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The Bayliner 160 is one of the American manufacturer’s latest offerings, but is the baby of its fleet big enough to handle our Aussie boating lifestyle?




If the Bayliner 160 was a kid, it might have issues. It's the youngest and smallest in a family of high achievers.


I have to concede I didn't expect too much of it. It's not that the boat is unappealing - its lines are neat, its graphics modern and sporty - but in a showroom full of its bigger siblings, it simply doesn't grab your attention.


But looks can be deceiving. The little 160 punches above its weight and it has plenty of family heritage packed into its compact 16ft layout.


The 160 is somewhat novel for Bayliner in that it has an outboard sitting proud on its transom, rather than an inboard hiding under its covers. The 160 and the 180 - its new bigger brother - are the first outboard-powered models Bayliner has produced since 2005, when it ceased production of the popular Capri series.


The 160 shares its build quality with its bigger family members. You get a lifetime warranty on the hull, which is formed from hand-laid Vinylester resin on full-length box stringers. This, says Bayliner, produces a stiff and strong hull that should provide years of faithful service.





I actually got two goes at driving the 160 - first on Sydney's Parramatta River and then again at a Bayliner test day on Berowra Waters, on Sydney's northern outskirts. Both locations were ideal for the little missile. It loves cruising on backwaters like these, where you can let it have its head and get into play mode in the wide, open spaces.


Its interior space has been utilised efficiently and it's easy to move around, with comfortable seating in the separate bow and cockpit areas. The boat has
deep sides and it offers a feeling of security for the kids.


Up front, the beam has been carried forward to maximise space in the bow section, where you can stretch out on the seats each side of the walkway. There are drinkholders, grabrails and underseat storage on each side. The floor and bow access step also have practical non-slip surfaces.


The bow has a cleat and built-in anchor light but no anchorwell - you'll have
to store the ground tackle in the underseat storage.


Moving aft the helm and dash are formed as part of the top section of the boat, giving the impression of an integrated, well-finished craft. Supported by strong stanchions, the three-piece windscreen is tempered safety glass, while the top section forms a useful grabrail. The passenger gets an additional grabrail and storage bin, which is sensibly plumbed overboard.





The bucket seats for both the driver and passenger are set in fixed positions, but they are comfortable and a deep footwell provides ample legroom.


For the driver there's a moulded plastic steering wheel and a digital instrument readout displaying revs, speed, fuel and voltage, but there's no trim gauge.


Seating for the driver is comfortable, with good support and clear vision all round. The dash-mounted ignition stirs the motor into near-silent operation, while setting the throttle forward sees the boat launch out of the hole and rapidly get up to speed. This is a nimble, reasonably-priced sportsboat rather than a fire-breathing monster, but it's safe, fun and quiet. It loves to be chucked around at speed and the heritage of the hull shines through, offering a predictable, stable ride. It's solid and rattle-free across chop, with the feeling it would be at home on big bays in reasonable weather.


A folding bimini provides welcome shade for the helm area yet affords adequate head height, allowing you to move around easily.


At the stern we find a full-width lounge with room for three - it gives good lumbar support and is very comfortable. Upholstery is tear- and stain-resistant UV-treated vinyl in white with black trim, creating a pleasing visual complement for the hull.


The rear lounge lifts for storage and access to the battery, but the bilge access seems somewhat limited. Under the fitted cockpit carpet you'll find a 60lt underfloor fuel tank.


The test boat was fitted with a 90hp Mercury OptiMax, which is well matched to the hull and sends the pocket rocket to around 38kts (70kmh). A 60hp two-stroke or 75hp four-stroke Mercury motor is also available if speed isn't an issue and you want to save some bucks.


The transom has the non-slip deck that carries through from the bow and access for boarding is easy. A centre-fitted skipole, stainless cleats and a stainless boarding ladder complete the stern.





In the 160, Bayliner has given us a great choice for both entry-level boaties or jaded big boat owners looking to downsize. It's a good family boat for exploring or watersports, capable of towing a skier or dragging water toys over a day of family fun.


Easy to launch, easy to store and easy to tow (and requiring only a relatively small tow vehicle), it's actually plenty of boat for the bucks, while the name on the hull should go a long way to preserving its resale value.





Wind: 5kts

Sea: Flat river conditions




On the plane...


Well priced


Good performance and handling


Good entry-level boat



Dragging the chain...


Basic fit-out and spec






8.6kts (16kmh) @ 2300rpm (on the plane)


18.4kts (34kmh) @ 3000rpm


23.2kts (43kmh) @ 3500rpm


27.0kts (50kmh) @ 4000rpm


29.7kts (55kmh) @ 4500rpm


34.6kts (64kmh) @ 5000rpm


37.8kts (70kmh) @ 5400rpm (WOT)





Specifications: BAYLINER 160





Price as tested: $31,390


Options fitted: 90hp Mercury OptiMax


Priced from: $27,790 (with 60hp motor)





Type: Monohull runabout


Material: Fibreglass


Length: 4.93m


Beam: 2.18m


Weight: 604kg


Deadrise: 16°





People: 5


Rec. HP: 60-90


Max. HP: 90


Fuel: 68lt





Make/model: Mercury OptiMax 90


Type: Three-cylinder, in-line, two-stroke


Weight: 170kg


Displacement: 1526cc


Gear ratio: 2.33:1




First published in TrailerBoat # 273.


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