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  good kayak hauling cars/crossovers
  Posted by: yogelena on Mar-06-13 1:41 PM (EST)
   Category: Kayaks 

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.

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Messages in this Topic


  Have you...
  Posted by: ByronWalter on Mar-06-13 1:48 PM (EST)
...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...
  Impreza v CrossTrek
  Posted by: jsmarch on Mar-06-13 9:26 PM (EST)
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.
  toyota matrix
  Posted by: nickjc on Mar-06-13 2:00 PM (EST)
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.
  Pontiac Vibe
  Posted by: Waterbird on Mar-09-13 1:09 PM (EST)
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.
  Posted by: suiram on Mar-06-13 2:03 PM (EST)
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
  Posted by: desertdave on Mar-06-13 2:12 PM (EST)
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.


Click photo to enlarge or click here to change viewing preference.
  Honda Fit
  Posted by: dc9mm on Mar-06-13 3:12 PM (EST)
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.
  but would you ever sell your Soul?
  Posted by: slushpaddler on Mar-06-13 3:49 PM (EST)
ok. maybe a trade-in!
  What a beauty!
  Posted by: clydehedlund on Mar-07-13 2:40 AM (EST)
All that's needed are the euro rails, xcross bars and a matching Fenn Spark surfski?

  What's an SSD rail?
  Posted by: Kocho on Mar-06-13 4:09 PM (EST)
Looks really good! What is an SSD rail and are there specific install points on that particular car for it?
  Installed set on wife's 2010 model
  Posted by: andy on Mar-07-13 8:02 AM (EST)
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.
  Posted by: edzep on Mar-07-13 3:12 PM (EST)
-- 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.

  Here's the website for SSD
  Posted by: desertdave on Mar-07-13 7:41 PM (EST)
-- 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.

  Nice little car
  Posted by: BHMACIN on Mar-11-13 11:28 AM (EST)
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.
  Subaru Outback
  Posted by: seadart on Mar-06-13 3:37 PM (EST)
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.
  if you don't need AWD
  Posted by: slushpaddler on Mar-06-13 3:51 PM (EST)
You can narrow the choices, keep the roof lower, the MPG higher, and keep the price down.
  ground clearance
  Posted by: joshua78 on Mar-06-13 8:32 PM (EST)
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.
  18 mpg on the highway?
  Posted by: Canuka on Mar-07-13 9:29 AM (EST)
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
  Posted by: guideboatguy on Mar-07-13 1:03 PM (EST)
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.
  Posted by: slushpaddler on Mar-07-13 3:12 PM (EST)
-- 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.

  Posted by: joshua78 on Mar-07-13 9:49 PM (EST)
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.
  Same experience
  Posted by: pikabike on Mar-08-13 1:48 PM (EST)
-- 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!

  Posted by: joshua78 on Mar-07-13 9:49 PM (EST)
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.
  I've been looking too
  Posted by: randy_morgart on Mar-23-13 10:47 AM (EST)
With similar requirements plus being able to add a trailer hitch.

I'm leaning towards the 2013 Ford Escape, it's smaller/ lower than previous years. Mileage is 20's city and 30's hwy. The stripped down model starts at $19000.

Mazda CX-5 and Nissan Juke are similar but I don't think the back seat folds flat for hauling or sleeping. CX 5 price is a little higher.

Good Luck

  Posted by: carldelo on Mar-07-13 2:22 PM (EST)
-- 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:

  Posted by: edzep on Mar-07-13 3:07 PM (EST)
-- 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.

  Maybe longer
  Posted by: carldelo on Mar-07-13 11:20 PM (EST)
-- 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.

  I never tire of looking at that photo
  Posted by: slushpaddler on Mar-21-13 11:29 AM (EST)
Love it.
  Posted by: carldelo on Mar-21-13 1:46 PM (EST)
That was a 2-week road trip from NYC up the coast to the tip of Cape Breton. I lost count of the number of times we found people taking pictures of the rig wherever we parked.
  America Hates Wagons
  Posted by: Kudzu on Mar-07-13 4:42 PM (EST)
-- 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
  Posted by: suiram on Mar-07-13 5:02 PM (EST)
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.
  I just bought a wagon,
  Posted by: kaptynkayak on Mar-07-13 6:47 PM (EST)
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
  That's Too Bad
  Posted by: clydehedlund on Mar-07-13 7:41 PM (EST)
-- 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.

  Well, it's not that we hate them
  Posted by: Wayne_Smith on Mar-08-13 8:56 AM (EST)
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.
  Posted by: Canuka on Mar-08-13 8:57 AM (EST)
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.
  Late 90's compact wagons were great
  Posted by: LeeG on Mar-09-13 10:06 AM (EST)
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.
  HEY REX...
  Posted by: scupperfrank on Mar-21-13 7:15 PM (EST)
Make ya a bet they haven't stopped making them -just importing them...! I'd give the guy the same advice for the Mazda6 SportWagon we got on 2004 -and which they quit importing in '08 or '09... Still make them, still look terrific and produce good numbers, still has that pretty low roofline and all that covered storage/stowage in the back even with the seats up...

...they just don't import them for us paddlers here!

BTW -and you probably already know this -but there's now an Elantra 5-door that's the approximate equivalent to the Mazda3. Unfortunately, no native roof racks or rails like our cars, so a complete set of feet, towers, & bars is required for models like these (if they're available from the major manufacturers) if you want to use them as haulers.

You're dead-on about station wagons here in the good ole US of A -few and far between -and expensive: MB, BMW, Jaguar, etc. No native species, no main line makers.

So we turn to hybrids and Xovers and sedans -and such -to get out and


-Frank in Miami
  Is The New Rav4 Too High?
  Posted by: clydehedlund on Mar-07-13 6:04 PM (EST)
Anyone have experience with the new or old Rav4s?
  Got rid of stupid tail gate and wheel
  Posted by: seadart on Mar-07-13 7:49 PM (EST)
That was a killer for me.
  Base VW Golf
  Posted by: on Mar-08-13 8:51 AM (EST)
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,
  Why Crossover?
  Posted by: LeeG on Mar-08-13 5:00 PM (EST)
-- 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.

  "crossover" is the biggest scam today
  Posted by: slushpaddler on Mar-21-13 11:31 AM (EST)
A downsized SUV with reduced carrying capacity but the same lousy mileage.
  Impressed by Impreza
  Posted by: rosborn45 on Mar-08-13 6:01 PM (EST)
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
  Posted by: LeeG on Mar-09-13 9:57 AM (EST)
It's funny how Subaru flipped a switch to make the cars get better mileage.
  improved Subaru gas milage
  Posted by: ret603 on Mar-09-13 10:23 AM (EST)
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
  Posted by: LeeG on Mar-09-13 10:45 AM (EST)
The must have done a few things on aerodynamics to get that high a freeway mileage
  Think the OP left
  Posted by: dc9mm on Mar-09-13 11:25 AM (EST)
-- 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.

  engines vs CVT
  Posted by: ret603 on Mar-09-13 5:55 PM (EST)
-- 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...
  Posted by: johnysmoke on Mar-09-13 9:13 PM (EST)
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
  Posted by: clydehedlund on Mar-10-13 8:42 PM (EST)
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.
  Yeah, nice.
  Posted by: Canuka on Mar-11-13 11:52 AM (EST)
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.
  kayak transport cars/SUV's
  Posted by: yogelena on Mar-21-13 6:56 AM (EST)
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
  Posted by: abz on Mar-21-13 9:27 AM (EST)
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.
  that's too bad
  Posted by: slushpaddler on Mar-21-13 11:33 AM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Mar-21-13 11:34 AM EST --

I wonder why they don't just use the base impreza. The Crosstrek is just a tarted-up impreza with more plastic body cladding.

OTOH maybe they're saving the base impreza for their diesel engine, which they plan on bringing here.

  Not just "tarted up"
  Posted by: Canuka on Mar-21-13 2:13 PM (EST)
It also has a lot more ground clearance.
  and weight
  Posted by: slushpaddler on Mar-21-13 2:25 PM (EST)
I just don't get why they'd pick a heavier less efficient version of the impreza platform to put a hybrid engine in.
  The Cross Trek...
  Posted by: ByronWalter on Mar-21-13 2:06 PM (EST)
...seems pretty nice and gets good reviews for mileage and rough road handling. However the four door Impreza hatch can be had with roof rails and sits a little lower, which helps to keep down windage when carrying crap on the roof... not to mention getting crap on and off the roof is easier.

I may be going back to a wagon in the near future too. And as others have mentioned, people tend to think getting a wagon is retarded (oops! That was not PC:)
  Posted by: suiram on Mar-22-13 7:40 AM (EST)
You already have an AWD vehicle, perhaps a nice trailer would complement it nicely?
  Posted by: slushpaddler on Mar-22-13 10:03 AM (EST)
  Impreza Sport Limited
  Posted by: kathleen on Mar-23-13 6:05 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Mar-23-13 6:13 PM EST --

(hatchback)...that's what I have. I'm happy with it. Put Thule crossbars on with universal mounts and stackers for more than 2 kayaks. I've carried 3 at one time so far. It is low to the ground and twice that has bothered me, but I do like the gas mileage.

Depending on conditions (wind, load, speed, etc) mileage ranges 25-33 with boats up top. Have seen 38 on a long highway drive with no boats. I have read the similar Crosstrek is not worth the extra $$, though the new hybrid may be a different story.

If I'm by myself I can load my Romany using the old bathmat method, sliding it up onto the rack from the back--works great for me.

  Another Subaru fan
  Posted by: oldgator on Mar-24-13 4:39 PM (EST)
I have a 2008 Subaru Forester with the Yakima rail grabbers with 58" crossbars. The bars stick out a little but that has not been a problem. I can haul a canoe and kayak without a problem. The Forester was not as tall as the RAV 4 or Honda CRV which were also on my list of cars to look at which may be of interest to you. The Forester or Outback has plenty of room inside for gear. It holds all our gear for two for a 10 day trip in the everglades including water. The new Subaru also gets better gas mileage than mine.


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