Last year when Barry Thompson reviewed the Barchetta 502XC he said it was one of the best little boats he had ever tested. So is the extended version, the 552XC, as good?
I am often asked by friends and readers as to the right boat they should buy. The conversation usually starts with a handful of options that they have reduced their choice to and it invariably involves what I would call mainstream brands.
Very occasionally a brand pops out of left field that is not on the radar, but certainly deserves to be. In the case of the new Barchetta 552XC it should be a must-have on anyone’s short list when looking for a GRP cabin runabout around 5.5m.
Last year I flew to Queenstown to test the Barchetta 502 XC Deluxe and I was very impressed, not only with the way the boat performed and handled, but also the finish and attention to small detail by the builder Don Weir and his team at Fairview Fibreglass.
Fairview Fibreglass is Timaru based and while the Barchetta brand is enjoying steady growth in the South, its penetration into the larger markets of the North Island has been a little slow.
“It’s all about getting people into the boats and when we do they just love them”, says Martyn Jones, sales manager of Bryant Marine, Auckland dealers for the Barchetta range of boats.
The hulls are designed by internationally recognised powerboat designer, Scott Robson, and as expected feature a few ‘tricks’ on the running surfaces that set them apart from others. It’s one of the few production boats I know of that has a stepped outer chine. Robson refers to it as a vacuum break step that is designed to help release the hull quickly from the water when getting onto the plane. He says, “It is like a car changing gears, very smoothly and without hesitation.”
There is a steep 21 degree deadrise at the transom and wide reverse sheer strakes run parallel well forward to help make that transition onto the plane so much easier. It’s a very stable boat at rest, with a 2m beam at the transom waterline. Despite the lack of bow flare, it is a remarkably dry boat.
During our testing on Auckland Harbour I was conscious of the way the hull gripped the water in the turns and was instantly responsive to the helm movements. Make sure you tell your passengers to hang on if you are intending a sharp turn.
The driving position is good, with the folding bolster seat allowing you to stand with good support and look over the two-piece convex wrap around screen or be seated and tucked in out of the weather behind it. Instruments on our test boat were minimal, but there is space provided for additional electronics.
Only complaint when driving was the hard square edge of the alloy screen extrusion a number of times dug into my arm when I was being a bit of an aggressive driver and would be better replaced with a softer round section.
The Barchetta 502XC is a great riding boat and the extra waterline length of the 552XC has made this boat even better. The cabin is extended 200mm and the cockpit 300mm, which has added 500mm to the running surface and by moving the bulkhead and internal weights accordingly the whole boat package is very well balanced. In smooth water, with the trim gauge set around 1/3rd, the spray peels off less than 500mm forward of the transom, which indicates the ideal balance being achieved when the boat is running. In rough water it has the right pedigree underneath to provide a remarkably good ride for a boat this size….and better than many a lot bigger.
Plenty of Power
Our test boat, the very first Barchetta 552XC, was powered by a Mercury OptiMax 115 and although the builder rates the boat to 175hp, I personally think that is too much. Okay, the hull will handle it, but who really needs to do over 55mph in a family cabin boat! The OptiMax 115 returned a top speed of 48mph @ 5800rpm and had a really nice cruise speed around 35 mph @ 4000rpm, which would be a very economical rev range to run the engine. According to Jones, the OptiMax 115 on the 552XC has been averaging 6L/h with a broad range of running and most of that at the higher end of the rpm range.
The test boat came with a pair of 25-litre tote tanks, although there is an option of a 100-litre stainless steel underfloor tank should you require it.
The 552XC is available not only with outboards, but also a small sterndrive such as a 3-litre 135hp MerCruiser. According to the builders, the engine box doesn’t encroach much past the existing outboard engine well, but it does add $2000 to the basic hull price.
The Barchetta 552XC has a sport cabin, rather than a full cabin, which I personally think is more appropriate for a boat this size. One of the big features is the massive forward hatch, complete with gas strut, which being a South Island boat is traditional with lake and Sounds boating when a lot of the entry and exit from the boat is done over the bow. There is even a dedicated step cut out into the anchor well bulkhead to make stepping easier. It’s not a huge anchor locker but is sufficient.
There is excellent sitting headroom in the cabin above two 1700mm long squab bunks with moulded storage areas below and in wide side trays. There is an infill for the berths if you want to make it into a double.
The cockpit is big and roomy, with high coamings and back rests on the rear jump seats and will certainly appeal to those with small families, as much as to fishermen with good working areas for two to three rods. The plywood cockpit sole in the XC is covered with Nautolex vinyl, with a huge central storage locker, long enough for skis. There is a moulded GRP liner providing a semi-dry storage compartment, but this area is lost if you fit the optional 100-litre fuel tank.
There is storage in side trays as well as a large fully lined shelf alongside the passenger seat for items such as car keys, cellphone or hand held VHF.
Standard seating provides for four with twin swivelling bucket seats on fibreglass bases forward and jump seats either side of the engine well. There are optional box seats available behind the forward pedestals, which also provide extra storage bins.
This is a boat that will appeal to a broad spectrum of owners, from young families stepping into their first trailer boat to those downsizing to something smaller and simply handled. It is an easily driven hull that provides a very smooth ride. Our test boat was the very basic XC version but there are plenty of options that can be added. The deluxe version has a full carpet, upholstered cockpit sides, and aft seat upholstery, which add around $2500 to the base price. A runabout version is also available. The builders and designer have come up with another real winner and if you thought the Barchetta 502XC was a good boat, then you owe it to yourself to check out its big brother. The Barchetta 552XC is a great little boat.
- Model: Barchetta 552XC
- Priced From: $39995 (With 90hp)
- Price as Tested: $46500
- Type: Cabin
- Construction: GRP
- LOA: 5.70m
- LOH: 5.45m
- Beam: 2.20m
- Deadrise: 21 degrees
- Engine Capacity: 90hp – 175hp
- Power Options: Outboard / Sterndrive
- Fuel Capacity: 100 litres (optional)
|750 rpm||3.0 mph|
|1000 rpm||5.0 mph|
|1500 rpm||7.5 mph|
|2000 rpm||8.5 mph|
|2500 rpm||12.5 mph|
|3000 rpm||16.0 mph|
|3500 rpm||27.5 mph|
|4000 rpm||33.5 mph|
|4500 rpm||37.5 mph|
|5000 rpm||40.5 mph|
|5500 rpm||44.5 mph|
|5800 rpm||48.0 mph|
Speeds recorded on a Lowrance GPS and rounded off to the nearest 1/2mph