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 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

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.


– 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:


– 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.


– 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.


– 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.