Reflex’s definition for their FX boats is family excitement and fisherman’s exultation and definitely not fully exotic or frantically expensive. Barry Thompson spent a very enjoyable day playing with a Cobalt FX around Mana Island and came away impressed with the boats handling, ride and great value.
The Reflex Cobalt FX is a fun boat without the glitz that will appeal to the family boatie or fisherman that is looking for a practical, well-packaged boat. Christchurch-based Reflex Products Ltd incorporates all the necessary attributes of good design, good looks and good construction in a very useable Kiwi boat and through their agent, Boat City Paraparaumu, have bundled the lot into an affordable package.
The Reflex Cobalt FX takes an active approach to the boating requirements of many and does well. For a start there’s the price. Boat City are offering a fully rigged boat, complete with canopy, multi-roller trailer and 75hp Force outboard for $24,980. That makes it one of the least expensive fibreglass boat packages of its size on the market. Base boat price is $14,790.
That’s good news for boaties who want something that will do what’s asked in average sea conditions and are not yet ready to invest a whole heap more in a boat.
Reflex boats have a reputation for quality finish and construction. Even with this price tag no corners are cut when it comes to materials and construction.
Backing their product, Reflex include a five year structural transferable warranty, one of the best in the industry.
The Cobalt FX is one of five models in the Reflex range, with four Fisherman 4.75, Camino 5.05, Cobalt 5.35 and the Cantiva 5.65 all available in FX versions.
The Cobalt is based on a well proven 5.35m hull, with a conventional bottom shape and 20 deg deadrise at the transom, (20” or 25” transom height), running plank, very full bow, wide flat coamings and double spray rails.
The combination works and in the sea conditions I experienced off the Kapiti Coast, it rode well. In fact it rode damn well. The Cobalt FX is offered with many power options and although we picked the lowest, 75hp, this proved enough power.
Boat City had bolted on a Force 75, an underrated very basic engine that although lacking the electronics, oil or fuel injection of other outboards, has a reputation for reliability and being affordable. Its an ideal combination for family boating, fishing and towing water toys.
Top speed on the Magellan GPS, at 5200rpm was 32 knots (37mph), with best cruise speed in the conditions 24 knots (27.6mph)@ 4000 rpm. With three up and some tweaking, I’m certain speeds around 35 knots (40mph) are achievable. The Force 75 was fitted with a 15” Mercury Vengeance stainless propeller.
We had perfect testing conditions with a flat calm section along the foreshore, a .5 to 1m beam sea out to Mana Island, a following sea behind the island and then a quartering sea from the stern most of the way home .
Overall the hull never faltered and despite getting the prop out of the water on more than one occasion it felt great. In the beam sea I had the bow up and the tacho sitting on 4500 rpm and although I had to be ready to twitch the wheel across some of the deeper swells, it was fun, easy to drive and never felt like it would broach or do anything wrong.
Re-entry is soft and the Pu.FF (polyurethane foam filled hull) helps keep the hull quiet. When the boat is still in the mould the whole underfloor area is pumped full of foam. If the boat ever fills with water, there is every likelihood it will float, it is also quieter and certainly feels a lot stiffer. In the quartering sea on the trip back home the boat remained dry, apart from the odd spray picked up by the wind.
A stripped out boat like the Cobalt FX lends itself to fishing and diving, so its stability at rest and a uncluttered, practical, cockpit area are important for divers and fishing
The Reflex Cobalt FX internal layout is much the same as the standard Cobalt, it’s just that there are fewer tack ons and it is $2200 less expensive. Ingham assures me that there is no reduction in material content of the Cobalt FX over the standard model. Apart from the cabin window arrangement (three instead of one wrap around), floor level and a few trim details. Economies of production are achieved by building the FX in batches of five or more at a time.
The step down into the cabin has been deleted, with the only drawback being you sit with your knees a little more upright. Apart from that there is plenty of headroom. Because of this there is no space for underfloor storage or a fuel tank under the cockpit sole.
One of the trademarks of all Reflex boats is the enormous moulded grp forward hatch, held in place with a simple shock cord. Anchoring is carried out standing in the opening, with the internal self draining anchor well easily accessible.
Sitting headroom is good and the cabin windows are all nicely placed at eye level. Having no rear bulkhead means the boat has an open feel and there is no division between those working in the cockpit and others who want to relax on one of the two internal 1.8m squabs. Cabin storage is provided with two very wide side trays that double as with comfortable backrests and also space under both berths.
A nice feature is the patterned vinyl squab covering which gives a look of fabric, but with the durability and wearability of vinyl. As this is a boat that is simply cleaned by attacking it with a hose from stem to stern, the last thing you want is waterlogged squabs.
Even the optional slip-on vinyl seat cushions in the cockpit are designed to be removed, or if you do get them wet you can simply slip out the foam cushion to dry. Standard cockpit layout is twin lift-lok swivelling rotational moulded bucket seats and removable aft jump seats. I found the driver’s seat a little too far forward when standing to drive, but this can easily be individually adjusted to suit each owner’s wants.
The Cobalt’s screen does a good job when seated to drive, offering plenty of protection and when standing you look straight over the top. The facia in our test boat was equipped with just the minimum…tacho and speedo, although a trim gauge might be a nice addition especially for a novice boatie. A high fiddle rail stops nick-nacks sliding off the big flat area that is also suitable for installing electronics.
A grab handle would be a useful addition. This also applies for anyone sitting down the back, who may find it uncomfortable with no hand-holds anywhere. If you are sitting in the rear seats, clip-on or permanent backrests would be a worthwhile addition.
The Cobalt’s wide side decks offer plenty of space for rod holders and as well as being a first choice for fisherman. A standard feature is a double rod rack on the starboard side and provision for another to port.
Underneath the aft deck there is room for two tote tanks, each in their own moulded stands, separated by a centrally mounted battery and bilge pump. If you feel the need to carry more fuel then an optional back to back seat base is designed to cater for extra tote tanks.
Just when you thought you had to buy a second hand boat because you didn’t have enough change for a new one, along comes the Reflex Cobalt FX package.
The Cobalt, designed over four years ago by Ivan Ingham, has been very successful and although the FX version has only been around since October 1996, it is already proving more popular than the standard version – hardly surprisingly given the value the FX offers.
It’s a boat that will appeal to those who appreciate quality and handling before glitz and glamour.
Suggested factory options such as boarding platform ($260), bowsprit ($190), ski pole ($340) and bow rails ( $570) allow you to tailor your Cobalt FX to your needs. For value it’s a definitely a package that’s hard to beat.