Captain's Report by Capt. Steve
The mission of the H2O 18 Sport is a simple one: Provide a budget-conscious boat buyer with all of the basics needed for utility and good performance while maintaining the hull integrity of Chaparral's premium boats. Then, customers coming to a Chaparral showroom will have the option of choosing a lower-priced category of boat while at the same time having the peace of mind of knowing it was constructed by a premium brand. For a growing number of consumers these days, that is the best of both worlds.
How Did They Do it?
It may sound like a simple chore but when a quality builder tries to maintain its standards in the build while keeping costs down, things can get problematic. By definition, making a lower-priced boat means cutting down on some of the more expensive components that the premium boats have. For openers, the H2O 18 Sport is the smallest boat built by Chaparral. With a 7’6” (2.28 m) beam it is also the narrowest, and not surprisingly has the lowest displacement – 2,300 lbs. (1,043 kgs.), 800 lbs. (362 kgs.) less than the Chaparral 196 SSi. There is 25% less material in the H2O 18 Sport than in the 196 SSi.Secondly, when you step aboard the 18 Sport, you won't see any stainless steel grab handles, stainless steel drink holders, premium bucket seats with flip-up bolsters, and there is no GPS moving map display in the dash. What you will see is a boat that delivers on the things you truly need: A plastic drink holder and gauges that deliver critical engine information are more essential than the moving map.
Here are some features that we think make the H2O 18 Sport a standout in the affordable class --
Unique standard features.
It may sound unbelievable but most boats in this class simply have a manual bilge pump with no automatic float switch. Not so in the Sport 18. When I looked in the bilge there was a float switch next to the bilge pump and it's a standard feature. How about stain resistant vinyl on the seats? A battery switch? A built-in 70-quart (66.24 L) cooler? Stainless steel rub rail insert… All of these items are often options on many boats in the affordable class.
Extended V-Plane hull.
This design feature is also seen on Chaparral's premium boats and it's a concept I like. By extending the running surface past the sterndrive collar at the transom, Chaparral is able to create a boat that has a quicker time to plane, minimal bow rise on acceleration, and lower planing speeds. All this has been verified by my tests on a number of Chaparral boats.
Fairly priced options.
While the list of standards is impressive on the H2O Series, so was the price list on the optional features. This is clearly an area where most builders choose to create margin, a la the automobile industry, but it is not the case on the H2O 18 Sport. For example, the “Convenience Package” has a tilt steering wheel, a compass, 2 spring line cleats, and a digital depth gauge for $325.
Performance and Handling
Our test 18 Sport was powered by the only choice offered; a 135-hp MerCruiser 3.0 L turning an Alpha 1 outdrive. Thanks to the extended V-Plane hull we had a quick time to plane of only 3.5 seconds. We continued accelerating to 20 mph in 6.1 seconds, and passed through 30 mph in 9 seconds. Top speed was reached at 5000 rpm and 39.1 miles per hour. At that speed we were burning 12.5 gph, which gave us a range of 71 miles. Best cruise was found at 3500 rpm and 27.6 miles per hour. Now we were burning 5.7 gph for a range of 109 miles.
I like how the 18 Sport handles, and it was evident that Chaparral didn't sacrifice handling characteristics. The steering felt firm in my hand and she was responsive to the helm. Once on plane, just a couple of shots of up-trim were met with a boost in speed and a gentler feel to the steering. In turns we bled off a normal amount of speed for a boat this size, so your passengers will remain comfortable regardless of how heavy handed you like to get. Cutting through wakes, the 18 Sport throws water high. I was able to wet the windscreen but it did take some effort. Since the 135-hp is the only power plant offered with this boat it's important to note that I found it to be sufficient from a performance standpoint as well as for recreational watersports. The key measurement here was the 3.5 seconds to plane and we were testing with two people aboard.
Starting at the stern Chaparral went with a full beam swim platform that comes out 18" (45.7 cm). It's here that I first noticed that the 6" (15.2 cm) cleats are mounted to the hull with four through-bolts instead of the usual two, which means you won't be seeing stress cracking in the gel coat over time. The non-skid of the swim platform extends to small steps on the side which makes it easy to step on and off your 18 Sport.
Here's a simple area where quality shows. The 18 Sport features a full fiberglass cockpit liner. A four-across bench seat at the stern houses storage to both sides, and a 70-quart (66.2 L) self-draining cooler lies in the center. To starboard was an optional air pump ($100) for filling water toys. Our test boat was also equipped with the optional snap-in carpet ($315) and I notice all of the snaps were reinforced so they won't be pulling out of the carpet at the end of your season.
As you can't have enough storage on a boat, especially in an 18 footer, I was happy to see that there were recessed areas in the bulwarks for additional storage. The sole storage was roomy and the hatch was mounted well back into the cockpit, which means it can be accessed from the sides.Moving forward, both the captain and the observer get bucket seats that swivel and slide. These were not premium seats nor did they have flip-up bolsters, but the premium seats are available as an option and as I've already mentioned the options are fairly priced. Chaparral's "ultra comfortable" pedestal seats are not priced at $600 each, nor $500 each, not even $200 each. Only $155 each.
The helm had an interesting feature in that it was largely a single-piece fiberglass insert mounted into place on the starboard console. Because it's a separate mold, Chaparral is able to make the panel an offsetting color, in this case non-glare gray. Anti-fog gauges with stainless steel bezels take up the upper panel and clutter is kept to a minimum with a multi-function gauge in the center. I was surprised to see toggle switches, but even more surprised to see that they were waterproof. The helm on our test boat was equipped with a convenience package that included a tilt steering wheel, compass, digital depth gauge, and a pair of midships cleats ($325 as noted above).
As you make your way to the bow, the walkthrough windshield is held in place with a C-channel instead of a piano hinge. This works just as well and it's a lot less expensive. I did notice the windshield was held open with a strap and snap, a feature missing on several premium boats I've tested, to say nothing of boats in the affordable range. The windshield supports were strong enough to hold my weight as I grabbed hold of the two sides of the windshield and performed 100 dips.
I found the seating at the bow comfortable for two reasons. First, the seat backs were slightly reclined so I didn't feel like I was sitting up. Additionally, with my 5'8 ½" (1.73 m) frame, my feet reached the bow to the point where I could push myself into the seatback and hold myself in position for any choppy waters. A vinyl grab handle completed the feeling of security.There is storage under the two side seats, but as with any 18' (5.49 m) boat it's rather limited in size. Additionally, because of the cost-effective nature of this boat, you won't find an anchor locker. So the required anchor is to be stored under these side seats. Here is an area where I feel compelled to become "Capt. Steve" and make a pitch for this being a good argument for wearing life jackets instead of having them take up your valuable and limited storage space.
Pricing and Options
The H2O 18 Sport comes at a base price of $22,895, for a complete boat, motor and trailer package. You can certainly take the H2O 18 Sport out the door as is, and be perfectly happy with it forever, but you might want to consider some options beyond what I've already mentioned. I'm always fond of saying that a Bimini top ($670) makes the difference between enjoying a day on the water, and enduring one. Since not many of us are lucky enough to keep an 18' (5.49 m) boat indoors, I would add a cockpit and bow cover ($765). Finally I would direct my attention to the trailer, and add a spare tire ($205).
Having been on the H2O 18 Sport and tested her, I'm happy to report that Chaparral seems to have succeeded in providing a quality boat at a reasonable price. If you're looking for a boat to take on vacation with you with any mid-sized SUV or large sedan, this could be your baby. Also, the 18 Sport is a boat you can give the keys to the kids and not worry, so long as they are properly licensed and trained. But if you're looking for a boat with stainless steel hardware, leather seats and bigger engines then you're looking at the wrong boat. But your Chaparral dealer will still likely have what you're looking for sitting right next to the H2O 18 Sport.
Test Result Highlights
- Top speed for the Chaparral H2O 18 Sport (2013-) is 39.1 mph (62.9 kph), burning 12.45 gallons per hour (gph) or 47.12 liters per hour (lph).
- Best cruise for the Chaparral H2O 18 Sport (2013-) is 27.6 mph (44.4 kph), and the boat gets 4.83 miles per gallon (mpg) or 2.05 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 109 miles (175.42 kilometers).
- Tested power is 1 x 135-hp Mercury 3.0 MPI.
Standard and Optional Features
|Carpet: Cockpit||Optional Snap-in|
|Outlet: 12-Volt Acc||Standard|
Lifetime Limited Hull Warranty