The Nord Star 49 is a boat that faces stiff direct competition. In the Targa 46 and Sargo 45, the Nord Star flagship is going head-to-head with two of the most capable 50ft boats on the market but the 49 has many strings to its bow.
Like the others, it's available with a two or three-cabin layout and with a variety of engine and drive options, so it can be tailored to individual cruising styles. Customisation is key, too, as demonstrated by our highly bespoke test boat but it's that mix of tough sea keeping, high performance and engaging handling that makes his genre of boat so enigmatic. Does the Nord Star have what it takes to topple the other two? Let's find out with a proper sea trial.
Nord Star 49+ Key Facts
- LOA 15.45m
- Model Year 2023
- Cabins 3
- Max Speed 34 knots
- Status In Production
- Yacht Type Wheelhouse
- Use Type Cruising
Around the Marina
One unique element of the 49's design amongst its rivals is that it's available with shafts, sterndrives or pods. It is the only boat of the three available with shafts, in fact, and for many the uncomplicated nature and lack of maintenance required for a shaft drive arrangement will hold significant appeal. Nord Star is more flexible than most when it comes to engine choices, too, and as long as an engine option will fit and not compromise safety they're up for installing pretty much anything.
Thus far, IPS has proved the most popular choice on this model in either 440hp IPS600 guise or the twin 480hp IPS50s fitted to our highly-specced test boat. These are boats designed to be handled by one or two people with ease under challenging conditions so suffice to say it is a straightforward boat to both handle and crew at slow speed.
The lower helm station is a great example of this and the side door allows the person at the helm to easily spot the landing, communicate with the crew and help out with handling lines. For added convenience when berthing stern-to, you can add a third control station in the cockpit, though the lower helm position will work well for most.
The walk-around decks are well-protected and very easy to move around. It's a great boat to crew thanks to its abundance of deck storage, tall guardrails and dedicated space for all of the boat's fenders in a pop-out 'boot' set into the transom. For two-person or single-handed berthing, it doesn't really bet much better on a boat of this size.
We have to test the boats in the weather we're given and the boat-testing Gods were smiling down on us for this review as they dished up perfect Nord Star weather. We faced a 60nm passage from Cannes to Toulon into the teeth of a nasty 5-6ft shop with white tops pouring off of their crests. Frankly, if it were any other type of boat we wouldn't have done it but this sort of tough passage-making is exactly what the big Finn is designed to tackle.
This is a 34-knot boat but we were limited to 15-20 knots for the majority of the passage, which tells you something about the severity of the conditions. The 49 does a remarkable job of insulating passengers from what's going on outside, however. Those at the helm are particularly well looked after thanks to the pair of Grammer shock-absorbing seats, which take the edge off the worst landings.
Not that there are many bad landings. The hull feels unshakeable in seas like this and its pronounced flair rejects the waves with the nonchalance of an inner-city nightclub bouncer. And despite the amount of spray being pushed away from the boat and the stiff breeze we were heading into, the ride remained remarkably dry. So much so that even in these seas you can pop the side door ajar to let some breeze in and cool the interior.
After a few sea miles in conditions like this, the tension eases and there's a confidence that comes with knowing the boat can handle such an environment. Set the throttle, hold a course and let the hull do the work, it is a remarkable rough-weather cruising machine that punches well above its weight.
Turn Up The Fun
In smoother conditions, there's a lot of fun to be had with the 49. Its heavy weather straight-line prowess gives way to handling that will put a smile on your face, especially from the elevated driving position perched at the front of the flybridge. Dial in some lock and the big Nord Star will slalom with the best of them and leap playfully through the crests. Performance was throttled by the heavy seaway but this is a comfortable 30-knot cruiser and its fuel efficiency barely wavers once it's past displacement speed (see table below).
There's no better way to test a boat's mettle than a 60nm day-night passage into the teeth of a heaving say and the Nord Star flagship shone.
Builder Speed & Range Data
302 nm @ 10.9 knotseco
315 nm @ 27.9 knotscruise
294 nm @ 33.1 knotsmax
Nord Star 49+ version 2023. *Data supplied by the manufacturer.
View Full Test Results
Of the best-known Finnish shipyards, Nord-Star probably has the most liberal attitude to customisation of the "big three" in Finland. None of these boats are built in massively high numbers so there is flexibility when it comes to layout and design choices but if the interior of our test boat is anything to go by, Nord-Star would appear to be the most accommodating.
The test boat had a curious mix of the usual no-nonsense all-weather exterior and a bright, white interior that couldn't be further away from the cosy Scandi teak fest that we've come to expect from boats like this. Our test boat lived in the Med so the owners wanted a more Mediterranean vibe on the inside and boy did they achieve that. There was a modernity and freshness to the interior of this particular 49 that you're unlikely to find aboard its rival from Botnia and Targa. However, if you want wall-to-wall teak and a more traditional look, Nord-Star will happily oblige.
The Nord-Star range follows the same design principles throughout but the flagship has the significant advantage of the greatest hull length and heaviest displacement. It has a real work boat look in profile with that flared bow, thick rubbing strake and inwardly raked triple windscreens.
Some of the fixtures and fittings inside don't feel of the same quality as its rivals but the underlying build of its hull and the engineering is very good indeed. It does, however, lose out when it comes to engine room access. The Targa and Sargo's cockpit decks lift up to give unrestricted access to the engines, whereas the Nord Star has a smaller access hatch meaning you'd need to remove the deck to hoist out an engine, for example.
If you were to compare this style of boat to a flybridge or sportscruiser of the same dimensions the accommodation space would likely fall short but in the context of this genre Nord-Star has done a really good job with the arrangement.
On the main deck, the Nord Star feels different to its rivals thanks to its U-shaped aft galley, which creates a sociable open-plan feel that links the cockpit to the dinette inside. It has more useable space than the Sargo and Targa, which run their galleys down the starboard side of the saloon. Having a narrow unit with some storage on the starboard side instead means that there's less of a pitch point in the companionway too.
This being a flybridge boat there isn't the option to have a sunroof or opening hatches overhead but there is so much glass in the wheelhouse it doesn't really matter, especially with the bright interior of our test boat.
The galley is compact but it's got all the mod-cons including a small dishwasher and induction cooking. Cooling space is limited for longer cruisers, however. The galley also disguises access to one of the cabins. Lift up the counter, swing the door open and there is ladder access to the aft cabin with a double bed. It doesn't have its own bathroom, so there will be a trip forward to use the day head in the night, but it's a valuable extra sleeping space that can also be fitted out as storage, utility space or a workshop if an extra cabin is surplus to requirements. The layout doesn't work quite as well as the Sargo and Targa, though, whose cabins are easier to access and feel slightly more spacious.
It's a different matter forward, though, where the 49 has two really good cabins including the most luxurious amidships owner's suite of the three rivals. The headroom is restricted over the bed but it's fine in the entrance way and the finish has more polish than the other boats, with plusher finishing and a large, centrally mounted double bed. It feels more like the sort of cabin you'd find on a regular 50ft flybridge, not a tough-as-nails all-weather cruising. It's cosier and more homely than expected and all the better for it. The private ensuite bathroom with a separate shower cubicle is a welcome touch, too.
Helming a boat in rough seas is a surefire way to unearth any issues with the arrangement of the driving position and dashboard but this is an area where the 49 excels, especially at the lower helm. We were on the water for four hours and the seated position in the excellent Grammer seat is simply perfect. Not just for someone of 6ft either, because the seat is fully adjustable and there's rake adjustment on the steering wheel too.
You can't stand and drive like you can with the Sargo and Targa (Targo?), which initially we were concerned about but the seated position is so good it really isn't an issue. Navigation and engine information is displayed across two large Simrad MFDs and the conditions highlighted why having a fixed control panel is essential. Trying to interact with the touchscreens as the boat bounces around is almost impossible for some functions so the control and positivity of buttons and a click wheel make flicking through the menus so much easier. It's really well positioned so you don't have to come out of the helm chair either.
It's a really functional space. The side door to starboard can be locked at various stages along its travel to adjust the amount of ventilation and this door is wider than the port side one so that guests can pass behind the helm seat without disturbing the helmsman. There is a very simple but effective arrangement whereby a full-width screen pulls down inside the windscreen to reduce glare (which means you don't need sunglasses at the helm), something that was appreciated on the fiercely bright day of our test.
Oddly, amongst all this smart design, some cup holders appear to have slipped through the net, so a few of those would be a good addition on future boats.
The upper dash is more pared back than the one downstairs but it has everything needed to comfortably run the boat from the top deck. The central driving position works well and the all round view is very good. It's quite exposed because the windscreen is low and a long way forward but it gives you a great feel for a boat and is somewhere that you can really enjoy the boat's pin-sharp dynamics.
You hear the change of tone as the water rushes off the hull in a hard turn and the bow confidently shoves water away from the boat. It's a far more engaging driving experience from the flybridge and with such a comfortable and well-designed lower helm it offers a great balance of indoor/outdoor driving experience. Having a separate helm seat for a navigator means another guest can enjoy the ride and easily come and go from the helm station, too.
On deck, the Nord Star strikes a good compromise between the utilitarian Targa 46 and the leisure-focused Sargo 45, which currently doesn't have the option of a flybridge. The 49 has narrow equal access from its hydraulic bathing platform to a simple cockpit arrangement with bench seating and a table lined up along the transom. It's not as comfortable as the Sargo's or as spacious as the Targa's but it's functional and well protected by the flybridge overhang. The stairs up to the flybridge are steep but the benefit is that they don't encroach too badly on the cockpit and they also serve as another way to steady yourself at sea.
Storage isn't quite as good as the exceptional levels its rivals possess but there is good deck stowage underneath the transom bench, in the anchor lock and in the seating pods up at the bow.
Up front, the coachroof is decked out with sunbathing cushions and, in a similar way to the Sargo, there are benches worked into the corners on either side of the bow so people can perch looking into the boat. Our test boat didn't have a table here but that would be the finishing touch to make this a useful extra living space.
The flybridge sets the Nord Star apart. The Targa is available with a flybridge but it's more basic than the 49's with a less sociable layout. The 49's feels like a proper little flybridge with its L-shaped seating, wet bar and twin helm station. It's not a huge space but the L-shaped seating, table and wet bar with grill provide all that's needed to serve a meal on this deck.
As a rule, Nord Star tends to undercut the prices of its rivals from Sargo and Targa, though as mentioned above, there are times when you can see where the savings have been made. There isn't quite the polish to the fit and finish of the interior and the components, in places, don't feel as expensive.
The base price for a 49+ is €832,215 ex VAT but the highly customised version that we had on test came in at €1,110,000 ex VAT (prices correct at the time of writing).
Our Options & Pick
As with the Targa and Sargo, our temptation would be to go with the sterndrive engine option because they're cheaper at the point of purchase, more fun to drive and the trim adjustment on the drives allows you to go into shallower water than the shaft or IPS alternatives. Modern sterndrive joysticks have closed the gap on IPS in terms of slow speed control, too.
Some items that we'd add from the option list would include the hydraulic bathing platform (€28,000), bow anchor (€7,400), flybridge bimini (€4,500), Volvo Penta DPS (€14,000), Humhpree interceptors (€16,300), bow thruster (€5,900), generator (€25,000) and the twin 24in Simrad NSO EVO3 MFDs at €23,615.
As discussed above, Nord Star is open to customisation so the finer spec details are flexible for each customer, the above are some of the core options that we think would make a good "turn-key" package.
The standard spec is impressive, too, and includes items like the flybridge wet bar, shock-absorbing helm seats, electric hi-lo saloon table and the majority of Volvo's electronics suite.
The Nord Star 49 carefully picks a dividing line between its close rivals from Sargo and Targa. Our sea trial resoundingly confirmed that the 49 can mix it with the other two when it comes to seakeeping and capabilities in rough conditions but it's the modern touch that Nord Star can provide that sets this model apart. The way the tough, work-boat exterior gives way to an interior that is bright, contemporary and stylish is unique and its cabin spaces are finished with a luxurious touch that you'd expect to find on a Med-spec sportscruiser, not a tough Nordic mile muncher. If you thought you'd found your big Scandinavian SUV of the sea, that decision may have gotten a little bit more difficult.
Reasons to Buy
- Practical design
- Solid construction
- Variety of engine/drive options
- Value for money
Things to Consider
- Fit and finish compared to rivals
- Cramped aft cabin
Rivals to Consider
The Nord-Star's rivals need very little in the way of an introduction. Sargo and Targa both build nearly identical boats to the 49+ but these close rivals have their differences despite the obvious similarities.
The Targa 46 is more traditional in look and feel than the Nord-Star but the flagship has a feel of utter solidity out on the water. It's a melange of warm teak and highly practical detailing on the inside but the latest iteration is available with a two or three-cabin layout, the latter similar in arrangement to the Nord-Star. The option to extend the flybridge creates a great deck to mount water toys on but the layout of the top deck is more basic than the 49's. It's available with sterndrives or pods and, well, it would take a seriously nasty sea to knock the big Targa off course. For many, Targa is a watchword for toughness and reliability for year-round boating.
The Sargo 45 feels like a natural compromise between the traditional feel of the Targa and the more avant-garde Nord-Star. It too has the option to have two or three cabins but, unlike the Nord-Star, it doesn't have the option for shafts or a flybridge (yet). It's the most practical design of the three with a great use of deck space and no stone left unturned in the pursuit of practical detailing. It's a brilliantly well-thought-out design and one that feels like it's been poured over by people who know and use boats. With pods and sterndrives on offer its performance is similar to its Finnish rivals and the driving environment is absolutely spot on. It's such an easy boat to drive and slow and high speeds and the lack of a flybridge means you get a full-width glass sunroof overhead. We also think the three-cabin arrangement works the best of the trio.
The Marex 440 is not a direct rival in terms of its look but designed in Norway and built in Lithuania it's of a similar size to the others and adds an interesting twist on the traditional Nordic explorer concept. It's softer, smoother and less purposeful than the Finnish trio but it's one of the cleverest boats of its size and just as flexible when it comes to drive systems, offering shafts, sterndrives and pods. It also boasts three cabins on the lower deck in a more conventional layout than the other boats. It's not a flybridge boat but then the layout is intended to embrace sociable single-level living. The aft cockpit is a full-width seating space - that naturally features Marex's brilliant curtain cover system - that connects seamlessly to the saloon, which is dominated by a split galley and brilliantly laid out helm station.
Specifications & Performance
Nord Star 49+ version 2023. *Data supplied by the manufacturer.
Test Engines Twin Volvo Penta IPS650
- Liters Per Hour
- Liters Per Mile
- Range (nm)
Yacht Load: 50 Litres of water 20 Litres of fuel 5 members of crew air temperature of 7 °C