Bonito 535 Bowrider

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Bonito 535 Bowrider

Author : Freddy Foote

Next Generation

Just over a year ago we tested the Bonito 535 Multisport, a boat that is available with a number of internal layouts. Bonito has now taken the next step in the development of the 535 Multisport and released a bowrider model. Freddy Foote jumped aboard a new model, fresh off the factory floor.

The Bonito 535 Bowrider was released about three years ago, as a cabin version, and since then has become one of the company’s most popular models.

“We’ve done a few multisport models up to Tahiti, where we’ve found the open layout is very popular for resorts and so forth,” says Peter Johnson, managing director of Bonito Boats.

“The bowrider configuration is one of a number of layouts that we offer within the multi-sport model. We also do a centre console, side console, and further down the track we’ll do a sport runabout.”

The 535 has its origins in the 522 model, but a lot of changes made to the hull give the 535 in all its forms a much drier ride. There is a moulded floor section that runs chine to chine and part way up the side of the hull, which is also seen right throughout the Bonito range. Construction however still incorporates a plywood cockpit sole, with the fibreglass liner sitting on top, rather than replacing it altogether, which is common with other manufacturers.

Family All-rounder

The 535 bowrider is an excellent all round family boat, and the bowrider feature is something that all kids love – our junior test team attested to that.

The bowrider was surprisingly roomy for a 5.5m boat, and was finished with comfortable and provided good back support against the sides. The squab on this boat was a one piece, however in later models it will be a three-piece configuration to allow better access to the storage spaces underneath.

A small anchor locker is located forward; a bollard and fairlead assist anchoring duties.

Access through to the bowrider was surprisingly roomy, as the forward section is quite wide. Set up as a dual console, there is heaps of storage space under both consoles, accessed by a hatch on the inside of each console.

Built into the top of the port side console is a lift-up lid that underneath has a handy glove box, great for holding wallets, keys and cellphones. Although the angle of the windscreen doesn’t allow you to lift the lid to its maximum angle, it still does the job and provides enough access.

The windscreen is a new type that Bonito has started using on all of its boats, from a Christchurch company called See-Thru. Aesthetically it’s very pleasing and gives the boat a sporty, sharp look. On closer inspection it’s very well constructed, and is welded together instead of being screwed together, so structurally it is very rigid. The windscreen assembly is finished off with a sturdy handrail, fitted along the inside edge, for passengers to hold on to.

Further storage space is located under the floor with medium sized compartments located in the forward section, and a larger hatch located aft.

This particular model had been fitted with the standard seating package, which includes two low profile pedestal seats for the passenger and helmsman, while further seating is available in the aft corners in the form of removable bin seats with squabs fitted. These bin seats can either be fully removed, or by removing the squab they can be slid neatly under the transom area, so you can free up more room to stand in the aft corners for fishing, or to just get them out of the way when you’re getting in and out of the boat after skiing. The aft transom areas are also tidied up, by fitting a small clip-in curtain, which covers up the battery boxes, oil tank and bilge area. Other seating options include a king/queen and or a single pedestal forward. I tested out all the seats, and as you would expect, the bow seating is an exciting ride that kids will love on a flat day, and the aft corner seats are comfortable, if little breezy. My preference would be to fit back-to-back seats, to keep passengers a little more protected. I would also like to see a couple of hand rails fitted for aft seating passengers, however I have no doubt these will be on the final production model.

Deep side pockets on both sides of the cockpit are a great feature, as they are big enough to fit skis, and as an option, rod racks can also be fitted to the inside.

A bow cover is also available which will clip down into place, and if the boat is being stored outdoors, by adding the cambered fibreglass centre support you can ensure that no water puddle on the cover.

Sure Performer

Our test boat was fitted with a Johnson 115hp 2-stroke, and even though it was fresh out of the box, it returned a respectable 40mph @ 6000rpm. The 535 is rated for 90-140hp, with the 115hp being the preferred option. However, as we have always said, Bonito hulls love horsepower, so if you’re after a potent little weapon on the water, go for the 140hp option.

Feeding the Johnson 115 is a 120-litre internal fuel tank that is more of a box shape and sits in the centre of the boat, pretty much in between the two front seats. Since the first 535, Bonito has raised the cockpit sole, in order to accommodate a bigger underfloor fuel tank.

Having a tank this shape, and sitting further down in the belly of the boat, means that it frees up more space in the sole of the cockpit for underfloor storage space.

Like the first new 535 model we tested a few years ago, it’s an excellent performer, turning sharply and digging in hard on corners without the hull breaking loose. Test day off Gulf Harbour on Auckland’s Whangaparaoa Peninsula, produced a light breeze and a small chop, but nothing too spectacular. As with the earlier model, we were delighted as to how well it handles the chop and swell. It is the kind of boat in which you would feel comfortable venturing further afield, or as a lot of us encounter, a boat that will go well when it cuts up rough as we’re heading home.

The driving position was very comfortable – the helm seat puts you down low, and the high profile windscreen keeps you well protected from the wind. Foot rests have been built into the mouldings of both consoles, so there was adequate space to put my feet. Also, the standing position to drive was quite good, allowing that extra bit of visibility for when driving in rougher conditions.

It was a very easy boat to drive. You don’t even need a trim gauge – just trim the boat ’til it feels right. Going into the chop it likes about three-quarter trim to get it riding over the waves, then in slightly rougher conditions it liked to be trimmed down a bit, making a more comfortable ride for both skipper and crew.

“This is the third bowrider models we’ve done, and we find that as we go along we’re continually making changes to improve them. You’ll see the fully finished production model at the New Zealand Boat Show in June” said Peter.

All round, the new 535 bowrider is a superb little boat. It possesses all the qualities that make a good kiwi boat – it’s functional, stylish, and built to handle our conditions – it’s another winner.


  • Model: Bonito 535 Multisport Bowrider
  • Price as Tested: $41,527
  • Designer: Bonito Boats
  • Material: GRP
  • Type: Bowrider
  • LOA: 5.50m
  • Beam: 2.24m
  • Deadrise: 21 degrees
  • Hull Configuration: Deep V
  • Trailerable Weight: 1120kg
  • Height on Trailer: 1.85m
  • Engine Capacity: 90-140hp
  • Power Options: outboard only
  • Test Engine: Johnson 115
  • Fuel Capacity: 120 litres

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