximum 55mph, the Rotax produces a noticeable driveline drone that can become irksome over long distances. It’s not a harmonic that reverberates, or a disquieting vibration, but just a constant thrum from the engine compartment. Interestingly, we don’t get this same noise from supercharged units, but just the naturally-aspirated GTI models. Many won’t notice it, as few will put the time in with these units as we do, but we’d be remiss in not doing so. Again, it’s not a deal-breaker either, as we’ve come to truly enjoy the variety within the GTI lineup – with the SE 130 being a new stand-out among the rest.

While it would be a misnomer to call the 2016 Sea-Doo GTI SE 130 an “entry-level watercraft,” it is precisely that for the first-time buyer who has previous experience with PWC and is shopping for a recreational vehicle to enjoy with their spouse and children. While the Spark is a great “gateway” runabout, the SE 130 is for more adult buyers. It’s an ideal family vehicle, both in budget friendliness and as its use. So don’t be swayed by the 19 other models adorning the showroom floor, the GTI SE 130 is the right fit for the right price.

Special thanks to America’s Motor Sports for use of their 2016 Sea-Doo GTI SE 130.

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Kevin Shaw

Editor-in-Chief – kevin.shaw@shawgroupmedia.com Kevin Shaw is a decade-long powersports and automotive journalist whose love for things that go too fast has led him to launching The Watercraft Journal. Almost always found with stained hands and dirt under his fingernails, Kevin has an eye for the technical while keeping a eye out for beautiful photography and a great story.

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