Cobalt has long been the boat people aspire to, with offerings like the spacious R7 and the bodacious A40These are models you eventually consider once you’ve refined your tastes over years of boating. With the advent of what Cobalt calls its “gateway” models, however, entry-level buyers aren’t relegated to less luxurious brands and have more options available to them than what’s on the used market. Cobalt recently added to its gateway lineup with the all-new CS3.

The 2016 Cobalt CS3 isn’t the fanciest boat in the builder’s line-up, but it does deliver Cobalt quality in a more affordable package.

The 2016 Cobalt CS3 isn’t the fanciest boat in the builder’s line-up, but it does deliver Cobalt quality in a more affordable package.

That’s genuinely good news for boat buyers. It comes with a few challenges for the manufacturer, however, and that lies in how it offers more affordable models without cheapening the brand or delivering less than people expect from that brand. It’s clear Cobalt was aware of that when creating the CS3, because the boat delivers on all fronts. Note, however, that by saying “more affordable” we don’t mean inexpensive; base MSRP with a 240-horsepower Volvo-Penta V6 and a single-prop drive is $68,177. Compare that to the Cobalt R3a boat positioned higher in the builder’s line-up, which costs around $85,000.

Still, the CS3 shows a number of innovations and features you don’t expect in an entry-level boat. For example, the transom is the unique because it’s shaped to create a sort of “tumble home” effect. Modern in its approach, the CS3 strikes delicate balance between retro and something fresh and interesting. To create more room inside, Cobalt fashioned thin gunwales which frees upward of six inches in lateral cockpit space, and used “blade style” windshield, which also cleverly creates more room in the cockpit. “Our blade style windshield allows you to have a shorter dash and more usable space in the cockpit,” said Gavan Hunt, Cobalt’s vice president of sales and marketing. “When you use a rounded windshield you encroach on the space. We call it free-space reclamation.”

Of course, the interior is what makes a Cobalt a Cobalt, and the CS3 does the brand proud. The helm, for example, is fitted with an analog tachometer and speedometer, but each of those has an integral digital display that you can tailor to show the information you want. The accessories switches are to the right of the tilt wheel and the stereo controls to the left. The dash is made of soft-touch synthetics and topped with a French-stitched dash pad.

Will you feel like you’re running a Cobalt sitting at the helm of the CS3? Yes.

Will you feel like you’re running a Cobalt sitting at the helm of the CS3? Yes.

At the 2016 Miami International Boat Show, Cobalt had a CS3 fitted with the titanium interior on display. When you check the box for that interior trim, you also get stainless-steel dash appliques that look fantastic. Another neat feature on the CS3 is that the stitching and piping on the interior match the color of the exterior gelcoat. The Cobalt nameplate on the coaming panels also is inlaid with the same matching color.

Perhaps the most innovative feature is the rear seating area and the swim platform. The CS3 is the only boat in its class that offers dual walk-throughs. What’s more, the CS3’s swim platform also is fitted with the company’s “swim step,” a unique fold-out platform that provides egress from the water or just a place to sit waist-deep. You can get a good look at it—and many other details on the CS3—in this First Look Video we shot at the Miami International Boat Show.


It can be difficult for a premium brand to offer value-leading products — and sometimes the results aren’t stellar. Just ask Mercedes-Benz about its C230 hatchback or BMW about its 318 Tii. But Cobalt’s new CS3 succeeds in providing another point of entry to its brand—at a price that’s within reach of many buyers—without sacrificing the quality level you expect in a Cobalt.

Other Choices: A slightly less expensive option in this class will be the Rinker Captiva 236 BRThose who want a little more sizzle may be interested in the Formula 240 Bowrider Sport.

See Cobalt CS3 listings.

For more information, visit Cobalt.

Deadrise20 degrees
Displacement3,700 lbs
Fuel capacity50 gal.

Written by: Brett Becker
Brett Becker is a freelance writer and photographer who has covered the marine industry for 15 years. In addition to covering the ski boat and runabout markets for, he regularly writes and shoots for Based in Ventura, Calif., Becker holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s in mass communication from the University of Central Florida in Orlando.