Boatbuilders, like people, go through phases shaped by the market and circumstances that dictate their styles and rejuvenate their designing spirits. The recent trend has been “big is best” and there has been the belief that size really matters when it comes to breaking into hitherto uncharted waters. It’s a pleasant change to see that one company has chosen to go right to the other end and produce a compact rather than a stretched limo.
Bonito Boats of Auckland have been in the production boat building business for longer than many of us care to remember and whilst the company has gone through a few owners, the reputation for the boats has never waned. Current owner, Peter Johnson was faced with an interesting dilemma – to follow the trends and plunge into the 7m plus market and be forced to commit a huge amount of money to tooling and development, or take a step back and produce a big little entry level model. The decision for the latter has paid off and with some careful planning and utilising the best ideas from the existing range, Bonito Boats unveiled the all new Bonito 485 Chico at the New Zealand Boat Show.
Immediate reaction was encouraging with a number sold at and following the show. Enough in fact to firmly convince Johnson that he has made the right decision.
While the 485 Chico falls into the entry-level category of production fibreglass boats it is so highly spec’d that it wouldn’t be fair to call it cheap. At $32000 for the package I tested, the pricing is vindicated by the appointments that come with the whole deal, from the CPC compliance rating to the multi-roller trailer. At under 5 m the 485 Chico joins less than a dozen production grp cabin boats available in the country and arguably offers more inside space than any of them, and at 2.23 m beam is certainly the widest.
While the 485 Chico is a replacement for the Bonito 442, it is not simply a revamp of an existing hull. The underwater sections, while retaining some of the best attributes of the Bonito 522 and 585 have a different, wider strake pattern, broader chines and more full bodied bow sections. It may be all new but it retains the trademark Bonito look.
The raised foredeck of the 485 Chico is essential to allow sitting headroom in the cuddy cabin and for easy access through the generously sized perspex hatch. All anchoring is carried out from here with the deep self-draining anchor locker, bollard and fairlead within close proximity. Surprisingly, there is enough space to mount a small capstan winch, operated with a kneepad switch on the inner bulkhead.
Considering this is a boat less than 5m in length, the cuddy offers remarkable space for storage and while the U shape squab is not long enough for an adult to lie on, it’s still a great place to get out of any inclement weather. Very wide side trays give you good storage areas, although due to the shallow depth under the squabs this area has been reserved for buoyancy only. Sealed compartments are standard, with foam fill an optional extra. A moulded screw-on cover on the starboard side bulkhead hides away all the wiring and steering mechanism of the helm.
The deeply sculpted entrance makes getting in and out of the cabin easy and without any port bulkhead there is a nice open feel about the boat. The seating options are very limited with swivelling bucket seats on moulded pedestal bases as standard. Bonito will fit back to backs or a combination of the two, but be aware of the space you will be losing from the cockpit.
The two forward swivelling seats are well complemented by twin removable bin seats aft that make a full width bench seat across the transom. You have the versatility of moving them around the cockpit or leaving them in the garage if just you and your mate are going fishing. If you have them aboard, they are designed to wedge into the aft coaming and don’t move around when underway. They are excellent for bait and fish bins, or storing your wet gear after a dive or ski.
The 485 Chico has one of the biggest underfloor storage lockers of any boat this size I have seen and in fact it’s easily long enough for skis, kneeboards and wakeboards. The depth is such that dive bottles and all the necessary dive gear will comfortably tuck away with the lids closed. There is the option of an underfloor tank, either built in or a standard off-the-shelf plastic type which would cut hugely into the space. If you are really serious about your boating or don’t like to drag the boat to the gas station more than necessary, then with a couple of 25 litre tote tanks under the aft deck and another 45 litres under the cockpit sole you’ll have more than you’ll need for a day’s fishing!
The cockpit layout has been conceived with fishers in mind, with deep toe-kicks under the wide side trays and padded coamings placed intelligently for fishers working a big fish. It’s also not too far down to the water when gaffing or netting. Rod racks are standard on the port side and there’s enough length to stow most of the larger boat rods.
If you are into fishing then you’ll want somewhere to mount a depth sounder/fish finder. Space is provided under the screen for bracket mounted units and although there is still plenty of flat area under the helm, it’s probably too low to allow you to read the screens easily. VHF’s are usually mounted inside the cabin and out of the weather, plus there is plenty of space on the fascia for all the instruments you need for a mid range outboard.
I liked the fact that Bonito will give you the choice of letting the retailer position your seat where you want it. The driving position is good and either seated or standing, the controls, helm and instruments are all in the right place. A solid rail around the perspex screen gives passengers something to grab and there are another couple down aft for those in the rear seats.
The owner of Bonito Boats is a keen diver, so a lot of thought and experience went into the transom area design. The moulded portofino style stern features built-in steps either side for easy access and yet there is still provision for an auxiliary rise and fall outboard bracket or drop down ladder if required.
Get Up And Go
The day I tested the 485 Chico was calm, with only a light sea breeze, so I didn’t get to experience the ride in the rougher water. Although this is a boat designed for light to moderate sea conditions in sheltered waters, it has the full bodied hull shape and underwater sections to handle more than is expected of a boat of this size.
The recommended power range is 50hp – 90hp, so the Mariner 90hp we had for the test was the maximum for the boat. We decided to run two propeller combinations, a Lazer II and a Vengeance. With the 20” Lazer II the top speed was 45 mph and only marginally less at 43.5 mph with the 19” Vengeance. For skiing I would recomend the Laser II as it had a little more grunt down the low end and yet still gave a good turn of speed. Overall, the Laser II is probably the best all rounder. Mid range was good, with the Vengeance II giving 30 mph @ 4500 rpm and the Laser II a lot faster at 36 mph.
Mike Boyce set the engine well up on the transom, which seemed just right and we didn’t experience any cavitation in the turns with the engine below 50% trim. With the engine trimmed out I was able to get the 485 Chico skittering across the surface with the water peeling off the last quarter of the hull.
This is a boat that will suit first time buyers, young families and even the older owner who wants to continue boating, with a boat that still has the comfort and ride yet is easy to handle. And as for something bigger than the Bonito 685 in the future – watch this space!
BONITO 485 CHICO
Model: 485 Chico
Price (Hull Only): $16200
Price As Tested: $31495
Designer: Peter Johnson
Type: Cuddy Cabin
- LOA: 4.85 m
- Beam: 2.23 m
- Deadrise: 19 degrees
- Hull Configuration: medium V
- Trailerable Weight: 920 kg
- Engine Capacity: 50 hp – 90hp
- Power Options: Outboard Only
- Fuel Capacity: 45 litres (underfloor)
700 rpm @
3 0 mph
1000 rpm @
4 0 mph
1500 rpm @
2000 rpm @
2500 rpm @
8 0 mph
3000 rpm @
3500 rpm @
20 0 mph
4000 rpm @
4500 rpm @
5000 rpm @
5500 rpm @
5800 rpm @
NOTABLE STANDARD EQUIPMENT
CPC certified, 5 year hull warranty, two bin seats, underfloor storage locker, rod holders, rear boarding steps.
NOTABLE OPTIONS ON TEST BOAT
Canopy, road cover, VHF and sounder
- Make: Mariner
- HP: 90 hp
- Model: 2-stroke
- Cylinder Type: 3-in-line
- Displacement: 1386 cc
- Max RPM: 5500 rpm
- Propellers: 20” Laser II / 19” Vengeance
- Retail Price: $9485
- Make: Hosking
- Model: NA
- Braked: No
- Suspension: Leaf springs
- Rollers: multi-roller
- Std Features: submersible lights, wind-up jockey wheel.
- Price: $3300