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good kayak hauling cars/crossovers

I am in need of buying vehicle and need to be able to transport two kayaks, one fairly wide recreational, the other a narrow sea kayak, on the roof. It is helpful if it is not a high roof. (short female!) I also need some back seats inside that go down for storage. I have looked at the Kia Soul and really like it, but it does not come with a roof rack, and I am not sure I would want to take the chance of having one installed. Any ideas? I am trying to stay in the $20,000 range and want 25-30 MPG. This was discussed in 2010 on this board, but now newer models are out, so I would like to open up the discussion again.


  • Have you...
    ...looked at the Subaru CrossTrek?. This car gets good gas mileage (according to the reports) and has roof rails that should make for a solid rooftop system.

    I presently use a Mazda 3 sedan. This car works nicely as the roof is low and there are fittings that screw directly into the roof. I think that this is a feature on Subaru sedans as well.

    Anyhow, consider giving the Subie a look...
  • toyota matrix
    Two friends have these and regularly haul 4 boats on the roof on edge. One friend is only 5'3". They stopped making them but you can find 2012's.
  • Racks
    Racks can be added to almost any car, even when car dealers are not aware of possibilities.
    Thule and Yakima are manufacturers of major automotive rack/crossbar/rail systems, perhaps you could start with their car fit guides.
    Keep in mind, the newest models might not have fit solutions, but if the model is a carryover from the previous year - that is nothing but the year has changed from the last year, you shouldn't have any problems racking your vehicle out

  • I have a soul
    Bought the plus model in March, installed SSD rails, use Yakima railgrabbers with 58" crossbars.

    Perfect for sea kayaks with a 54" spread front to rear on the crossbars. Carry 2 plus paddles, if I wanted to buy one set of J saddles could carry 3.

    Perfect for white water boat with a 39" spread on the bars, carry 3 fat creek boats plus paddles with stackers.

    I had a budget of $20K, this cost $17.6K so out the door with license and suffocating CA taxes was less than budget.

  • Honda Fit
    I have an older 2008 Honda Fit which I put my Tsnumai 140 and also my NDK Greenlander Pro. The one is 14 foot other 17' 9". Has low roof height has folding rear seats plus Majic seat in back. Under 20K good gas mileage. But like others have said just about any car can have a rack added. Oh Mine is a Thule rack setup. No factory bars.

    So really just about any car can work with a rack setup. Keep in mind rack systems aren't cheap in the $400 to 600 range. In the winter time i remove my rack. If you go with J-bars get the folding kind. It will pay for itself in better gas mileage when not hauling boats. First there is the base rack then the actual holders that hold the kayak like J-bars. Both Thule and Yakima have good websites to help you choose.
  • Subaru Outback
    I recently purchased a Subaru Outback to replace my old favorite an Xterra. I've been really happy with the car so far and it gets 25 mpg for my around town and commute and ~ 30 on the highway. The roof rack design is not the best but carrying two boats works OK with the factory racks. I want to put Yakima landing pads on the car but they do not fit the 2013. A work around is supposedly coming. Yakima currently suggests using rail grab mounts. This is probably as good a solution as you will find on other similar cars.
  • but would you ever sell your Soul?
    ok. maybe a trade-in!

  • if you don't need AWD
    You can narrow the choices, keep the roof lower, the MPG higher, and keep the price down.
  • What's an SSD rail?
    Looks really good! What is an SSD rail and are there specific install points on that particular car for it?
  • ground clearance
    Those are all fine choices but your limited to paved or gravel roads @ best right? I would sacraficeca few mpgs for versatility. A f150 with the straight 6 gets roughly 18 MPG highway, has a back seat on the extended cab, and the bed would hold a 12' kayak or 2. Not really familiar with kayak deminsions. Just thinking it would be a cheaper alternative and do more.
  • Impreza v CrossTrek
    We're trying to decide between the Impreza--best gas mileage for AWD hatchback. The Crostrek is a cool looking vehicle and fun to drive, but unless you need the ground clearance (8" versus 5"), the Impreza is probably the better bet. The Crosstrek gets worse gas mileage, can be squirely in high winds at freeway speeds, is noisier, and costs several K more. Have driven both and are going with the Impreza Sport Limited.

    If we didn't want AWD, would probably go with a Masza 3 in this price range. My other car is a Lexus ct 200h and it is a fabulous vehicle--incredibly comfortable, great gas mileage, fun to drive. With Yakima Whispbar racks, it does a great job hauling 3 kayaks around. We're trading a Prius in on the Impreza to get AWD.
  • What a beauty!
    All that's needed are the euro rails, xcross bars and a matching Fenn Spark surfski?


  • Installed set on wife's 2010 model
    See website http://www.ssdperformance.blogspot.com/
    They now have a SS version. Ours are the early straight, powder coated style. We had to pop off trim strip, bore some holes to expose pre-mounted threaded studs, bolt on. Very clear supplied instructions, plus SSD owner (Mike I think) was very prompt and forthcoming with further answers to questions before and after sale. We also used the Yakima Rail Grabbers for big round bars. Our local Kia dealer, who sold these SSD bars for $550, insisted that it required drilling holes in roof, would violate warranty if non-dealer did it, blah, blah. I recall about $275 to get these UPS-ed to door.
  • 18 mpg on the highway?
    Gas is way too expensive for that kind of mileage. If you want a pickup, I'd say go for a Tacoma 4 cyl.
  • Trucks versus cars
    I'm a big fan of trucks - always have been - but I've never been on a paddling trip where there was a need to drive off-road, so being "limited" to paved and gravel roads seems pretty reasonable to me. Even the average dirt path can be driven on by any car, and people routinely did that prior to the mid-70s when trucks first became popular. Given the OP's target range for fuel economy, some kind of car seems best.
  • Mini
    -- Last Updated: Mar-07-13 2:27 PM EST --

    The Mini is a great kayak hauler. Current mileage is around 27/35, base under $20k. Has a low roof, back seats fold to give a lot of space. The Clubman is longer, has more space in the back, and the rear doors open to the side, which would be awesome, as the hatch on mine doesn't open all the way with boats on. It's not a deal breaker, though. I don't think the 4WD version is a good choice, as I hear it's kind of a dog.

    Here's mine with a 24" and 24.5" wide boat on top:

  • curious...
    -- Last Updated: Mar-07-13 3:14 PM EST --

    With that long roof, would it have been possible to mount the cross bars further apart? Also, with the front passenger seat tipped forward, would it be possible to transport a 6-foot x 25 inch WW boat inside?

    I've always like the Mini. What's your top cruising speed... I mean, with comfortable RPMs? Not necessarily with boats loaded. Or, both ways, if you know.

  • curious...
    -- Last Updated: Mar-07-13 3:14 PM EST --

    I like the Soul. Those are good looking rails. How much weight does Kia say you can have, up there?

    I don't suppose you could transport a 6-foot WW boat inside, with the passenger seat tipped forward?

    And, what's you top cruising speed, with comfortable RPMs? Not necessarily with boats on top. Or, both, if you know.

  • sure
    -- Last Updated: Mar-07-13 3:13 PM EST --

    Any modern wagon can handle anything from a paved road to gravel to a two track. I used to drive a pickup for work and I can count the times I put it into 4wd on one hand.
    When you're not hauling the kayaks, you can haul people, pets, etc. Covered cargo and comfort.

    FWIW though, if I needed and drove a pickup in the first place, I'd definitely make it my kayak hauler.

  • America Hates Wagons
    -- Last Updated: Mar-07-13 4:44 PM EST --

    We are the weirdos who need them. Wouldn't it be great to be able to buy a Corolla, Civic, Camry, or Accord wagon? I'm very happy with my 2010 Elantra Touring. Good price, gas mileage, reliability. Nice low roof with rails for kayaks. Hyundai quit making them. If you can find a good used one I can vouch for the quality and characteristics of mine.

  • well put
    I am glad you still like Elantra GT

    Anyways, a bit more to the point, the current version of GT comes with factory cross bars.
  • Is The New Rav4 Too High?
    Anyone have experience with the new or old Rav4s?
  • I just bought a wagon,
    a 2013 Volkswagon Jetta Sportswagon TDI diesel. We had been looking at the Elantra touring but they changed the style for 2013. People keeping asking me "why did you get a wagon" with a funny look on there face, everyone seems to have a hard time when I tell them I wanted a wagon
  • Here's the website for SSD
    -- Last Updated: Mar-07-13 7:48 PM EST --


    Another alternative for any relatively flat roof is the tracks from Thule or Yakima. Probably the strongest, most secure mount of all.

    I usually drive 65 regardless of boats, but the guys that pass me on the flat highway I pass going over the Altamont Pass, still at 65. I've never had the engine over 4K RPM (65 in 4th gear) but its usually at about 2200 (65 in 6th gear)

    I 'spose you could put a playboat inside, but since my boats are all 8-9' long and I am averse to wet sandy stuff all over the interior, I haven't done it. Can readily carry WW paddles inside if desired.

  • That's Too Bad
    -- Last Updated: Mar-07-13 7:43 PM EST --

    About the funny looks. We love them and we're still a Volvo wagon family, but both the 850 and V70 are racking up lots of miles and maintence is now exceeding whatever value is left in them. So now checking out the Rav4, since service for Toyota is close by and don't have to drive way over to the other part of town for it. Unfortunately, service for VW is too far away, so service convenience is a big factor for us. Right now, we just drop the Volvos off and walk home, which is faster than using the shuttle. We just love wagons for the low roof and being able to use them as freighters.

  • Got rid of stupid tail gate and wheel
    That was a killer for me.
  • 4wd?
    O, I wasn't pushing a 4 wheel drive truck for everyone. Most folk don't need em. I do cause some of the places we go camping you'd have a hard time getting in and out of if there's any moisture at all. Lol.
  • 4wd?
    O, I wasn't pushing a 4 wheel drive truck for everyone. Most folk don't need em. I do cause some of the places we go camping you'd have a hard time getting in and out of if there's any moisture at all. Lol.
  • Maybe longer
    -- Last Updated: Mar-07-13 11:24 PM EST --

    My Mini is old, a '94. Back then, as you can see in this pic, the cross bars mount through the roof skin directly to the frame inside. It's an incredibly strong connection, but the posts have to be in the positions to match the threaded holes inside:


    The cross bar spacing is short, which is why I used the EZ-Vee carriers to place the boat supports far apart. This type of carrier is very secure, and the boats never move.

    As of 2007 (I think it was) the new cross bars hook into a hidden rail just above the door line, the same as Audis and VWs. The new setup look to have about the same spacing, more or less, although the crossbars look to be a few inches longer.

    PS: no to the boat inside, but I do carry one-piece GPs without much trouble. Top speed is unaffected by the boats, but it's a short car and mine has a performance suspension, so it's not a cushy ride. In fact with the long roof up top, it's easy to forget they're up there as you can't see the bow normally. There's little impact on MPG.

  • Base VW Golf
    I got mine out the door for 18K, mounted Thule racks & under hood tie down points and love the car. For a base car it's got a lot of nice features, fun to drive, averaging 31-33mpg,(mostly country driving), and 30+ going to the Bay Area and back with kayaks on top.

    Best of luck, t.george
  • Well, it's not that we hate them
    we've been brainwashed by auto manufacturers to believe that we NEED SUV's that are more profitable to build, and more profitable for oil companies when we drive them.

    That said, I also drive a Jetta TDI wagon. All the capacity of a small SUV, low roof height for loading kayaks and canoes, and an average of 43 MPG. Long trips cost very little fuelwise, and I can pack a lot of stuff in there.
  • Yep
    I'm with ya, Kudzu. It's a shame you can't find these cars in a wagon version anymore. It seems like the only station wagons left are expensive fancy models from Mercedes, BMW, Volvo, etc. Yeah there's the Passat, but VW is not what it used to be in terms of reliability and affordability.

    The roof on the RAV 4 is way too high. It's not a car-based wagon, but an SUV. Even Subaru has ruined the top on the Outback and it's higher than it used to be. However, the new Crosstrek is nice and low, if a bit small.
  • Same experience
    -- Last Updated: Mar-08-13 1:49 PM EST --

    4wd matters more in some areas than others. Don't need it if always on high-traction surfaces--exception would be something like Slickrock Trail in Moab with max traction but extreme grades, but you wouldn't be paddling there anyway!

  • Why Crossover?
    -- Last Updated: Mar-09-13 10:15 AM EST --

    All they do is give you a tall car. Look at roof height for Kia Soul at 63.4" compared to VW Golf or Hyunsai Elantr GT at 58". 5" is more than a tippy toe stretch.

    The Soul gets 29mpg and the Hyundai GT gets 37.

    The Hyundai GT looks like it'll be a more comfortable vehicle and less likely to get tossed in high winds with a load on the roof.

  • Impressed by Impreza
    In mid-February I traded the old Tacoma for an Impreza wagon with the CVT transmission, so far so good. My downtown Atlanta commute mileage is 30+ consistently and 36 max. Added factory crossbars and thule set to go's for the kayak, but haven't had a good road trip with it yet, just the local lake. It's very roomy for a small wagon, and quite peppy for a small engine.
  • Quite a change
    It's funny how Subaru flipped a switch to make the cars get better mileage.
  • Late 90's compact wagons were great
    It's the strangest set of policies over 30yrs that encouraged low efficiency vehicles for people carriers right up to when the price of oil took off. With a majority of suv/light trucks on the road it ended up raising seat positions and rooflines for passenger vehicles and the nutso category called "crossover" vehicles where you get a sedan with big tires and small trunk, ie. Nissan Milano.
  • improved Subaru gas milage
    Subaru didn't flip a switch for better milage, they flipper transmissions. They changed from 4 spd autos to CVTs while still retaining a manual option on a few models.
  • Smaller engine also
    The must have done a few things on aerodynamics to get that high a freeway mileage
  • Think the OP left
    -- Last Updated: Mar-09-13 11:26 AM EST --

    I kinda new this thread would go by this car or that car. Either way the OP should now know just about any car can get after market roof rack system. So pick the car YOU like and can afford.

    Maybe a better topic for the OP would be rack types. Like J-bars you need to pick the kayak up over your head but V style saddles you can slide the kayak on from behind with a roller. Thule makes one and I got this V-saddle Gull Wing with roller from local Kayak store.Page down about half way there is a video on how it works. I use this on my Honda Fit but this would work on a Kia Soul too.Or any car with rear hatch or SUV or van. http://oakorchardcanoe.com/rackaccessories.php

  • Pontiac Vibe
    is the twin of the Matrix, and several reviews say the exterior styling on the Vibe is better. A used one should cost you less than a Matrix. As far as I know it has the largest interior hauling capacity of any car in it's class---you can fit an 8' ladder in it with the front seat down.

    The Vibe has superb reviews for utility and reliability from both professionals and consumers. There is only one small complaint---a recall on certain models for the power train control module.
  • engines vs CVT
    -- Last Updated: Mar-09-13 10:02 PM EST --

    Subaru has been changing their engines the last few years. However, I think the 2014 Forester has the same engine as the 2013 and the 2014 (redesigned model) has noticeable improved fuel economy.

    The major changes for 2014 are electronic steering and the CVT transmission in the place of the 4spd auto used past years.


  • Making them lighter...
    I think they have been working on making Subarus lighter even though they have got a little bigger. Will see how long it takes to get direct injection engines...
  • Acura TSX Sportwagon
    Just saw one today and it looked pretty neat with factory installed "euro" rails that spanned the entire low roof. All that's needed are a pair of 58 inch Thule or Yakima X bars, some pads, and you're all set to transport your boats. No way does it look like a soccer mom or dad's family wagon.
  • Nice little car
    I've been interested in these because they appear to have higher ground clearance than a lot of the small cars like the Honda fit and others.
  • Yeah, nice.
    But some of us can't afford to spend $31,000+ for a wagon. It seems most of the car-based wagons nowadays are fancy, expensive models from Mercedes, BMW, Acura, Volvo, etc.

    They need to bring back the Corolla wagon and similar models for us hoipoloi.
  • Options
    kayak transport cars/SUV's
    Thanks everyone for all the helpful hints. I am researching all your suggestions. I realize I can get bars that clamp on roof if no roof racks are factory installed, but just worry a bit about their stability. I did check with Truck America and they said they would install the clamp style racks and that they were stable. I just would hate to have them come loose and loose kayak and risk causing an accident. (Happened to a friend of mine on an improperly tied down kayak) I have some homework to do!
  • hybrid Subaru coming soon
    Subaru just announced a hybrid version of the XV Crosstrek (think Outback version of Impreza wagon). It will be unveiled at the NY Auto Show. This may be my next Subaru.
  • I never tire of looking at that photo
    Love it.
  • "crossover" is the biggest scam today
    A downsized SUV with reduced carrying capacity but the same lousy mileage.
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