Comparing the Yamaha EX and the Sea-Doo Spark

When BRP first introduced the Sea-Doo Spark years ago, the company successfully marketed the diminutive model as a throwback to the ’90s when personal watercraft were smaller, lighter, and cheaper than the full-sized, full-featured models today.

Unfortunately for a lot of first-time buyers, the Spark was more like watercraft of the 90s than they banked on, and not in a good way. Yamaha went to the school on Sea-Doo with their new EX Series WaveRunners that delivers on the promise of the Spark in a way that looks forward, not backward.

The Yamaha EX WaveRunner is 3-inches longer and 1.5-inches narrower than the three-person Spark. The difference is nothing on paper, but that extra length is meaningful when riding with two adults onboard or when towing. And even though the EX is slightly narrower, static stability is much better, which makes reboarding easier.

And by the way, riding three-up on the Spark is a costly $1,200 upgrade for a bolt-on stern extension and an underpowered 90-hp motor. The EX WaveRunner comes with the new 100-hp Yamaha TR-1 engine based on the award-winning TR-1 High Output engine that powers Yamaha upmarket VX line.

The dry weight of the EX is 156 lbs more than the three-up, 90-hp Spark, but 130 pounds less than the base VX model. Yes, the Spark weighs less than the Yamaha EX, but the Spark’s weight savings comes at the expense of its durability.

For all intensive purposes, the Spark hull and deck are constructed from a plastic material that cannot be repaired if cracked more than 12 or so inches, which is why BRP says that the Spark is designed for small, calm lakes. Crack the hull, and you’re looking at a $2,000 replacement, and that doesn’t include labor.

Another way BRP keeps weight down is nixing all storage except for a small glovebox and limiting the size of the fuel tank to 7 gallons. You can add an optional bow storage bin, but that adds $200 to the price of the Spark. As for fuel capacity, there is nothing you can do but stay close to a marina.

The EX, on the other hand, is made from sheet-molded-compound fiberglass that just like Yamaha’s top-of-the-line WaveRunners. Unlike the Spark, the EX’s durability is not an issue. The smooth finish not only reduces drag compared to the rough, plastic finish of the Spark; the EX feels lighter and more nimble when on plane.

The EX and the three-up, 90-hp Spark are a mere $200 apart. Add a front spray deflector and bow storage bin to the Spark, and the Spark costs more than the EX.

Factor in the EX’s more powerful engine that is 14-percent more fuel efficient than the Spark 90-hp motor, and larger fuel capacity that gives the Yamaha EX 47-percent more range, and it looks like Yamaha flipped the script on Sea-Doo in regards to real value.

Bottom line:
The Sea-Doo Spark is affordable and lightweight. It’s fun to ride in optimal conditions and small, calm bodies of water. The plastic deck and hull are concerning. All you need to do is look at a used Spark to see how badly it wears.

The Yamaha EX is just as affordable and lightweight. Arguably, the EX with its better stability is more appropriate for larger lakes and the ocean. It’s more powerful engine, and performance hull design elevates the fun when riding one-up, and it’s much more capable that the Spark when riding with multiple passengers.

If we have to choose, we pick the EX for its versatility and durability. Both are fun to ride, but for the money, we’d rather have a PWC that can go anywhere at anytime regardless of the conditions, and that’s where the Sea-Doo Spark fails, especially if you a full-size adult or larger.