There’s often a disconnect between what is a good choice and what is the best choice. A noble maxim unto itself, it can be applied to a lot of life – including purchasing a new watercraft. Among auto dealers, there’s a saying, “The sports car might get you into the dealership, but you’ll drive home in a new minivan.” While the sports car is definitely an attractive option, it might not fit your budget or intended use. Equally, the same can be said of shopping for a PWC.
For us, it’s easy to get spoiled when testing riding one or two new personal watercraft a month. Having access to the sport’s most well-optioned, high-powered machines rife with creature-comforts and innovations, it’s easy to forget that people actually have to pay for these things! That is why we new it was important to get out and ride what people are really buying.
Enter the 2014 Sea-Doo GTI SE 130. Believe it or not, you’re looking at the single-most popular Sea-Doo today. In fact, sales of the GTI and GTI SE (in both 130 and 155 horsepower configurations) are what allow things like the RXP-X and GTR to exist.
Priced at a dollar under $10,000 (MSRP), the GTI SE 130 is no stripped down rental. All GTIs (as well as all other units besides the GTS and base-model Sparks) comes standard with Sea-Doo’s Intelligent Brake & Reverse. Not enough praise is given to this feature we think, as all new BRP runabouts come stock with it, and people take stock equipment for granted.
The brake/reverse level safely overrides the throttle applying a low-slung grate that drag-brakes the Sea-Doo to a stop in nearly half the distance of skis without. Equally, the iBR starts you in Neutral and allows docking – be it loading or offloading a trailer, or pulling up to a dock – a worry-free exercise. No finagling with wonky reverse levers or off-throttle assistance.
Storage is slight but sufficient, providing 30.8 gallons between the bow stowage and glove box. All GTI-hulled runabouts have the same collapsible bulkhead separating the storage from the engine compartment and can be easily removed or installed.
The gauge cluster is clutter-free and easy to read with a center LCD screen reading vitals in real-time. The speedometer is fed by GPS, so you’re actually going as fast as it tells you, and the Mode toggle allows you to cycle through speed, tachometer or clock displays. As with a SE, we also enjoyed Sea-Doo’s VTS control, allowing us to adjust the trim setting at will.
The medium-sized runabout (132.6-inches) rides on a medium-V hull that comes to plane quickly and rides smoothly through wind-whipped chop. The gently stepped hull remains stable while being playful and a little loose in tighter turns when provoked. We could perform aggressive S-turns without fail as well as a wild snap turn when throttled hard, and always with nary a fear of rolling too far on the rail.
Even at Sea-Doo’s lowest available horsepower setting, the 1.5-liter Rotax engine produces enough grunt in Sport mode to stretch a smile across your face. The combination of lightweight (790-pounds dry) and the snappy Sport tune available through BRP’s Intelligent Throttle Control (iTC) toggle, makes for a great package. But again, the people who buy the GTI SE 130 aren’t looking for end-all performance. Quite the opposite, really.
Capable of running all day on 87 octane, the GTI SE 130 is the quintessential gas sipper. Holding 15.9 gallons of fuel in its belly is almost more than enough. Long distances are bridged with hardly the gas needle dipping. When set in ECO mode, the GTI is even more of a gas miser, stretching out every gallon further and further. A full day of riding failed to use up a whole tank, even as the hour clock ticked by.
The GTI SE 130 also proved itself as the ideal test mule for beginner riders. Although available with a Normal and Learning Key, we found ECO mode worked just as well. Our novice rider quickly picked up confidence as they maneuvered the runabout around boat traffic and careening riverbeds. We intentionally spent a significant amount of time as the passenger and found the rear of the bench seat quite comfortable. The rear hand grips are wide-set, the seat narrow enough to keep knees from rubbing.
For us, it’s all about the fun factor. The import hybrid-like fuel mileage is a plus, but ultimately, is it fun? And the answer is yes. The GTI SE 130 is a great platform that allows for a lot of enjoyment. No this isn’t the supercharged sports car that still whispers our name from across the showroom floor, but this ain’t no soccer mom’s minivan either.
Special thanks to America’s Motorsports for use of the 2014 Sea-Doo GTI 130 SE.