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2019 Makocraft 521HD SUV review

A big, bargain-priced open console fishing tinnie with heaps of interior space and a safe, seaworthy vee hull

Anglers searching for more boat for their money should look closely at the new Makocraft 521 Heavy Duty SUV. Rigged with the optional centre console and overhead alloy T-top, this versatile alloy open boat is priced from less than $40K with a Mercury 75hp four-stroke outboard and quality Dunbier trailer.

Overview

With the debut of the Makocraft 521HD SUV (Sports Utility Vessel) the classic Aussie fishing tinnie is alive and well. Eschewing some of the costly features, bells and whistles of some rival brands, the 521HD SUV is a back-to-basics, no frills open boat with a big, flat floor, plenty of freeboard, fully welded (as opposed to spot welded) side decks, and lots of interior fishing space.

There are three HD SUV models in the 40-strong Makocraft boat range. They include the 445, 481 and 521HD SUV. All three are built with a 3mm foam-filled (to Basic Standard) pressed alloy hull bottom, 3mm transom and smooth 3mm topsides.

The Makocraft HD SUV models can come with a basic tiller-steer open outboard configuration, and with a side or centre console layout with an electric-start outboard and remote forward controls.

The subject of this review is the largest of the three SUV models, the 521 HD, paired with a Mercury 75hp four-stroke outboard engine and a single-axle Dunbier galvanised steel trailer with mechanical brakes.

Price and equipment

Makocraft aims the latest HD SUV series boats directly at budget boat buyers. These boats don’t have all the features and gear you might find in some rival brands, but they don’t cost as much either. There is also a long list of factory fitted options available so buyers can choose extra gear to customise a boat.

The base model, tiller-steer 521 HD SUV has a hull-only price of $11K; adding a centre console helm station lifts this price to $12.8K. Packaged with a Mercury 60hp outboard with mechanical steering and a single-axle Dunbier trailer, pricing for the centre console model starts from $29K – a veritable bargain for a 5.3-metre boat.

As noted, the standard boat is light on inclusions to contain costs, but it does have a full length, carpeted plywood floor, a heavy duty tread plate foredeck with anchor storage shelf underneath, 200mm wide fully welded side decks, bow bollard, transom grab rails, two pedestal seats with four in-floor seat sockets, bow eye and handle, two plastic rod holders, transducer bracket, and a bilge compartment aft with pump.

Our test boat gained a number of options, lifting the drive-away price to $40K, including an upgrade to a larger Mercury 75hp longshaft (20-inch) four-stroke outboard along with a removable alloy T-top (with rocket launcher) and a Lowrance HDS Live7 display flush-mounted into the fascia at the helm.

The test boat was also fitted with a VHF radio, heavy-duty Dunbier trailer, foredeck anchor locker, formed, full-height outboard motor well (which lifts the maximum power rating from 60hp to 80hp), bow rails, portside boarding step and rail, a sub-floor storage compartment at the bow, a 60-litre underfloor fuel tank, and two extra floor sockets for the two standard pedestal chairs.

With the extras fitted our test boat still lacks a few fishing features, but more good gear is available, including a live bait tank, bait board, front and rear casting platform, a welded, checker-plate alloy floor, side storage pockets, underfloor kill tank, an electric trolling motor mounting plate, berley bucket, and more.

Design and layout

The Makocraft 521HD SUV is essential a big, open fishing platform with a centre console helm station situated just forward of amidships.

You can option the boat with an elevated casting deck up at the bow, but the owner of the boat preferred to keep the entire floor on the single level so there is enough freeboard up forward to safely stand and fish from the bow in rough weather.

The absence of a raised casting deck does take away the obvious storage location underneath it, but I think that keeping the floor at one level from the bow to the stern is a good idea if the boat is to be fished predominantly in the harbour and offshore.

There is still some storage space up in the bow, in the shelf directly beneath the foredeck. This shelf is normally where you would stow the anchor, but the test rig was optioned with a formed anchor well on the foredeck for this purpose, so the shelf underneath can be used to stow safety gear and other bulky items.

The test boat also had an optional sub-floor compartment ahead of the console, and a second, standard compartment aft that contains the bilge pump. One or both double as storage or as a fish box/kill tank.

Given the absence of storage areas I expected the 521HD SUV to come standard with cockpit side storage pockets, but as with lots of other gear, the side pockets are optional.

Not everyone wants or needs side pockets, I guess, but I find them invaluable for stowing things like deck lines, small tackle trays, lures, and other odds and ends.

For seating, the Makocraft has two lift-out pedestal bucket chairs with four in-floor seat sockets included in the standard boat package. Our test boat had two extra seat sockets for a total of six. Two were situated forward of the centre console with the remainder located aft in the rear cockpit.

Two of the four aft floor seat sockets were positioned before the console to allow chairs to slot into place for the skipper and first mate. This allows the skipper to drive the boat while sitting down, but due to the height of the console I expect most people will find it more comfortable to stand at the helm with the steering wheel and throttle falling easily to hand.

The helm console is relatively plain in design but functional. It has a short windscreen with grab handle, dash nook/compartment for keys and phones, and storage space underneath for clothing and other loose bulky items.

The battery was also located under the console to keep the rear cockpit area clear and uncluttered for fishing.

There is flat panel fascia space on the console to accommodate flush-fitted engine instruments and a mid-size electronics display.

Aft of the console the rear cockpit stretches back 2.3 metres to the island style, single engine outboard well, giving anglers lots of move-about fishing space.

On the water

The Makocraft 521HD SUV has a conservatively designed pressed alloy vee hull with a sharp entry, broad chines and a shallow vee angle aft. This combination provides a comfortable, dry and stable ride in modest bay chop and mild offshore seas.

As with all light weight alloy boats, you will take a few bumps if you drive too quickly in rough conditions, but if you keep the speed down to an easy 12-15 knot cruise then you’ll find the 521 HD SUV can tame most sea conditions.

Whilst our test boat performed well during our foray out through the Gold Coast Seaway, I did encounter some propeller ventilation from the Mercury 75hp four-stroke during tight turns and twisty high-speed manoeuvres. A different sized/pitched propeller will likely fix this minor set-up issue.

Otherwise the Makocraft proved to be safe, seaworthy and swift enough for most boating and fishing applications. We achieved a top speed of 32.5 knots and the Mercury four-stroke outboard felt strong and agile from idle through to wide open throttle.

Budget buyers might consider dropping back to a 60hp outboard to save a few dollars but I’d recommend staying with the larger outboard engine for the extra performance.

Performance

RPMSpeed
1000rpm3.6kt (6.7km/h)
1500rpm4.5kt (8.3km/h)
2000rpm5.8kt (10.7km/h)
2500rpm8.6kt (15.9km/h)
3000rpm15.1kt (27.9km/h)
3500rpm19.1kt (35.3km/h)
4000rpm22.9kt (42.4km/h)
4500rpm26.1kt (48.3km/h)
5000rpm30.3kt (56.0km/h)
5200rpm (WOT)32.5kt (60.1km/h)

Verdict

The Makocraft 521HD SUV is a big, open traditional alloy tinnie with an easy handling, seaworthy, high-sided vee hull suited to mixed boating and fishing pursuits.

In this sturdy, durable boat you can fish the dams and impoundments for bass one day, then head offshore to chase mackerel the next. It is that sort of boat – a versatile, all-purpose, low-maintenance fishing platform.

With a starting package price of just $29K, the Makocraft 521 HD SUV is also terrific value for money.

Specifications
Model: Makocraft 521HD SUV
Length overall: 5.3m
Hull length: 5.21m
Beam: 2.2m
Deadrise: 14 Degrees
Depth: 1.2m
Hull weight: 475kg
Weight on trailer: 1025kg (est)
Bottom and transom alloy: 3.0mm
Topsides alloy: 3.0mm
Maximum power: 80hp
Engine as tested: Mercury 75hp four-stroke
Fuel capacity: Portables (60L optional tank fitted)
Flotation standard: Basic
Passengers: Five

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