Followup to Kayak car question

-- Last Updated: Feb-09-11 9:34 PM EST --

Edited to add info on VW Golf 2-9

Thanks to everyone for their replies to my Jetta TDI questions in another post. I have followed up on some of the other suggestions and thought I would post what I found out and maybe get some more input.

1. Mazda3 Hatchback - Looked really good, but found out that the bar spread is only 30in with my Q towers. The optional control towers are even worse at 27 in.

2. Mazda5 - Rear seats did not fold properly so that I could sleep flat in the back

3. Hyundai Elantra Tourning - Rear seats did not fold properly so that I could sleep in the back

4. Toyata Matrix - Toyota redesigned the door metal (weakened it) and Yakima does not even have a fit for the new Toyota Matrix. They are working on one.

5. Nissan Versa - Too short in rear for sleeping with the rear seat down.

6. Nissan Rogue - Possibility. A little higher lift and lower mileage rating than I wanted.

7. Honda Fit - Have not got around to see it yet.

8. Subaru Outback - Closest dealer is 130 miles away so I guess I am going to pass on it.

9. Jetta Wagon - Up to 43in bar spread and can use rail mounts on the standard factory side-rails so paint damage from clips is eliminated. However is $5000 more in base price and does have that DSG cost question.

10. VW Golf 4dr - Not sure why I never considered this before. Saw it mentioned in comparison to the Jetta in some reviews.

I really hate strapping my kayaks down with the straps across the cockpit rim. That is why I really wanted to get a vehicle with a 32in bar spread. My current Toyota Matrix has a 32in spread and is just barely large enough to keep the straps off the cockpit rims.

What are your opinions on minimum bar spreads for 17-18ft fiberglass kayaks and on having straps go across cockpit rims of fiberglass kayaks?

If money were no object I would have lots more options and lots more boats !!


honda element
This car is built to sleep in the back. Which seems important to you. The seats lift totally out of the floor up along the doors. Or get whatever car you want not made by vw and get a tent. I drive a rogue and I really like it. Real world highway mileage with kayak is about 25-27. But its storage and great ride make up for it. Plus the flux capacitor won’t go bad. Which it will in your vw. I want people to buy the Nissan Juke just because it has a turbo.

Ryan L.

Elantra Touring

– Last Updated: Feb-09-11 10:14 PM EST –

I looked at the Hyundai site expecting to see the most common type of seat that doesn't completely fold into the floor, and saw something very strange instead. It looks like the seats of the Elantra Touring fold down to create kind of a sloping ramp on the floor, a crappy design in the opinion of this longtime station wagon/carryall lover because of the way it robs you of the ability to carry large, boxy items - like large boxes! However, if my interpretation of their photos is correct, you can deal with this problem quite easily when it comes to sleeping in the back. There are many different kinds of compact folding cots that you can buy. Buy a cot that is already very low to the ground, and find a way to shorten the legs at one end. Alternatively get a standard-height cot and shorten all the legs, but shorten the legs at one end just a little bit more. To make the cot as low as possible, remove the legs from the end that sits at the top of the ramp, and shorten the other legs so they are only as long as what's needed to make the cot level. There you go: you have an instant, level sleeping surface, that is more comfortable than a foam pad on the cargo floor.

That's how I'd tackle your gripe about the Elantra Touring, but not everyone likes to tinker with stuff the way I do.

Unless the salesman did not know how to get the seats all the way down, it was really a big slope. Maybe I need to go back and have them take more time and see if it will go a little flatter.


I looked at the Element when I bought the Toyota 7 years ago. I guess I should not be carrying my impressions from then over to the current model. I will definitely be going by the Honda dealer to look at the Fit and the Element.

I do normally camp in a tent. However, I really do appreciate the ability to sleep in the car when I come into a campground after dark, especially if its raining. I have also used the car as a nighttime refuge during some very severe Florida thunderstorms when I really did not want to be out in the tent.


It looked really steep in the photo…
… that I saw as well. I really can’t imagine what they were thinking when they designed that, and I really think it’s the dumbest seat-folding method ever devised. I really do think you can modify a cot to bridge that uneven floor, but since I try to carry heavier stuff toward the front of the cargo area, I’d also worry about having to tie stuff in place so it stays put while driving.

ask directly
A couple of p.netters have Elantra wagon. If they don’t pick up the thread, create new with more descriptive subject line “Elantra wagon rear seats”, ask the same question.

I wish more manufacturers built their interiors with the flexibility of Honda Element and Fit. Of course, they did “market research” and know that we don’t want that :wink:

I don’t see any consistency here

– Last Updated: Feb-10-11 9:47 AM EST –

almost none of the cars you listed can you sleep in the back comfortably in. Including the jetta.
You either have to open the wallet or set some priorities.
From what I can see, they are:
Rack spread
Flat cargo area

Have you considered a used compact pickup with cap, or a used compact SUV? Or if you can find one, a used wagon such as a camry or corolla wagon?

If you're looking new, the Element is a great way to go, especially if you're willing to forgo AWD.

Have you looked at the new Ford C Max?

Get Rack Extensions

– Last Updated: Feb-10-11 11:03 AM EST –

A 60" or so rack extension will solve your problem for having straps over the cockpit rim. You should be using front and rear tie downs anyway on these long kayaks, so the actual spread of the bars makes virtually no difference if you have an extension. My cars have 22-24" bar spread but I never notice any problems with that since I have a 60" or so extensions mounted on the Yakima bars.

That would let you look into some cars you may be writing-off right now.

The Honda Fit is a marvel of interior space usage. Don't know if you can sleep in it or not, but there is a lot of space inside within the small dimensions of the vehicle.

The Elantra Touring drives nicer I think and can probably haul a longer WW boat inside than the fit or the element but not sure if it actually has more usable space. It stops better and may have higher safety ratings though. Not too gas-sipping though (the Fit I think is better but feels underpowered with the auto tranny and quite noisy at highway speeds)

May be the new Toyota Prius v (not the "V" as in trim level 5 but the "v" as in "versatile")? That would have similar if not better gas mileage than the TDI with probably even more interior space (a touch more than a Passat Wagon, which is bigger than the Jetta). Price is TBD at this point and not clear if the rear seats lay totally flat or not, but the car will be available later this year. Check it out here:

Maybe I am smaller
I put put my air mattress in both the Jetta and the Mazda 3 and layed down in the back and was fine. I am only 5’8" so that may be the reason I fit. The Jetta worked fine just as it was. On the Mazda3 my head (facing the front of the vehicle) did extended beyond the folded rear seat. However I ususally carry a gear box and stack some gear on the floor between the front and rear seat so that I make some extended flat floor space so my head does not drop off the edge of the seat. I have slept lots of nights in my Matrix this way.


Could you give me a link or mfg
My quick look through the Yakima website and a google search did not show anything obviously intended for Yakima racks.

Are the extensions made by Yakima or another company? Is there any particular questions to ask about how the extensions affect weight limits on the racks?

Sounds like this could be a good solution for me.


Extensions …

– Last Updated: Feb-10-11 11:36 AM EST –

One example from KayakPro (

I'm sure there are others... I'm not keen on the actual "V" shape, I'd rather have a "U" shape that conforms to my boat's hull. But the V with some nice foam around it seems to work fine...

Or do your own - with proper tie downs on the ends of the boats I don't think these should have any significant impact on the load carrying capacity of the rack system but by all means chack with the manufacturers...


– Last Updated: Feb-10-11 11:49 AM EST –

In that case, I'd follow the suggestion to get a rack extension, and get the 3. Resale values on the 1st gen 3 are remarkable. I may have one in my future. Or, you could hold out for the new Focus, which shares the 3 platform but looks to be a vast improvement over the current focus.
What don't you like about your matrix? And do you have the XRS version?

Kayak car
I know a lot of people on the forum don’t really care for these but consider this. The Dodge Magnum has a 41 inch spread between the crossbars on the factory rack. This combined with the Mopar sport crossbars, and a Thule Slipstream rack pushes the spread to about 50 inches. This allows me to strap down my yaks, (Seda Ikkuma 17 & Qcc 700), at the for and aft bulkheads. The roofline is quite low, allowing for easy access. The rear seats fold down to carry a ton of gear, or to allow 2 adults to sleep quite comfortably on an inflatable mattress. This vehicle was developed when Mercedes owned Chrysler, the transmission is the 4-Matic from Germany, the rear susp. Is from the previous E-series, and a lot of the switchgear is from the Mercedes parts bin. It has Mercedes traction and stability systems, and AWD was an option, but hardly nessessary. When you shut the door, it sounds and feel like a german car. For ease and convenience of trasporting an eighteen foot kayak, a Volvo wagon may be a better choice, but at a different price point. The other vehicles mentioned by the original poster are all great vehicles. They just aren’t as capable, and look a bit silly transporting an 18 ft kayak.

The element comes with awd. I have used one in heavy snow on steep terrian. Works very well.

Ryan L.

my poorly written sentence
Sorry about that. What I meant was to recommend the 2wd model unless one really, really needs awd. One pays a premium in purchase price, mileage and conceivably in service costs.

I live in a northern state and have winter tires on a 2wd car. I used to think I needed AWD but not after driving with these tires!

Honda Fit is made for sleeping in back

– Last Updated: Feb-10-11 2:14 PM EST –

Or so I've read. Their Element might be another good candidate for you, though it gets lower mpg.

Nissan Cube might work, though it looks short. When I first saw one at the dealership, the sales guy said Nissan was considering making one in a cargo version, which would be better for sleeping in.

Ford Transit might do the trick, too.

The little boxy Scion was another one designed to allow sleeping in. However, I don't know if these are still being made.

Another possibility, though not a car, is a 4cyl 2WD compact pickup truck, if you can even find one anymore. My first truck was a Mazda B2000 and I got 32 mpg highway with it back east, 29 mpg when I moved to Colorado. Its EPA rating was for 27 mpg. A 6' to 7' bed is plenty for sleeping in, and a topper gives you a long roof for adequate crossbar spacing. Some toppers have rails that allows you to vary the crossbar spacing.

Straps across cockpit rims
I would avoid that like the plague. The straps across that big hole are likely to vibrate with the wind buzzing over it and make a lot of noise.

Rack separation
If you don’t like the rack spread on your ride, you can get an EZ-Vee, V-bar or Slipstream carrier, which puts the boat tie-downs up to 8 ft apart.

I have no wisdom to offer on the cars you mention - but I wouldn’t let rack spread decide which car I drove.

Don’t rely on the sales people
Sometimes they don’t know individual models very well.

If a vehicle has flat, no-big-seam-folded rear seating, the company brochures will probably brag about that.

Have you considered a minivan? Some of those can be slept in, and they have longer rooves.