After reading your post, I was drawn to learn more about the First Series. By examining all previous models including 40.7, 42, AND 44.7, I was disappointed to find that the new 40 has a relatively small tankage compared to those of the previous models. I understand that First series in not design for long term cruising. But I like to use for it for cruising with a possibility to sail to Europe and stay there for a couple years.
I am not sure how the hardware used in the new 40 compared to the older ones. From the Beneteau website, the new hull is lighter, stronger and stiffer. Your thought on this is appreciated.
That's a simple one
. Regarding price the First 40 compares with the Elan 380 and the Salona 37 (there will be a 38 soon).
The Elan and the Salona have more agreeable interiors (to my taste) and with slightly better quality. The Salona has a steel inox grid to distribute the forces from the keel and shrouds, and that's a very strong point, but has no hull window (the First don't have one also). The Elan offers you an outside view from the salon.
The three are very fast boats, and the First, the fastest. The First has a long list of options (like the others) and can have a supplementary water deposit (95 L). That way the boat has about 300L of water and that's not bad. The boat sai so well in weak winds that I don't think that you will have problems with the diesel tankage (130L).
About the hardware, it depends on the options. The top hardware is very good and even the medium is good.
All tree boats are seaworthy, but the First will be more. It has a very high ballast/displacement, a lot better than the Elan or Salona. It is a very stiff boat (more than the previous model) and it is also a narrow boat. That will give it a comfortable sea motion.
If you can live comfortably in that boat (interior deco and space), than is not only a very good boat for racing but also for cruising, including bluewater cruising. Of course, if you plan to cross te Atlantic with more than two or three in the boat, you will need a watermaker, but that is not a problem.
They now have an option for a teak interior, and that's a big improvement over the standard interior.
Now, if you have the extra USD40000 or 45000 to give for an Elan 410 or a Salona 41...they will be as fast (cruising) and will have a better interior. If you have not, the choice will be between the First 40, the Elan 380 and the Salona 37 (or 38).
If you have any doubt ask and I will try to answer.