Aquador 300 HT review: now a wholly excellent boat

Alex Smith tests one of the most exciting new compact cruisers money can buy and gives his verdict on the Aquador 300 HT

Back in January 2022, when we caught our first glimpse of the new Aquador 300 HT, we were seriously impressed. By combining elevated hull sides and raised side decks with a relatively low-slung wheelhouse, it seemed to ramp up both the volume and the style in a way that marked it out as a clear leader in the sector.

Fast-forward five months and we found ourselves among the lakes of Nauvo in Western Finland, full of expectation that the test boat would validate our impressions and take its rightful place at the pinnacle of the pocket cruiser pile.

But when we stepped on board for our sea trial, what we saw was not so much a decisive conclusion as the start of a campaign to hone and perfect what this promising new boat could become…

In its latest guise, the new 300HT handles precisely how a compact, high-sided and voluminous family cruiser should

The good stuff

First thing’s first. This is a really fine-looking cruiser. The staggered hull windows, angular aft vents, low-level roofline and contrasting black details do a great job of counterbalancing the relative bulk of the design. And it’s clear that Aquador has worked hard on space management too.

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To increase cockpit volume, for instance, the side decks are distinctly narrow and the aft steps to access them are no wider than your fist. But such is the intelligence of the superstructure, guardrail and grab handle arrangement that movement around this boat, even on open water, is easy and secure on both sides.

Inside the cockpit itself, those volume gains are really well used. A big starboard dinette and port galley are set behind a set of three raised helm seats.

The companionway runs past the tapered back end of the galley to the port side of the swim platform, where an intimate two-man dinette folds out from the mouldings behind the stern bench.

With its versatile hardtop, high-spec galley, six-man dinette and quick-rig canvases, the 300HT is well
set up for year-round entertainment

Though the mechanism for rigging it could be slicker, it’s delightful to find a proper beach-club-style seating zone like this on such a compact platform. It means
you and a loved one can separate yourselves from the main day space and face aft across the table or simply perch in comfort to keep an eye on the kids while they play with the water toys.

Step down below and the cabins are also more accommodating than you would expect from a 30-footer. The primary bow cabin makes great use of the bulbous forward bow shape with a huge elevated bed.

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That enables the port changing bench to extend a little way beneath the raised mattress, creating the ideal space for a child to sleep if necessary. There’s a huge amount of easy-access storage beneath the bed too and the bulkheads are lined on all sides with slimline cushions, creating a comfy lounging space and a handy buffer, should you roll over at night.

While the use of a neatly angled starboard bathroom keeps the space bright and open, you can cordon off the bed with a privacy curtain. And if you want to travel with guests, there’s also a second double bed on the starboard side, running fore and aft beneath the cockpit sole, complete with hanging storage, a changing space beneath the helm console and windows on both sides for excellent brightness and views.

Views from the twin helm are first-class

It’s an impressive space for a boat of this size and if you convert the cockpit dinette and erect the quick-rig canvases to create a sheltered cocoon at the aft end, you could (in principle at least) sleep up to seven people on board this boat.

In short, it’s very tough to imagine any platform of this size doing more with the space and it’s even tougher to imagine it looking this cool into the bargain.

Teething troubles

When you’re walking around a boat that majors on volume, you look at the beam, the elevation, the weight and the hull shape and you hope that the excellence of the internal features doesn’t critically compromise the handling.

Here though, with boat number 1’s Yanmar inboard and Zipwake trim tabs, the helming experience proved to be a bit of a handful. Even with the auto trim and roll activated, things felt wayward and uncertain and taking manual control did nothing to help.

From the seats to the dash equipment, ergonomics are tough to fault

The boat had a tendency to roll quite dramatically to one side or the other, so we tried to dial that out with the tabs. Trouble is nothing at all would happen until we tried to add some extra correction with wheel and trim – at which point, it had a habit of swinging over to the other side, causing a radical change in running attitude and, if you weren’t quick-witted, a significant change in direction.

Lifting the legs helped settle things down a bit but it remained a distinctly awkward boat to drive.

We were delighted then when Aquador recognised the issues and took direct control of the situation. Amendments were made behind the scenes and five months later, we received a call. Off we went again, this time to Sweden, to sea trial both a revised 320hp Volvo D4 inboard model and a twin 200hp outboard variant and happily, the contrast proved profound.

This new and improved boat still favours a good dose of trim to lift the nose, as it can become a shade uncertain when the legs are tucked right in. However, the handling tantrums of the original model have been entirely dialled out.

The inboard model’s galley comes with a diesel stove, sink and fridge as standard

By finessing the weight distribution, adjusting the tabs, changing the engine rig and (we suspect) tweaking the hull shape, this is now a boat that handles precisely as a compact, high-sided and voluminous family cruiser should. Not with particular vigour or sharpness of course but with the kind of predictable compliance and comfortable attitude that enables you to treat it like a lifelong friend rather than a volatile stranger.

And on a boat that delivers so much in so many other regards, that is all we ever wanted to see.

The port bench extends beneath the main bed to create a handy extra kid’s berth

Inboard or outboard?

This is an interesting one. While most people outside the Nordic states will opt for outboards on account of their relative refinement, their generous poke and their easy maintenance, we take a different opinion.

The inboard diesel model might fall a few knots short and respond with a touch less urgency but such are the efficiency gains that it’s able to deliver a cruising range of 200-210 miles rather than 130-140.

Your guests get a big double, a changing space, useful storage and windows on both sides

That’s important for regular cruisers, particularly as the design of the 300 studiously avoids generous fuel and water tanks in order to take advantage of the volume elsewhere.

The inboard model is also slightly less fumy, as well as considerably better looking – and in the absence of those outboards, you also get the space you need on the aft platform to include that excellent aft-facing dinette.

But it doesn’t end there. For our money, the handling is also a shade better with the weight further forward and lower down, particularly in terms of stability when you settle into a turn, and that handling advantage is likely to be amplified when you get these boats out into open coastal waters.

It’s also much easier to execute a low-speed plane because you can settle down with a good running attitude at 15-16 knots, which is not possible on the outboard model until you’ve got over the hump at 19-20 knots.

There is of course more in the way of rumbling from the lower-revving inboard but sound readings are only 1-2 decibels louder during a cruise, so while popularity trends might guide you toward the outboard-powered model, we would urge you to sea trial both.

The Volvo-powered 300 delivers a 15-knot plane, a 32-knot top end and a 211-mile range

Aquador 300 HT Verdict

Aquador assures us that the early batch of Yanmar-powered boats is now operating to the same lofty standards as this updated model. But for now, this Volvo-powered boat is still the one we would be inclined to hunt out. Because here, in the form of the revised Aquador 300 HT, we have a boat whose class-leading volume and versatility no longer incurs any evident compromise.

The cockpit is big, the hard top is superb, the sleeping spaces are better than you have a right to expect and that aft-facing dinette is a major treat. More to the point, it’s great to look at, highly specced, reasonably priced and, best of all, good to drive.

It has taken a while to get there but in the form of this second-generation craft, we’re delighted to confirm that all the rich promise of that original HT concept has finally been transformed into a wholly excellent boat.

Aquador 300 HT specifications

LOA: 30ft 8in (9.35m)
Beam: 10ft 10in (3.30m)
Displacement: 4,500 kg
Fuel capacity: 475 litres
Engines: Twin Mercury Verado 200hp outboards / single Volvo D4 320
RCD: B6/C9

Aquador 300 HT costs and options

Price from: £222,765 inc VAT.
Test boat includes the following options:
Two extra 12in Simrad plotters: £3,722
Grey water system: £1,579
Swim platform lounge: £1,614
Second drawer fridge: £1,096
Shore power upgrade pack: £4,237


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