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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Central GA/1000 islands, NY

    longish-term test: 2013 Kawasaki STX-15F vs the 2012 Sea Doo GTI-limited

    Since I've learned so much from reading this site, I figured I might as well try to contribute something useful as well--

    I've spent 10 hours riding my -15f and about 20 hours riding my parents' GTI 155 limited and wanted to share my impressions of both for anyone shopping these models.
    My background + riding style: Boating since '86, riding pwc since '96, I have a lot of seat time on 3-person skis, particularly Sea Doos. I ride 2-up about 60% of the time, a mixture of cruising, sightseeing, and a little high-speed fun (though I'm a little gentler driver than I was 10 years ago). Mostly freshwater riding, but bigger lakes and rivers. Not interested in the maintenance and crappy mileage of a supercharged/turbocharged ski at this stage of my life.

    Here's my comparison based on several hours of back-to back riding:

    Speed - the Kawi is at least 5 mph faster at top end.
    Holeshot - the Kawi is much faster in the holeshot, no matter what mode or trim setting on the Sea Doo.
    Handling - the Kawi tracks straighter, digs into the turns harder and is more fun to drive, the SD is more playful and can spin (a little).
    Ride in chop - the Kawi is softer and more comfortable, the SD pounds around more.
    Jumping waves (not that you should do that...) - the Kawi is fun and predictable, the SD is painful and always landing wrong.
    Throttle control - the Kawi finger throttle is stiff, but more comfortable overall in my hand, the SD digital throttle is indirect and frustrating.
    Reverse/docking - the SD, with the iBR control, is far easier to dock, the Kawi reverse works fine but is stupidly placed on right.
    Mirrors - the SD mirrors are fixed, while the Kawi mirrors are adjustable.
    Comfort - the SD seat is slightly contoured and softer while the Kawi is a firmer seat cushion; I like the SD better but the Kawi isn't bad.
    Mats - the SD mats are better looking (more finished), but the Kawi mats grip just slightly better.
    Reboarding - the Kawi sits lower in the water and the rear handle placement makes it easier to reboard than the SD.
    Noise - the SD is quieter than the Kawi at all throttle settings. The Kawi startup and idle sounds cooler.
    Wet ride - the SD is drier than the Kawi at low speeds for the driver, and drier (for the passenger's legs) at moderate speeds.
    Fuel economy - pretty close, the SD may be slightly better (both are better than anything supercharged!).
    Refueling - the SD with the top mounted fill is much easier to fill without spilling. Kawi is difficult to completely refill without "burping".
    Storage - both are fine and reasonably watertight.
    Looks - the SD is "transformers" modern, the Kawi is more classically styled, though the hood feels a little flimsy.
    Price - the Kawi is cheaper than the competing GTi 155 SE (particularly with manufacturer rebates).
    Gadgets - the SD has many more toys on the display (compass, GPH, optional depth finder), and has trim and cruise control, and a good place to tie a line without having to loop around the handlebars. The Kawi display is easy to read, but basic.
    Assembly - no glaring flaws on either PWC. Kawi is assembled in Nebraska, pre-2013 SD in Quebec, 2013-later in Mexico.

    Conclusion: We went into this purchase thinking we were going to buy a slightly used GTi 155 SE. After having a test ride on the STX-15f at the dealer, it totally changed our mind. If you care about having the most features, latest graphics, newest technology, and are really uncoordinated when docking, buy the Sea Doo. If you care about having a low-cost PWC that's actually fun to drive, handles well, and is quick and nimble, buy the Kawasaki. My fiance and I literally spent the week we had both machines available to ride arguing over who got to pilot the Kawi...

    Hope this helps someone who's shopping.
    Last edited by terminaldegree; 08-28-2013 at 09:28 PM.

  2. #2
    steve45's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Thanks for the input!

    What's wrong with jumping waves?

  3. #3
    785xp's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    That is some good input. I was planning on purchasing the 15F but after seeing the futuristic design of the new Seadoo's and the features they had, I went with the Seadoo GTR. Obviously it was more money, but then it solved all the shortcomings the GTI has over the 15F in your review.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Central GA/1000 islands, NY
    Quote Originally Posted by 785xp View Post
    I went with the Seadoo GTR. Obviously it was more money, but then it solved all the shortcomings the GTI has over the 15F in your review.
    Congrats on your GTR - I'm starting to see more and more of them around and can imagine the s/c motor with that hull must be a hoot in flat water, though I'd still take the Kawi for the price, fuel range, no premium gas, and in the turns. On paper, the GTR looks like the sweet spot in their range. We had a GTX-iS 260 limited for literally a month and hated that pig of a machine so much, we sold it privately and got the GTi limited 155 instead.

  5. #5
    RLACEMAN's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Random Lake WI
    I've had my 15F for 3 seasons now & the only complaint about it is that it is noisy. Easy to maintain, once a year oil change, spark plugs every other year, runs best on 87 crap gas & for only 160hp it has good speed. Where in western WI are you?

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Central GA/1000 islands, NY
    That's good to hear, rlaceman. I'm located in EC.
    Will try posting a question about noise reduction in a different thread...

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Central GA/1000 islands, NY
    Just wanted to update this thread, now that my parents' GTI 155 Limited is 4 years old with 175 hours, and my STX-15F is 3 years old and just passed 100 hours. Both skis have been reliable overall and have lived up to our expectations.


    Sea Doo GTI 155 Limited - needed a new start/stop button cover, is often reluctant to read the electronic key, clear plastic cover over the dashboard cracked less than 2 years into ownership and the gauges are starting to malfunction because of it now, every once in a great while the IBR doesn't respond correctly, minor cracks appeared near rear trailering eyes almost immediately, but have not spread.

    Kawasaki STX-15F - gas gauge read incorrectly this year when less than half a tank, but the problem seems to have cleared itself up before I brought it in to get checked. On one occasion, my wife said the throttle didn't return to idle when releasing it, but the steering assist may have kicked in (correctly or incorrectly, I don't know).

    Regular/other maintenance:
    Both skis - oil and filter changes, plug changes, pump services at dealer. The SD got a new battery this year. Both skis need a new decal below the waterline when we left them parked in the lake for a month this summer, and rubbed against the fenders on the dock a little too much. Leaving the skis in the water for longer than a week results in a lot of cleaning on the bottom and around the pump area...

    Performance 3-4 years along:
    Both skis run well, and more or less like they did when they were new. The Kawi acts more like new mechanically, but to be fair it's a year newer with 70 fewer hours. They both run maybe 1 mph slower than before, however I'm running in warmer climates a lot of the year compared with before. Both skis have been run in a little salt water (the SD more than the Kawi), but both look like new under the hood, since we always take care of things post-ride in those conditions. Fuel mileage is identical between the two skis, though the Kawi continues to be annoying to refill completely on the water (it burps...).

    Closing impressions:
    I still generally agree with the comments I left in the beginning of this thread.
    The Kawasaki is still a better performing, more fun to drive ski. If I'm carrying a passenger to tour around (especially a novice), when both skis are on the dock I usually opt for the Sea Doo, because the contoured seat is slightly more comfortable for the passenger and the difference in noise at cruise is notable. Granted, the Kawi sounds better at idle and full throttle, but the Sea Doo engine is easier to talk over when you're going 25-35 mph and pointing out stuff on the lake. The relative simplicity of the STX-15F has, as we suspected, resulted in a slightly more reliable ski, both now and for long-term ownership, but it doesn't have all the creature comforts of the GTI 155. Although it isn't a huge need, I do enjoy the depth finder on the Sea Doo and would consider installing one on the Kawi someday.

    A friend of ours let me try their 2015 Yamaha VX Cruiser. Although it seemed nicely put together and finished, the driving experience and the ride quality seemed to lag behind the touring-oriented Sea Doo and the performance-oriented Kawasaki when ridden back to back.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    May 2008
    Thanks for the update, glad to hear both are still good watercraft for ya. Ya, you really can't beat the 15F. Although I understand most would like to see it with some modern amenities to satisfy the masses.

  9. #9
    After looking at all the options we purchased a 2016 STX-15f and Ultra LX. They have been great so far. A real nice pair with enough differences to keep it interesting. Having the exact same motor with make it nice for maintenance as well. The 15f has a definite performance edge but you can actually get wetter on the Ultra (if you're trying)....which we enjoy.

  10. #10
    Thanks for the update! I am soon to be in the market for my first ski and the 15f is very appealing. However, I must admit the ride technology on the yamis would really be nice for docking and loading on a trailer (especially for my very inexperienced wife). I love the speed and features the 15f offers for the price that you can find them for. The only upgrade I think Kawi really needs to make to it is to relocate the reverse lever to the left side so you can keep your right hand next to the throttle, and maybe give it a more sculpted slightly tiered seat.

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