The old boats felt solid with the high backs and central grab bar. As a kid you got thrown about a lot, especially by the rotating bumpers, but there was something special about riding these boats and it was probably my favourite ride in the park.
When they replaced them with the low backed and no grab rail versions, my thoughts were that it just didn't look as safe. I'm fairly sure they toned the ride down to account for the boat changes.
Ideally Merlin should be buying some new generation rafts from Intamin. A bulk order between Alton and Thorpe, would be ideal for a low investment year. They would then have new safer rafts, the ability to increase the intensity back up and even a quick cheap re-theme if they wanted to. Low cost and everybody is happy!