We’ve grown fairly accustomed to seeing stand after stand of homogenous replicas and token tweaks at international boat shows. But when the Interboat NEO 7.0 was launched at London in January, it immediately looked like it had the potential to be quite an important craft.
For a long time, the UK has resisted the glaring merits of pontoon boats, partly because of their innate ugliness and partly because they tend to be at their most effective on flat waters under sunny skies. Plainly, neither quality is best suited to the UK – and yet here was a design from Holland that appeared to offer a great many of the pontoon boat’s leisure benefits while radically minimising its downsides...
Like all the best ideas, the basis for this magic trick was quite simple. You take the un-tapered, rectangular inboard shape of a pontoon boat, narrow it a touch, mix it with the depth and seakeeping of a monohull and then throw in the gentlemanly looks and open layouts of a Dutch sloop. Then you throw in a serious range of power options to encompass proper coastal watersports as well as pedestrian inland pottering. And finally, you design a set of modular deck layout options to help tailor the base platform to your favoured pursuit. What results is a boat that (on paper at least) makes a massive amount of sense.
A trio of layouts
Interboat has eschewed the temptation to waste space on a pointed bow, a pair of side decks or an extended swim platform. Instead, every bit of that 2.55-metre beam is used to the utmost, generating nearly 18 square metres of inboard accommodation. Better still, with no fixed layout, you can employ that space in a variety of ways...
Option 1 is called the Lounge line. Designed for sociability, it comes with a steering position right in the centre of the aft space, which means the helmsman can sit on the stern bench and maintain contact with all his passengers without having to leave his station.
Option 2 is the Comfort Line. Here, the steering position is located to the starboard side amidships, giving the helmsman a clear overview of the boat’s internals plus a proper cockpit seat.
And the third and final layout (the Sport Line) is designed to emulate a conventional RIB or sea boat. It comes with a central steering position and an open transom for easy-access watersports.
In all cases, however, you get a massive bow space with a full complement of wraparound seating, plus elevated stainless steel guardrails and deep storage compartments. And if you want to tweak the boat a little more, the options list also looks pretty well considered.
For the Sport Line, one of the top-end powerplants will easily be enough to pull a weighty skier and provide the keen driver with a bit of entertainment. Anglers can add a dedicated seat - and for those who enjoy diving or wakeboarding, a large section of the deck can also be left fully open for the storage of bulky gear. The option of a simulated teak deck, extra cushions, an integrated fridge and an overhead canvas also look particularly good - and with extra seating, heads or galley facilities also on the cards, you can basically tailor your boat in whatever way necessity demands (or budget allows).
Small wonder that the Dutch Marine Association (HISWA) described the Neo 7.0 as “truly innovative", awarding it the title of Motorboat of the Year at the 2014 Amsterdam Boat Show. With an ingenious approach and expert execution generating a boat that is full of promise for family boaters, it looks like a fully justified accolade. The Neo 7.0 enjoys huge inboard space, lots of storage and the versatility of customisable layouts. From an aesthetic perspective, it also looks far better than any pontoon boat - and (despite the relative infancy of the concept) it seems to have been built much more like a proven sea boat than an early production craft – and it comes with a ten-year hull warranty to prove it.
With a beam of just 2.55 metres, the external dimensions of the Neo 7.0 are not actually as vast as the internal space would have you believe. On the contrary, it is only a touch wider than the average seven-metre leisure boat, so from that perspective, you would expect it to behave much like any comparable planing monohull. However, at 2,500kg, it is extremely heavy for a boat of this size, so it is good to see that it comes with a relatively shallow aft hull section and a huge power band, from 27hp right up to 200hp. Obviously, to maximise this boat‘s versatility, it makes good sense to explore the upper end of this power spectrum, but if you are concerned by that standard 60-litre fuel tank (which would be hopelessly inadequate for anything but the most modest engine), you needn’t worry. Just have a word with Interboat about your needs and with plenty of physical space for a big upgrade to the fuel tank, your Neo could easily be given the range it deserves.
We have come to know this Dutch shipyard pretty well over the years. It has produced a succession of sloops and cruisers that have all performed with admirable competence - but in the form of the Neo 7.0, it’s onto something far more interesting. In a world of comfortable categories, I’m not actually sure what the Neo is. Is it better described as a deck boat on steroids or as a pontoon boat with the crippling inadequacies eradicated? Either way, the fact that this deep, broad, customisable platform offers monohull underpinnings alongside catamaran internals makes it a genuinely worthwhile tangent – and as long as the British public is brave enough to recognise these glaring truths, I have no doubt the Neo 7.0 will be a conspicuous success.
Interboat Neo 7 review: Specifications
Power: 27 to 200hp
Fuel capacity: 60 litres
Price: from 38,900 Euros
Practical versatile boats
New and innovative ways to get out on the water always get our attention at www.boats.com:
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