-- Last Updated: Apr-23-07 11:20 PM EST --

I know this is probably only the 30th post this month about which vehicle is suitable for paddling, but I couldn't find what I was looking for in the first 5 pages or so.

I'm looking for a new car. Currently using a Mazda B3000 DS pickup with camper shell, with a Spring Creek Outfitters Suction Cup/strap for a rack to carry our Old Town Guide canoe. We will continue to use the canoe, but are also going to add a single, and tandem rec kayak this summer.

We are looking for a general purpose, comforatable, all around grocery getter/boat hauler/soccer practice/dog to the vet vehicle. The vehicle must:

Be new
Get over 35 MPG (without boats, of course)
have room for reasonable gear
Be comforatable on long trips
Have an Automatic Tranny
cost under $16,000

Does such a vehicle exist? Just looking online, I realize I'm pretty limited, but I think I should be able to get something along the lines of a Vibe, Matrix, Kia Spectra 5.

Anyone have any experience with the Kia Spectra 5? Or the Rio 5 for that matter?
(price is right, and I've already read the Vibe thread) Any car I'm forgetting that meets those requirements?

Don’t rule out the Forester. We have a 2005, have just rolled over 101,000 miles, and have hauled the yaks on top for most of those miles. I was getting around 28mpg with the roof racks empty, but then bought a rack and roll trailer, and now get 30mpg with the slick roof, and 27 hauling the trailer with the yaks and rocket box filled with all the fishing gear. Catch the right sale and you might find the entry level forester, which is what we have been driving for 100k miles, in your price range.

The Subaru is AWD, sits low enough to load the roof racks without a step ladder, and high enough to drive on dirt tracks. We drive it thru pastures to get to the farm pond we fish regularly.

Have had NO problems with the car in that 101k miles.

Jim in VA

Foresters are excellent
and maybe consider an Element…been shuttled in one of them and was very impressed…taller than a car car though and might strain oneself getting the kayaks on the roof…better measure how tall they are.

The Element will probably be more than the $16K new you want to spend.

Our 2003 AWD EX 5 speed model was about $22K when we bought it.

Also, you will NOT get 35 mpg with the Element.

I get 24-25 mpg highway without the rack.


I don’t think your dream car exists
Drop the new, and consider cars with 40-60k on them, and you’ll get closer. Even then, 35 mpg and carrying two canoes is going to be a challenge. Unless tey are inflatable canoes.

Honda Fit
Meets every one of your criteria. Has a fairly long roofline for racks too…

I think it will tip over
with two canoes and a tandem kayak on it.

Nah, the Fit out slalomed a ZO5 Vette
in Car & Driver’s road test. Consumer Reports commented on it’s emergency lanechange ability too. Hey, It’s a Honda…

Move price or mileage
One of the above - to get size for the people plus related paddling stuff and that mileage will either cost more than $16000 (a good bit) or won’t get that mileage. Or buy used.

Within your criteria - nothing out there that we saw when we were looking around this last fall.

Your choices

Toyota Tacoma
You could get a new 2wd Toyota Tacoma for about 15K. If you went used, your options increase substantially, because you could get a “gently used” Tacoma circa 2004 or 2005 - before the body style changed - with low mileage and a lot of bells and whistles for that same price. I’m talking about things like an extended cab, maybe with a camper shell already installed, etc.

I’d buy a used Toyota before I’d ever buy a brand-new Kia - just my opinion.

good post
I love the Fit Sport and would like a test drive.

I have driven the spectra 5 and it was a blast.

don’t know
whether you can stil get a new one in the US (no 2008s produced any more):

we just bought our second Ford Focus wagon.

this time with Zetec engine. Gets 29-33 mpg with rack and fits your budget.

people didn’t listen to the criteria…

– Last Updated: Apr-24-07 7:07 PM EST –

Funny, I see the ELEMENT and SUBARU's mentioned, which are of course WAAYYYY beyond the price range. Both are nice cars, but not on a budget.

Here's my current ride, selected for all the same reasons you listed:

(I had it up to 65mph with the canoe on top... straps were humming like a room full of Bhuddist monks).

It's a KIA RIO5 (2007), with my 15' canoe on top. I love the car, and it has a decent amount of room for gear (a must for me):

Be aware, that I had to order my THULE roof rack from the U.k., because THULE U.S. hasn't pulled their heads from their backsides yet and relized that the fit is the same for the U.K. RIO5 car!!!

I also have the J brackets and carry my 2 WW kayaks on top of my RIO5 as well with no problems.

It's comfy for long trips, and drives well too.

I liked the SPECTRA5 as well, it has a lot more than the RIO5 (MP3, more HP, more cargo space), and I would have bought one, but it's ground clearance is less than the RIO5 (and I tend to drive mine where I shouldn't).

Be advised there is a roof rack fit for the SPECTRA5 in the U.S.:

Not in the same class as the SUBARU or the ELEMENT, but they get the job done.

Fits your needs, been on 200+ mile drives with two boats on the roof. Not an FUV so it’s easy to load boats, the truck is really big, plenty of room for gear.

yet still have the capability to safely transport 17’ kayaks at freeway speed? I don’t see it happening.

You gotta compromise somewhere. I’ve driven the Versa and it’s a nice car, to my mind a minimal size for carrying big boats.

Volkswagen TDI Diesel - one 18’ sea kayak, windows down, 75-80 for most of the road trip and still got over 40mpg…

I have an '03 sedan but they made wagons too. No new TDI’s for '07 (new engine in '08 but I wouldn’t want the first year) and they’ll be more than you’re looking to spend. They do hold their resale value incredibly well but they can be found used. Yakima racks clip in very well, too.

Disclaimer: TDI’s are probably best if you’re driving a lot of miles and/or you don’t mind getting your hands dirty. See what you’re getting into at

I drive a toyota Echo. I have taken the Outer Island at 18 feet on j hooks, the Strand SOF on its side against a stacker, and a tempest 165 rotomold on several trips (SC to Ft. lauderdale and back) at average speeds of 75 mph with absolutely no problems. I tie down front and rear and have yakima bars. sorry not 35 mph but I am getting 32 solid.

I am also looking for a car and the forester and element seem perfect except for one thing. when I open the trunk of the Echo I occasionally get greeted with a real wooooof of eau de neoprene. I like the fact that it is outside of the passenger compartment. don’t know how to overcome this except for maybe the Subaru Baja? which is trememcously overpriced by the way even though I would love to have one.


I second the Corolla
Meets all your criteria… probably right around $16 for a fairly basic model with auto trans. Maybe the Matrix would qualify (it’s a Corolla engine I think) if you go without many options.

I carried my 17’ Sirocco on top of my Toyota Echo, and still carry my 15.5 footer. The Echo is a comfortable car for its size and I have no problem carrying yaks. Usually only carry one, though. Might want to tie something red onto the back of the kayak because it extends pretty far, but it works fine. MPG ranges from approx 35-44 mpg depending on circumstances. But I have a manual transmission; personally wouldn’t get an auto trans without at least 1.8 L engine. That’s why you’re probably better off with the Corolla.

Honda Fit is good, but expensive when compared with comparable models from other manufacturers… probaby 17K or so for automatic. And with a 1.5 L engine… I wouldn’t get automatic.

Can you tell I’ve been shopping cars, too?

When I went to the Subaru lot and asked what new car models they had for $17K, they said “nothing” and pointed me to the used car lot. Oh well.

to Donna re: Subaru
You should be able to get a Subaru Impreza 5 speed for under $17K easily right now. Subaru has a $2000 rebate and 1.9% financing (yes - both, not one or t’other). Look to the internet dept of fixed price dealers & you can get a Subaru below invoice. We bought a new '07 Forester auto with only a few options for $19.1K including freight 3 weeks ago. Manual trans would have been about $700 less.