Step aboard Monterey’s luxury models, like the 234SS or the M5, and you’ll find a lot to like about them. The build quality is high, and the materials used in their construction are pleasing to the hand and eye.

A photo of the Monterey 196 MS Montura.

Monterey's 196 MS Montura packs a high level of fit, finish, and standard equipment in an entry-level package.

Then step aboard the new, entry-level Monterey 196 MS Montura. You’ll find the same attention to detail and materials used on its higher-end models, which is one of the benefits of being a volume builder. “We set out to build a price-point boat without sacrificing quality or features,” says Monterey marketing manager Martin Rusin.

(Watch a short video about this boat: Monterey 196 MS Montura First Look Video)

Take the helm, for example. The driver is treated to a handsome dash, which has a French-stitched upholstered brow over the brushed-face gauges. The dash and pad are done in colors that match the accent colors on the boat and throughout the interior. The passenger side dash gets the same treatment. The overall effect is that this feels nothing like an entry-level model.

A photo of the Monterey 196 MS Montura's helm dash.

The 196 MS Montura has a handsome dash, which has a French-stitched upholstered brow over brushed-face gauges.

Both front seats are fitted with flip-up thigh bolsters and very simple fore-aft adjustment levers that operate with one hand. The rear bench gives up a little room to make way for the wide walk-through to the transom. However, the aft sun pad and transom give up nothing. They are... well... expansive.

The sun pad is spacious enough for two, with access to a stereo control head on the transom. The swim platform itself is enormous for a 20-foot boat, and it’s built in as part of the hull and deck with the ladder off to the side, which keeps kids’ toes away from the propeller. It would have been easy for Monterey to just design a rudimentary platform, and then charge more for an optional extension. It’s a refreshing customer-first approach because of how much that area of the boat gets used.

A photo of the sun pad on the Monterey 196 MS Montura.

There's a generous sun pad for sun worshipers on the aft section of the 196 MS Montura.

Here’s another refreshing approach. The boat comes in standard trim with a 190-horsepower, 4.3-liter V6. It would have been easier to advertise a lower base price with, say, a 3.0-liter, four-cylinder engine under the hatch, but forcing people to order optional engines doesn’t make for a good first impression. Plus, at 20 feet long and aimed squarely at family use, the 196 MS cries out for the V6. Good call.

Up forward, the bow is reasonably spacious for a boat its size and it comes with everything you need: two cupholders, two grab handles, two speakers, and one anchor locker tucked beneath the forward seat. The length of the forward-facing lounges are more appropriate for kids, but the backrests are canted aft for comfort.

There are some options that make ownership easier, such as the bow and cockpit covers, which run $793. We’d also love it if the $800 bimini top was standard, but alas, it’s not.
Draft (hull)35"
Deadrise19 degrees
Displacement3,100 lbs
Fuel capacity32 gal.
Water capacityN/A

In standard trim, the 196 MS does come with a trailer fitted with a Swing Away tongue, which makes it easy to tuck into your garage. Because the boat only weighs 3,100 pounds, you can tow it with small SUVs.

Monterey used its economies of scale to build a price-point boat that feels like something much more. The 196 MS is a very usable boat, which gives owners a unique size advantage that strikes a balance between having enough room for the family and being small to enough make it easy to own and keep at home. Base MSRP is $26,895.

For more information, visit Monterey Boats.

See all listings for Monterey Boats.

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.