- With impressive quality of build, clarity of design and purity of ergonomic arrangement, nothing here is allowed to spoil the drive or complicate the life of the owner.
- It’s rapid as well as comfy, secure as well as spacious, versatile as well as user-friendly.
- If you’re in the market for a bowrider of this size, it would be madness not to take a look.
- If you were to doodle a formulaic bowrider layout on the back of a beer mat, it would look pretty much like this.
Bella 600 BR
Having won Motor Boat of the Year at the Helsinki International Boat Show and scooped a nomination for European Powerboat of the Year, Bella’s 600 BR is a boat with convincing credentials. Alex Smith checks it out …
When you engage a single designer with a specialist reputation to oversee the redesign of an entire fleet, you tend to be rewarded with far greater continuity between the various models – and that’s certainly been the case with Bella. Whether you go for a cabin cruiser, a hardtop, a day cruiser or a boat from the company’s Open line, there’s a commonality of scale, intent and family practicality that marks it out as the product of the same designer and as part of Bella’s very distinctive new fleet.
With 11 boats from 16 to 23 ft in length, that fleet remains very focused in terms of style as well as purpose. Like the other three craft in the line-up, the 600 BR features an unusual angularity that makes it look impressively modern. I don’t know whether it’s the uncommonly straight lines of the screen rim, the guard rails or the hull contours, or whether the design-savvy black and orange graphics with matching upholstery makes the big difference, but however you look at it, this is a fine-looking boat that is easily distinguished from a crowd, even at considerable distance.
That pleasing individuality makes it all the more incongruous, then, that when you step on board, things seem quite run-of-the-mill. There’s a pair of swim platforms straddling the outboard engine, a cockpit with an aft bench and a pair of rotating sports seats, and a bow with a V-shaped seating section and a step-through forepeak. If you were to doodle a formulaic bowrider layout on the back of a beer mat, it would look pretty much like this. But take a closer look and some clever little touches begin to emerge …
Cleverness that Counts
The moments of greatest cleverness on board the Bella 600 BR are often very simple. For instance, there are fold-up cushion sections on either side of the aft bench, which (in tandem with the slightly narrowed seat back) grant excellent access to a boarding step to help you make your way to the back end or to the pontoon. There’s also space here, out of the way, beneath the coaming, for elasticated storage points for the two aft fenders – and further forward, opposite the outstanding ergonomic sophistication of the helm station, the port console is even more noteworthy …
In place of the regular storage solution (a glovebox with space for a smartphone and half a sandwich), the entire back end of the unit hinges aft, opening up easy access to the whole of the console’s interior. When you close it back up, there’s a generous chart table built into the upper external face of the door that can be erected on sturdy braces to give you somewhere to plot your route or to have a few drinks at anchor. And despite the provision of these high-value features, you still get a recess on the console top for small gadgets, allied to a deep-set slot down by your knees for the larger stuff (books, flasks, bottles, jackets) that you tend to want to hand in the course of a day out.
Up in the bow space, things are equally rewarding. There’s a semi-open anchor locker, which offers an easy space to sling (or retrieve) your lines without the need to mess about with a lid, and there’s also an integrated bow infill, which mirrors the rectangular shape of the forward seat’s central section, so it can be swung aft and into place without the need for a separate board. Not only does that make the creation of the forward sun pad much quicker, but it also does away with the need to waste valuable storage space or trap your fingers with heavy, unwieldy infills.
There’s also some useful storage beneath these seats in well-proportioned, properly lined, sensibly drained boxes – plus some good under-deck space between the two helm seats and some remarkably deep and generous spaces in each of the two swim platforms. In tandem with the two consoles at the helm and co-pilot positions, that creates plenty of storage options to help compensate for the fact that the aft bench’s internal capacity is swallowed up by the fuel tank, the battery and the associated cables and trunking.
On the face of it, 150hp looks like a very healthy dose of power for a 19ft bowrider. After all, AMT’s new 19-footer is rated to accommodate between 80 and 115 hp, and even then, it’s an easy 38-knot boat. But despite the evident similarities between these two Nordic leisure platforms, the way the Bella seems to use its power is altogether too mature and well behaved to validate any straightforward industry comparisons …
For instance, when you put the throttle hard forward, you reach a top end of 41 knots. That’s a very decent result, but such is the security of the design, the quality of the build and the unwavering solidity of the dynamics here that it actually feels remarkably sedate. You can speak to your co-pilot without raising your voice, you can sit on the aft bench without prohibitive impacts or water ingress, and it feels for all the world as though wide-open throttle is in fact an easy cruise in the high 20s.
Of course, in an age driven by the quest for ever greater efficiencies, there will be many who are tempted to trade in Mercury’s F150 for the more modest F115, but (aside from a minor margin in terms of initial purchase price) there’s little real-world justification for doing so. After all, with the F115 on the transom, a fuel flow of around 41 litres per hour at wide-open throttle may seem more frugal than the 55 litres of the F150. But the F115 is only achieving 36 knots at that point – a speed at which the F150 can cruise with a more modest fuel flow rate of just 38 litres per hour. Similarly, when you ease back to a more sustainable family cruise of around 30 or 31 knots, both engines record figures of around a litre per nautical mile – so if it were me, I would recognise this boat’s ability to manage the extra power without the slightest fuss or bluster and embrace the extra poke, carrying capacity and towing ability the extra investment brings.
Bowriders (even practical, deep-set, Scandinavian ones) are not everyone’s cup of tea. And yet, as we’ve witnessed several times over the past couple of years, Norwegian designer Espen Thorup has a golden touch with small sports boats. He has done excellent things with the Flipper, Nordkapp and Sting fleets, and the Bella 600 BR is as complete and convincing an individual leisure package as anything those brands can offer. With impressive quality of build, clarity of design and purity of ergonomic arrangement, nothing here is allowed to spoil the drive or complicate the life of the owner. It’s rapid as well as comfy, secure as well as spacious, versatile as well as user-friendly. Of course, when you look at the broader market, you couldn’t say that it excels in any singular regard. It’s not as rapid as Sea Ray’s 19 SPX, nor as nimble and light-footed as the equivalent Glastron – and it’s not quite as affordable as Bayliner’s excellent inboard VR5. But like Bella’s larger 700 BR, which won the Best of Boats Award in 2016, the new 600 is just so easy, so uncomplicated, so simple to enjoy that it’s almost impossible to criticise. If you’re in the market for a bowrider of this size, it would be madness not to take a look.
RPM Speed (kn) Fuel flow (L/h) Range (nm @ 90%)
700 2.8 1.8 189.0
1000 4.1 3.0 166.1
1500 5.8 5.0 140.9
2000 7.2 8.3 105.4
2500 11.5 11.5 121.5
3000 18.1 13.6 161.7
3500 23.2 17.8 158.4
4000 28.1 25.1 136.0
4500 31.8 31.0 124.6
5000 36.1 38.5 113.9
5500 39.9 47.3 102.5
5700 41.1 54.7 91.3
- Good looks
- High level of refinement
- Impressive security
- Lovely drive
- Easy to use
- Nothing at all
- LOA: 6.05m
- Beam: 2.34m
- Weight: 1000kg
- Fuel capacity: 135 litres
- People capacity: 7
- Max. power: 80–150 hp
- Test engine: Mercury F150
Price (150hp package)