It was bound to happen; Yamaha came out with their Spark equivalent. I must say, there are quite a few things that they did that Sea-Doo could learn from, and a few others that Sea-Doo leads the way.
I want to go over some of the key improvements and features that are worth mentioning for this new watercraft. I know I’ve been quite biased towards Sea-Doo, but I think the Yamaha EX has some features that need to be pointed out.
One big reason you should read this is that I’m not being sponsored by Yamaha or Sea-Doo. Everything I say is my words and money is not being exchanged to say it. I have a strong background in the jet ski world, and I want to share my opinion.
The reason why the Spark and EX exist needs to be explained.
When the Sea-Doo Spark was first released in 2014, it took the jet ski world by storm. There was nothing like it, and a jet ski priced a $4,999 was groundbreaking. Before then, a jet ski priced under $8,000 was a good deal, with the other models going above $15,000.
And then to have them in 5 color options with seating configurations too, nothing else like it had been done.
We could not keep these things in stock, especially when they had features like iBR that the bigger models had. The Sparks open jet skis to many people who would have never gotten them, they could even tow them with their cars. Even when gas prices got high, the Spark had the best MPG of anything on the water. Sea-Doo simply hit it out of the park with the Spark.
Yamaha was watching, and I don’t think they expected Sea-Doo to do something so bold. Yamaha, for years, was the cheaper option, but with the Spark being almost half of their cheapest models, they went to work making their own.
In 2017, Yamaha made its version called the EX.
It was a smaller model, and the price point was much lower, but it still was not the same as the Spark that I go over in this post. Yamaha could not do a fully Polytec hull like the Spark, and that is what kept the price and weight higher.
What both the Spark and EX have done is made it clear that there are people who want simple, nimble, and easy watercraft. Ever since the release of 4-stroke jet skis, they have been getting bigger and more costly every year. People were getting priced out and scared away, but the release of the Sea-Doo Spark changed all that.
Before we go too deep into the review, I want to show a video that shows off that the Spark and EX are more than for cruising.
The Spark and EX have been finding their grove with the Trixx and JetBlaster models. These watercraft are more playful and it’s what people been really wanting all along.
The video below is a great example of having fun on such watercraft.
The regular Spark and EX are more tamed, they can get close to these tricks, but you need to get the Trixx or JetBlaster to do them fully. Don’t be put off from seeing these things, they’re quite stable for what they are and will be a great option for a watercraft if you just want to ride.
No 2 Seater On The EX
One of the first things I’ve noticed about the Yamaha EX is that they only have a 3 seater option, this was probably too costly to make two different hulls.
I would like to point out that in this Rec-Lite category, a 3 seater is really a 2 seater and a 2 seater is really a 1 seater. Maybe two adults and one child on a 3 seater, but 3 grown men are not going to fit on a 3 seater in the REC-LITE category – let’s be real.
Not going after this 2 seater category, Yamaha will miss out on the cheaper models and thus lose a good portion of customers.
Below is an example of the Sea-Doo Spark 2 and 3 person seats. As you can see, the space is tight.
The picture above shows the difference between the 2 UP and 3 UP Spark, not only for the seats, but the rear of the 3 UP having the extension platform.
I’m quite surprised that Yamaha didn’t go after the Polytec body as Sea-Doo did. It could be due to patent issues, but I figured Yamaha would have a workaround to this matter. Yamaha uses fiberglass hull instead, just like their other models.
Yamaha does have a plastic-style seat support, which does help cut down on weight, but the waverunner is not entirely plastic. This could be a reason why they didn’t go with a 2 seater, as it would be too expensive to make with a fiberglass body?
Having the fiberglass body will help soothe the people who never liked the plastic Polytec bodies. Both fiberglass and Polytec have their advantages and disadvantages, so really all you got to do is pick your poison on this one.
Spark Vs. EX Weight
The EX went with the heavier fiberglass and weighs in at 577 pounds. The Spark uses Polytec, and it weighs in at 421 pounds. That is 156 pounds lighter for the Spark, which matters a lot when it comes to weight capacity of jet skis.
The weight of a jet ski affects performance, MPG, and how much gear you can carry. How much you can carry differs for the models that I’ll also cover later.
Yamaha is using the TR-1 engine in the EX series, but it is a bit different.
They have made some modifications to make it lighter, and it only produces 100HP. That is 10 more horsepower (about a lawnmower more HP) than the Spark at 90HP.
One could argue the 10HP more is needed since the craft is 156 pounds heavier.
Both the 90HP Spark and the 100HP EX do about 50 mph, but the EX will edge out the Sea-Doo Spark in a drag race. Either way, both are going fast enough for the average or beginner rider.
Sea-Doo does have a 60HP option that is only in a 2 seater base model, which does 42 mph. It’s cheaper and gets you on the water.
The 90HP Sea-Doo Spark has different driving modes, default and sport mode.
Both modes will get you to top speed, but sport mode has a quicker take-off.
If you have a VTS (trim) on your Spark, you can also adjust it all the way up to do wheelies. The wheelies are easier on the Trixx as it has an extended VTS.
Compared to the larger models that each manufacturer sells, both the EX and Spark are very good on gas.
GPH is gallons per hour, similar to MPG, but a more accurate measurement for boats.
This is where I must say Yamaha did a good job at.
The Yamaha EX has a big 13.2 gallon gas tank, while the Sea-Doo Spark is only at 7.9 gallons.
Bot jet skis are not long-distance machines, but since we know the GPH, we can figure out how long you can ride each one.
The Sea-Doo Spark uses 2.5 gallons per hour and has a 7.9 gallon gas tank, so it can go for about 3.16 hours.
The Yamaha EX uses 3.2 gallons per hour and has a 13.2 gallon gas tank, so it can go for about 4.12 hours.
When it comes in-between fill ups, the Yamaha EX wins this one. Keep in mind, your gas mileage may be different, better or worse, as people adjust the throttle often and have different riding conditions.
The biggest problem with any REC-LITE jet ski is that the seats on them just suck.
You may not understand it when you sit on one at the dealership, but ride one for about 45 minutes and your butt will start to hurt.
This is where Yamaha didn’t get it right. Yamaha did what Sea-Doo did and made small and thin seats with no extra foam padding. I get why they did it, to save on costs, but it’d be good to have a touring seat available with these watercraft.
I’m sure when buying an EX or Spark the last thing through people’s minds is the seat, but trust me, I’ve owned and ridden many styles of watercraft, and the seat is the most crucial part of it.
When you step up to the EX Sport and above, you get dual mirrors. You can now buy mirrors for your Sea-Doo Spark*.
If you’re looking at the REC-LITE series of watercraft, then storage capacity should NOT be a concern for you, as they don’t have much.
Everything you possibly need can be stored in a dry bag* and latched or hooked to the watercraft somehow. Also, a dry bag is needed, as the storage on a REC-LITE is NOT dry.
Yamaha EX has about 10 gallons of storage, which is quite a lot compared to the Spark with Convenience Package at 7.42 gallons.
While the EX has more storage, it’s scattered in multiple places. The Sea-Doo Spark gives you one big bucket when you have the front storage like I have in the picture below.
You could not fit a folding paddle or even a life jacket into an EX, as the video below shows.
Yamaha now has an option to expand the front storage with a dry bag, but the Sea-Doo is slightly better if you ask me.
One good thing is that Yamaha EX has better access to the engine than the Spark does.
Sure, you can get to all the important stuff on your Spark through the access panel on the side, but the EX has the top access.
The Spark access panel pictured above can have you get to the battery, fuses, coolant, starter relay, and a few more things.
If you’re going to do anything more, you need to take the whole top deck off, while it sucks, once done it’s the easiest watercraft to work on.
Trixx Vs. JetBlaster
Both Sea-Doo and Yamaha have more playful models that do more “tricks”.
It’s a kick back to the 90s, when jet skis were fun and not fast.
I have a whole post covering the Sea-Doo Trixx vs Yamaha JetBlaster.
When the Sea-Doo Spark first came out you had 5 color options and over time they slowly removed more and more options.
Instead, Sea-Doo started to mix colors and with the world shutting down and supply chain issues, we see the fewest color options.
You can get decals for your Spark to help it stand out more, but it seems Sea-Doo is going away from too many options. It did create many confusions, as customers thought they could just build the one they wanted, but the dealers only got so many options themselves.
The Yamaha EX doesn’t do a lot of colors themselves, but Yamaha is less likely to do funky colors or stand out colors like Sea-Doo.
The Spark and the EX are about the same size.
The 3up Spark is 120 inches long and the EX is 123 inches long.
The 3up Spark is 46 inches wide, and the EX is 46 inches wide.
Both watercraft will be about the same as being stable in the water. I feel like the EX will look bigger in person, but both are about the same size.
The Spark will be about 156 pounds lighter, something to consider when pulling with a small car. To see the full list of jet ski weight, go here.
Really, whichever model you pick, you’re going to like it. I have never seen anyone buy a jet ski and not like it.
Yamaha has really brought in a good competitor to the Sparks; there are some great features that Sea-Doo could learn from. I really think the Base EX is a good machine and competes very well.
Whatever watercraft you do get, you got to make sure you get the correct accessories with it!