By: John Ford

Presented by
  • Trade-A-Boat

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We had to crowbar John Ford out of the Chaparral 196 SSi WideTech. What does that tell you about this bowrider?


The test day started with clear blue skies and not a breath of wind - what a great morning for a run on the harbour in a new Chaparral 196 SSi WideTech bowrider. The prospect of having fresh air on my face became even more inviting as the traffic came to a stop due to excruciating delays on Parramatta Rd, and by the time we got to Rose Bay Wharf the sky had clouded over and it looked like it was going to rain. But no matter, there was fun to be had on the water.

Chaparral, for those who don't know, is out of Nashville, in Georgia, in the south-eastern USA. The company has built boats since 1965 and its extensive range goes up to a 12.8m cruiser. The 196 SSi WideTech is the second smallest of 22 boats that cross five ranges and while it's not the biggest of boats at 19ft6in (5.94m), what it lacks in size it more than makes up for with style and performance.

It has plenty of pizzazz with a quality feel and a sporty edge thanks to excellent white fibreglass and well-finished upholstery. Black trim and gelcoat highlights carry the tasteful theme throughout the whole boat while bucket seats and a sporty wheel and dash give it a racy go-fast appeal.

The bow has a styling treatment that Chaparral calls the "pickle fork" bow. This gives a 100mm wider profile and creates more room and flare without compromising the entry angle of the bow. The bowrider section is a comfortable U-shaped lounge with well-padded seats and comfortable back rests. There's room for three adults who can easily reach the grabrails, cupholders and a set of waterproof speakers. Also fitted are four pop-up stainless cleats and an unlined anchorwell with lid. There's storage under the seats and a moulded icebox drains overboard. The whole bow section can be protected with an optional canvas cover and there's an optional filler cushion too.






The walkthrough to the cockpit has the usual folding windscreen section and a very neat touch in the form of a recessed lower door. The quality look upholstery is carried through with two sliding and swivelling bucket seats, a rear bench seat, and an aft sundeck. There are moulded sidepanels with full-length armrests and the passenger also gets a locking glovebox with 12V outlet and a handy grabrail. The Taylor Made five-piece swept back screen gives the hull an attractive integrated look from the side profile.

The driver's position is stylish and functional with an aluminium spoked-tilting steering wheel. The hydraulic steering is light and the controls are well placed and smooth.

A bolster seat adds to the comfort by making the steering position adjustable for most people. There's also plenty of space in the moulded legwell and the seats have closed-foam padding to keep them dry. Moulded channels drain any accumulated water into the bilge.

The dash has a full collection of analogue gauges in an easy to read display. They include a tacho, speedo, trim position, fuel, digital engine hours, coolant temperature and oil pressure. There's also a 12V outlet and remote control for a Clarion sound system with additional space for a small sounder/plotter.

The cockpit has a clip-in carpet and a large in-floor ski locker between the bucket seats. Moulded sidepanels with full length armrests finish off a very well designed layout. Fuel fillers fitted to each sidedeck flow into an underfloor polyethylene 121lt tank.

The stern section has a rear bench seat with space for three. There's a sunpad that can be converted to full width or folded for a walkthrough transom. The big boarding platform has a non-slip rubber pad and an optional dive ladder and there are storage bins and additional space for a removable Esky-type cooler. There's even a second control unit for the sound system.






The WideTech hull is said to make the most of the space available within a 2.44m beam, and a V-section runs the length of the boat with a 200mm planing section to get lift.

Lifting the lounge reveals the engine compartment with bilgeblower, automatic fire suppression unit, and automatic bilgepump. A Volvo Penta 4.3 GXi takes care of propulsion and is coupled to a three-blade 14x19in prop.

The motor is a fuel-injected V6 pumping out 225hp - plenty to make this a fun boat to play with. Much of the design is directed to performance with economy and that's exactly what this style of boat is all about.

It gets going with a steady bow - down takeoff and settling in to a well-mannered ride at speeds up to 43kts (80kmh). Across a slight harbour chop we cruised at a happy 27kts (50kmh). There was a bit of pounding across a ferry wake but it was nothing to get worried about and the hull remained solid and silent, without a rattle from anywhere.

Even past the heads in a moderate swell it rode smoothly and predictably.

Having said that, the 19in prop fitted to the test model was probably a bit tall for the power available so a 14¾x17in prop is planned for a bit more punch out of the hole and a slight drop in top end speed.






The Chaparral 196 SSi WideTech throws itself into turns like a predictable and well-mannered thoroughbred. Even across chop and with the wind across the bow it remained completely dry, with the flared hull sending spray wide of the interior.

Chaparral is on a winner with this model. While it's among the smallest in the range, it packs a punch capable of dukeing it out with plenty of the best sportsboats already ensconced in the market - it's stylish, well engineered and rates high on the fun meter.






10.8kts (20kmh) @ 2100rpm

17.7kts (33kmh) @ 2500rpm

29.7kts (55kmh) @ 3000rpm

40.5kts (75kmh) @ 4000rpm

44.1kts (82kmh) @ 4800rpm





On the plane...


Quality finish

Stylish design

Sporty and fun

Lifetime hull warranty




Dragging the chain...


Inappropriate prop






Specifications: Chaparral 196 SSi Widetech






Price as tested: $55,000

Options fitted: Premium bucket seats, pull-up cleats, bow scuff-plate, transom stereo control, bow cover

Priced from: $47,000






Type: Runabout

Material: GRP

Length 5.94m

Beam: 2.44m

Deadrise: 18°






Fuel: 121lt

Rec. max. HP: 225

People: 8






Make/model: Volvo Penta 4.3 GXi

Rated HP: 225

Displacement: 4.3lt

Weight: 413kg

Propeller: Three-blade 14x19






National Marine Sales

James Craig Rd,

Rozelle, NSW,

Tel: 0438 303 233







Chaparral Boats

Nashville, Georgia, United States



Originally published in TrailerBoat 263.


Find Chaparral boats for sale.


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