Fairline Targa 40 review: Sensational new British sportscruiser

The Fairline Targa 40, made its global debut at the 2024 Düsseldorf boat show. Alex Smith tests this supremely impressive compact cruiser

There’s a bit of a gap in the high-end 40ft sportscruiser market. Sunseeker doesn’t really get involved until the 55ft mark and while Princess’s V40 continues to provide a handy compact cruiser option, the fact that it’s been around since 2017 is beginning to show, not least in the simplicity of its deck layouts.

So Fairline, canny operator that it is, has decided that now is the time to reinvent the entry point to its Targa range with a boat that bludgeons its way to the top with an irresistible blend of deck space, cruising capability, flexibility and quality, the Fairline Targa 40.

Yeah, yeah, we know. You’ve heard it all before. But as we arrive at a windswept Ipswich pontoon with a mindset somewhere between professional impartiality and resolute scepticism, it’s hard not to feel the love, because the styling of this thing is delicious.

The snub-nosed semi-plumb bow is neatly spiked with a set of backlit logos set into stainless steel strips. Above that, the parallel ‘spears’ that frame the foredeck sunpad are subtly picked out with recessed purple LEDs and the long plunging hull windows are dramatically mirrored in the topsides, where the absence of any obvious rear hardtop pillars does really good things for the profile.

In short, the Fairline Targa 40 may be designed as a 40ft sportscruiser but it’s tough to imagine a boat of this length and volume finessing itself into a form any lovelier than this.

It’s tough to imagine a cruiser of this length and volume looking any better. Photo: Paul Wyeth

Big-boat deck space

So far so good then but what about the practicalities? Well, we’ve already touched on it with the word “volume”. At around a third of the overall length, the 13ft beam is certainly quite generous and it’s carried a long way forward here, increasing the size of the foredeck and bow cabin.

The tapering side decks are also distinctly narrow, particularly as you move forward, and that again helps maximise internal volume. They remain pretty secure, though, with plenty of grabbing points and single-level walkways that remain obstruction-free thanks to cleats on the outside of the rails. And when you do get to the foredeck, the space feels indisputably big.

There’s plenty of room for four people on the central sun lounger and there are some pleasant little extras too, like the ratcheted multi-position backrests and the intimate forward-facing two-person settee that emerges from the sunpad’s leading edge and provides a great little spot to brace your feet against the rail and enjoy a quiet glass of wine.

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Back aft though, the cockpit is even more remarkable, both for its sheer scale and for the way the space is used. While the bulk of the seating is confined to the port side, the aft end of the deck is split by a pair of broadly symmetrical sunpad-cum-bench units. That frees up a central companionway which enables you to enter from the aft platform entirely unobstructed.

The main port dinette continues to open up the deck space by means of a table that hinges up and away completely, stowing neatly behind the backrest without any wasted space or secondary parts.

But it’s the two aft units that really steal the show. The port one hides a fully inflated 2.3m inflatable (or a partially inflated 2.7m one), complete with electric outboard, charging point and compressor. It also features a removable internal hatch so its V-shaped deck recess doesn’t inhibit access to the port engine when maintenance is required.

With its hidden table, versatile aft seating and drop-down terrace, the cockpit is all about open deck space. Photo: Paul Wyeth

The starboard seating unit uses the same flip-over backrest to create either a forward-facing bench or an aft-facing lounger. But in order to make best use of the optional drop-down side terrace, it also features a backrest that can be rigged to face out over the expandable deck toward open water.

From here, you move forward to a starboard wet bar that provides all the usual facilities plus a pair of drained ice lockers ahead of the sink and grill. And on the port side, opposite the helm station, the leading edge of the dinette elevates to create some neatly contained companion seating that factors in extra volume down below while providing far more practicality than the raised sunpads you so often see on boats of this scale.

A neatly designed wet bar sits opposite a port dinette and some attractive companion seating. Photo: Paul Wyeth

2 cabins, 1 heads

The Targa 40 comes with a fixed lower deck layout, which means you basically get what you’re given. That includes a forward owner’s cabin, a mid cabin with twin beds that convert into a double and a single heads compartment with separate shower.

There’s plenty of room in the open-plan central lounge to factor in an additional bunk cabin to starboard but Fairline has no interest in doing that because (quite understandably) it doesn’t want to cannibalise sales of its larger Fairline Targa 45.

In terms of design, volume and quality of finish, the lower lounge is absolutely first class. Photo: Paul Wyeth

Instead, if you’re keen to cruise with six people, you can simply invest the extra £7,950 in the optional drop-down table and convert the dinette into a third double berth.

But we’re getting slightly ahead of ourselves because when you head down below, it’s naked surprise rather than sleeping capacity that occupies your mind. The open-plan lounge and galley feels absolutely huge.

The starboard dinette is easily big enough for six and, with the various fuse boards and data displays tucked neatly away behind panels and lids, the cleanliness of the space is as striking as its scale. Across from this, the port galley, which butts up against the aft end of the heads compartment, is also an impressive example of its type.

There are raised worktops for extra storage space, plus an electric hob and combi oven, a large fridge and plenty of high-level storage. Standing headroom is really generous and so is natural light, through those deep aft windows.

The galley hides a big fridge, a combi oven, an induction hob and a sink with a lid that doubles as a chopping board. Photo: Paul Wyeth

In short, when the weather turns or bed time approaches, this is a boat that enables you to head down below without feeling in the slightest bit short-changed – and those are exactly the hallmarks of a proper cruising boat.

As for the internal decor, the optional gloss walnut finish, which continues to find its way onto around 80% of Fairlines, does feel more traditional-sailing-yacht than cutting-edge-cruiser but there are of course lighter oak finishes in matt and satin for those who prefer the modern Nordic style. And in any case, Fairline’s clever use of fluted wood, pale fabrics, mixed textures and playful light manipulation makes even this darkest of finishes feel oddly gratifying.

Great fun at any speed

At more than 13 tonnes all in, this robustly built and heavily specced boat is no lightweight, and with engine options topping out at twin 380hp diesels, it’s no race machine either. As you would expect then, when you put the throttles down, the transition to plane is that of a cruiser rather than a light-footed sportsboat.

The mid-cabin’s starboard side can be specced with cabinets or a settee. Photo: Paul Wyeth

Ascending your hump between 9 and 12 knots doubles the fuel flow from 2.7 to 5.7 litres per mile but it’s easy to counteract the Targa’s slightly bow-up attitude under acceleration by simply dropping the tabs by around 20%. Helmed like this, acceleration is pretty rapid, flat and satisfying, and once you get up beyond 22 knots, things get even better.

The trim settles right down, directional stability stiffens up, the efficiency improves to between 4 and 5 litres per mile and the handling is a real treat. You get prodigious and immediate heel whenever you put the wheel over and that provides plenty of reassurance, as well as lots of encouragement to play.

On our test day, we’re getting buffeted by Force 6 winds, so as a relatively short boat with significant topsides, there’s plenty of work to do on the tabs but they’re perfectly rigged, providing the ideal balance between rapid response and progressive sensitivity.

There’s an elevated bed with lots of storage plus far more headroom than you expect in the forward cabin. Photo: Paul Wyeth

And it’s particularly easy to enjoy these things because in spite of the fact that you’re sheltered from the elements, the views from the helm are pretty good. In addition to a huge one-piece screen, you get a big overhead sunroof which (though painfully slow to deploy) does a great job of providing the visibility in the turn you might otherwise lack.

Once again, though, the simple practicalities are not forgotten. There are sliding windows on both sides, there is plenty of adjustability to help tailor your position at the helm, and the fact that the entire dash swings up on a hinge is also very welcome. It gives you outstanding access to the wiring without having to head down below.

The routing and labelling of the various cables is about as fastidious and user-friendly as you’re ever likely to witness, and here, as elsewhere, it’s good to see that every internal fibreglass surface has been flow-coated to prevent rough, sharp edges or loose shards cutting your fingers if you happen to reach into the darker recesses of the engineering spaces.

In terms of trim and efficiency, this boat is in its element at between 25 and 34 knots. Photo: Paul Wyeth

In common with other boats of its type, the Targa 40 does get a bit loud though. Sound readings of 83dB at 10 knots rise to 86dB at 13 knots, where they remain throughout the chief cruising band from 24 to 32 knots before peaking at 89dB. But in spite of the engine noise, there’s no doubt that this eager driver’s boat feels really quite refined too.

Comfort is excellent, the rattle-free solidity of the build is unmistakable and the cut-outs in the sides of the superstructure don’t just look cool, they also sweep away any low-pressure turbulence in the aft part of the cockpit, so even if you’re sitting on one of the stern benches, you remain as free of spray and fumes as the people at the helm.

Fairline Targa 40 specifications

LOA: 39ft 3in (11.99m)
BEAM: 13ft 0in (3.97m)
DRAFT: 3ft 7in (1.13m)
FUEL CAPACITY: 950 litres
ENGINES: Twin Volvo Penta D6-380 diesels on sterndrives
RCD: B12
CONTACT: fairline.com

Costs & options

From: £566,000 ex VAT
Test boat includes the following options:
Beach club balcony: £29,950
Submersible platform with 300kg lift: £26,850
Walnut gloss timber: £10,450
Hi-lo table for convertible bed: £7,950
Eberspacher heating: £12,950
8kW generator inc hob & combi oven: £22,950


The Fairline Targa 40 is clearly an expensive boat in the context of its sector and it becomes all the more so when you spec it up. With items like the beach club balcony and the submersible aft platform costing nearly £30,000 apiece, you could easily inflate the base price by 50% before you’re ready to go – and given how critical a lot of these ‘extras’ are, most people will consider it a false economy to buy the boat without them. But so effective is the new Targa 40, so pleasing in so many ways, that even the test boat’s million-pound price tag (inc VAT) feels broadly justifiable. It’s beautifully built and great to look at with extraordinary deck space and very impressive cruising accommodation. The design is brilliantly disciplined too, never once veering toward showroom novelty at the expense of seagoing practicality. And on top of all that, this thoroughly controllable and surprisingly responsive boat is also great fun to drive. Certainly, Fairline’s award-winning Squadron 58 is getting plenty of attention at the moment, and rightly so, but if your ambitions or your budgets extend no further than 40ft, you’ll be delighted to know that the new Targa 40 is an even more accomplished piece of work.

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