Since making its UK debut at the London Boat Show in January 2011, the Quicksilver Activ range has made huge strides. After receiving a very warm reception from the UK press, the flagship 675 Open went on to win the prestigious title of ‘European Powerboat of the Year’ for 2011. In January 2012, exactly a year after its first UK appearance, the Activ range achieved another high-profile success when the 645 Cabin won the ‘Motorboat of the Year’ accolade in the ‘Starter Boat’ category of the annual IPC Awards - see our feature Nine Top Motorboats.
What is particularly important here is not the winning of the awards themselves but the specific victories that these plaudits represent. In particular, the judges talked about safety, versatility, intelligent use of space and value for money - all vital assets to the entry-level powerboating market and absolutely central to the ethos behind the Activ range. Right from the start, these craft were supposed to be about affordable, multi-purpose family boating. They were supposed to be about bringing the buyer the best possible return on his investment and these awards are a tacit acknowledgement that Quicksilver’s Activ range has been achieving exactly that.
The Activ bloodline
Happily, the positive traits that have been so widely identified in the DNA of the Activ range are just as prominent in the bottom end of the line-up as they are at the top. On the mid-range 535 Open (pictured), you get the same workmanlike hull shape, understated colours, modern cockpit fittings and beam-forward design that have been applauded on other Activ craft. And while the Cabin, Walkaround and Sundeck configurations all have their merits for summer boating, the Open configuration you see here is particularly useful for the boating Brit on account of the extra deck space, the deep, safe freeboards and the elevated guardrails.
The 535 Open (which is to be superseded in 2012 by the identically configured 555 Open) is in fact the second smallest of the four Activ Open boats and yet the space on offer is truly excellent for a boat of this length. A generous beam of around seven and a half feet is paired with quite a compact two-man helm console and that means you get proper walkways on both sides. Add in a blunt bow shape that avoids tapering until the last few inches and the result is plenty of room to move, to sit and to see, wherever you happen to position yourself on the boat.
A surprisingly clever set-up
It is not just the scale of the space on offer that impresses but the way in which it is used. On the aft deck, you get a pair of rotating seats at the helm plus a three-man bench at the transom. There is no room for an aft table here, but this is no problem because you can comfortably sit four people around the circular table in the five-foot bow space. And talking of the bow space, it quickly becomes apparent that this is the boat’s most striking asset - not least because the entire area can be transformed into a sun pad with rare and welcome simplicity. The ingeniously designed bow locker does away with separate braces and infils, and instead uses an integrated section that folds back into the space to create a quick and easy, ready-made sunbed.
The helm console is equally well considered. It might be compact, but it utilises a hinged front edge that swings up to reveal a cavernous storage space inside, with neatly appointed stowage brackets for the fire extinguisher and bow table. In addition, you get good access to the wiring on the back of the dash, plus a rubber lining around the edge of the door to avoid rattles and a proper, heavy-duty catch to stop the door coming loose in a lumpy sea. Now if only they could replace the rudimentary rubber catch on the bow locker for a similarly robust fastening, this space would be beyond reproach.
The impact of shallow angles
With shallow hull angles and a well-rigged outboard, this is one of the easiest driving boats you could ever hope to see. That 15-degree deadrise brings a planing time of less than three seconds and a top end of around 33 knots, and it’s all delivered in very comfortable fashion, courtesy of impeccable ergonomics at the helm and a solid, confidence-inspiring hull. The ride is also secure and the response to driver input is impressively sharp, particularly with the 90hp option on the transom.
The inevitable consequence of big internal space on a relatively short boat, however, is the generation of rather blunt frontal surfaces - and underway at pace or on a lumpy seascape, this tends to produce a little launch and slam. It means you have to pick your path between wave shapes with care, but there is still no doubt in my mind that the designers have made exactly the right compromise. After all, this is not a race craft but a family boat for summer days out, when the running efficiency of the shallow hull and the internal space of the broad beam will be of far more use than a rapier-like ability to cleave a sea in two.
Avoid false economy
While the standard features list is peculiarly generous, there are several features that any buyer of this boat really ought to consider. For me, a ski pole, a larger (90-litre) fuel tank, hydraulic steering, a stereo and a bimini would make such a difference to the potential applications for this boat that to ignore them would represent false economy. With these extra features in place, you have a far more refined driving experience, allied to almost twice the useable cruising range, as well as music for parties, a shelter for sunny days and the ability to tow a waterskier if the mood takes you. That’s an awful lot of talent for the money.
The outgoing 535 Open (like all four Open boats in the 2012 Activ range) is a rigorously well-sorted small family sports boat. The bow configuration is ingenious, the internal space is both generous and well used, the driving experience is very competent and the value is beyond doubt. With some well-chosen add-ons from the options list, you have an uncommonly versatile family boat package for a very tempting price. Small wonder the Activ range has been so well received.
For more details see RIBS Marine or Quicksilver Boats.