I'll refrain from listing all the paddling characteristics, partly because that has been done several times before by other reviewers, and because I think that the bottom of the boat has hardly changed (if at all). The old Salto had excellent paddling characteristics, boofing like a charm, coming up very controllably after drops or when punching big holes, being very forgiving and controllable to a fine degree. All in all, a great boat!
What I noticed right away:
There are a lot bigger nuts, (probably double the diameter of the old ones) with plastic cog-like teeth for additional grip, holding the footbrace in place. That is a simple but big improvement, considering how the old ones had very little grip at all, especially when your fingers are cold in the middle of the winter and you can't find the thread on the bolt!
The drain plug is in the middle rear of the hull, between the plastic grip and the rear of the hull. With my old Salto it was located at one corner of the rear deck, which meant that I had to tilt the boat slightly to empty it out. Also, if you hit anything while upside-down, the plug could get damaged. Now it's protected by the grip and hull sticking out further.
They redesigned the upper deck a lot, adding about 20 litres (5 to 6 US gallons). That means that there is more leg room in the front, that even with my 36" long legs and big feet I can stretch my legs all the way, when the footbrace is at the second to last hole. Also, I can lift both my legs up and my knees still fit through the cockpit opening at the same time. Maybe I'm wrong, but it looks like the cockpit is slightly wider than the old one, especially where the knees go.
The rear deck feels higher, but that might have something to do with the cockpit being tilted backwards. The first negative thing I noticed about the new Salto is that the rear deck is not so stiff. I sat on it and the deck caved in a couple of inches (I know that I still have to put an airbag under it, but I don't remember my old Salto ever having that issue). The good thing about the rear deck and cockpit rim being designed is that I can now comfortably lay back on the deck without the cockpit rim digging in my spine!
Another change on the upper deck is the addition of two molded in grips behind the cockpit. These used to be made of webbing, making them rather difficult to grab when they were flapping around in the water. I consider this an improvement.
They put a new seat in it. It's now so much easier to move the seat forwards or backwards and fasten it again. The sides are open (with your hand from the back), so that even with my big hands you can easily hold the square nut and connect it to the bolt. I used to have big fights with the old system, that's a thing of the past now! I did notice that they only put one bolt on each side, I wonder why that is...
The new seat feels wider (I doubt that my behind has shrunk!). They also added a tiny plug in the front to drain any water out.
I'm surprised that they didn't put foam under the seat to prevent oil canning, looks like I need to do that myself, especially since I put the seat a couple of positions backwards, which makes it sit a little bit away from the bottom of the boat in the front.
The backband is now attached differently to the seat, with the strap going through slots in the top of the seat, connecting behind the seat in a double clasp. Compared to the old single clasp strap, this means that it's easier to change it. They also added a little plastic clip to the bungy string at the top of the backband, to be able to quickly connect or disconnect it from the rear of the cockpit.
The thigh braces are stiffer and thicker, and they're not digging into my thighs as much as the old ones. I don't think that I'll be outfitting them with foam, but who knows, I still might. Eskimo added two (3ft?) long sheets of foam with adhesive backing to the boat, as well as paper cutouts so that you can cut them into the right shape and size for the seat, thigh braces and footbrace (which already has a thick block of foam added to it).
I guess the second thing I was surprised about was the lack of a tiny Allen wrench, which used to be standard issue on all Eskimo kayaks in the past. I still have a bunch of those, so it's not a problem, but I think that it's a different (metric) size bolt than they would sell in the U.S..
Finally, I noticed that they removed the metal bar in the front deck, I liked that for locking my boat, so it seems that I'll have to go get a stainless steel loop to screw through the deck myself. There also used to be a little neoprene compartment under the front deck. I couldn't find that in my new Salto... I guess I'll have to add that myself as well!
Of course, it's made of the same bombproof Eskimo plastic, with no-nonsense warranty and it lacks a center pillar, something that I still miss on way too many "creekboats".
This afternoon I went paddling with the paddling buddy who bought my old Salto, and we put them next to one another. The cockpit of the new Salto is indeed quite a bit wider, the deck of the old one is higher, right in front of the cockpit, and the bottom seems to be the same.
All in all, a lot of improvements, and to top it, I got a yellow upper deck/orange lower deck Salto, which is visible better than my old red one and which looks better on pictures as well!