Boat Reviews

Chaparral 226 SSi

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The bold bowrider

It’s an ambition that’s about as old as time itself – to build a sportboat which is versatile, doesn’t price itself beyond its competition, and most importantly, is filled with quality. That is, until now! Chaparral seems to have found the balance with their 226 SSi; and with the Wide-Tech bow, this craft has enough room to offer the adults some relaxation at the bow while the kids play at the stern, since that’s what the 226 seems to be all about – family time…

Like the rest of their line-up, Chaparral’s 226 SSi is built to last. Featuring a fibreglass liner construction for precise fit and finish, and Kevlar reinforcement for added strength, it’s no wonder that Chaparral owners rarely sell their boats. With their roots stemming back to the year 1965, Chaparral knows what you want from your time on the water. Let’s take a look at what they think you need from the 226 SSi:

Deck layout

Starting aft, the full-beam swim platform (0.61 m in length) features small, pull-up cleats in the corners. Classy and convenient, a stereo remote is paired with a tilt switch (for the stern drive) and is mounted onto a stainless plate that is recessed into a moulded spot on the transom. A three-step boarding ladder is enclosed in the starboard side of the swim platform. Just forward of the stern platform is a luxurious sunpad. Measuring 0.91 m x 2.03 m, this area has a variety of features, making it more than just a place to catch a tan.

The sunpad is in three sections – one directly over the engine and one each to port and starboard. The pad can lie flat or it can be made into a chaise longue with the back tilted up on the side. The starboard pad opens to reveal a fibreglass walkway from the stern to the cockpit, and under that is storage. To port, fold the pad back and a 23-litre portable cooler has its place out of the way. The large centre cushion lifts to reveal wet storage that self-drains out the side of the craft. Located on top of the engine, it will make a great place to dry your wet swimsuits or warm a towel after being in the water. Moving forward, you enter the cockpit from the sunpad walkthrough and step down onto a non-skid seat base. Once inside, you can cover up that seat with a padded cushion. The cockpit itself features U-shaped seating with storage under both side seats. In the cockpit, you can comfortably seat six people. The 226 SSi has a rated capacity for 12 people, a high number for this size boat – but here it is actually possible, unlike some others in its class.

At the helm, Chaparral went with a classy layout with square gauges and chrome bezels. The ergonomics of the helm are excellent and I was able to see clearly through the windshield from the seated position, rather than stare at the windshield frame. For the pilot and co-pilot, Chaparral has provided bucket seating. Aside from the fact that they are very comfortable, they’re very easy to operate. For swivel and slide, simply pull up a lever (located in the lower part of the armrest, alongside your knee) to get the seat perfect for you. Both seats also have flip-up bolsters in case you require the extra height.

The bow area is where the 226’s Wide-Tech really comes into play. The pickle-fork design allows for the bow rider section to be wider and longer, and therefore more accommodating for up to five adults. There’s storage under both side seats, and fully forward is another cushion which lifts to reveal a built-in, insulated cooler that drains overboard. In the centre of the bow ‘deck’ is a good-sized anchor locker, complete with a holster – so your anchor won’t be rattling around inside the compartment. If you’re looking to add some options, I highly recommend the wakeboard tower. It includes two wakeboard holders and a colour coordinated Bimini top with boot.

Although a small feature, I really like that the 226 has fuel filling caps on both sides of the craft. Whether on the trailer or in the water, this benefit becomes handy at the pumps when the station’s line can’t reach the other side of the boat – but it’s especially great for the days on the river when conditions, such as the wind, don’t always allow you to pick which side is closest to the fuel pump. As with most boats in this genre, the 226 provides shelter for those in the cockpit once you have closed the passageway door and windscreen – which, might I add, is pinned in the open position magnetically.

When it comes time to laying down a beat, the 226 has a decent enough sound. As mentioned above, the system is operated from various places around the craft and is piped to several quality speakers. There’s the option to plug in your own player at the co-pilot binnacle too! The sound system as we heard on the review was the standard option, however, a high-performance option is available.

The Chaparral 226 SSi has a sleek profile and sporty good looks – whether she’s moored to the jetty or running on the water. For her pure performance, the designers incorporated their unique (and exclusive) extended V-plane into the 226’s hull which claims to be the most awarded hull design in boating. This is a feature that extends the running surface well past the collar of the sterndrive lower unit attached to the transom. Results have shown that the added surface area beyond the transom show quicker times to plane and much less bow rise.

The 226 has the choice between MerCruiser and Volvo inboard engine options, ranging from a 5-litre (260 HP) to a 6.2-litre (320 HP), if you’re looking for bragging rights. Our review boat was fitted with a MerCruiser 5.7-litre 350 Mag and coupled with the Bravo 3 drive as the stern leg. I found that she’s a very quick boat on her feet; and at our review site at the Vaal, she claimed a top speed of 84.5 km/h (GPS) while the engine was pumping at 4 800 rpm – impressive for a boat of her size performing at the Reef. She’s probably most in her element at around 40 km/h (3 000 rpm), while at a more modest 28 km/h (2 500 rpm) the 226 throws out a decent enough wake for some intermediate wakeboarding. Of everything this craft has to offer, I would probably most commend her for the fine control she gives the skipper.

On the test day, the wind was kicking up some chop across the water. Although not big enough to cause havoc, it did prove to me that the 226 is designed to handle rough conditions. Add into the equation the waves I was making, and I was confident that this boat is built strong since she carved nicely through everything I threw at her. It was at this stage that I really appreciated the rubber seals on all of the doors around the craft as the sporty growl of the engine is something you won’t want to miss.

The hull of the 226 SSi uses reverse chines, so when turning hard-over, she really digs in and holds it without sliding. There is a minimal bleed-off of speed in the tight corners, but as soon as the wheel straightens up, she’ll stretch her legs again. As an everyday skipper, you’ll enjoy the comfort of her gentle turns and how effortlessly she cuts wakes. And if you’re still not satisfied with safety, the 226 has high gunwales – the arch-enemy of adventure-seeking kids.

The Chaparral 226 SSi (with the engine as reviewed) has a base price of R740 000 on its aluminium trailer with braked axles. What you get for that money is a premium boat with excellent looks, styling, and very good performance. It only takes one quick glance over the 226 to notice that she has been given luxury at every corner.

In fact, if you look at every individual feature on the craft and compare it to comparable boats, you will find that Chaparral has taken the steps to better the quality to the finest detail – showing that they strive to be the best in offering true, top quality.

If you’re in the market for something imported and arguably unrivalled for quality, the 226 SSi really ought to top your list. For more information, contact your local authorised Honda Marine dealer or call the Honda Care Line on 0800 466 321.


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