Best cars for cyclists and bikes
Cycling is a popular hobby but you'll probably need a suitable vehicle for transporting your equipment. Here are 10 of the best cars for cyclists and bikes
Aside from grand pianos, there are few items more awkward to load into a car than bicycles. Wrangling the wheels, saddle and pedals of a bike into a configuration that’ll allow you to close the boot and accommodate passengers can provoke frustration at best, or chipped paintwork, damaged trim and oily upholstery at worst.
Carmakers know this, though, and many build external racks, internal rails and neat seating solutions to make life easier for cyclists. Many of these extras allow you to carry multiple bikes and passengers at the same time, negating the need for you to choose between your hobby and your friends.
Most of the cars we feature can be fitted with third-party bike racks, but we’ve concentrated on official manufacturer rails and racks to ensure compatibility. We’ve only included one full-size SUV in this list. That’s not because they’re inherently bad cars for cyclists, but because the typically high roof of an SUV means you’ll have to use a ladder if you want to load a bike onto the top rack easily.
We have, however, tried to think outside the box with our selections. Not all cyclists want a big estate car or a commodious MPV, for example, so we’ve featured a supermini and a supercar in our picks alongside more obvious choices.
So, if you’re a keen cyclist after the perfect car to take your bike or bikes on a cycling holiday, or just want to venture out to experience some of the UK’s excellent bike trails, read on for our rundown of the 10 best cars for cyclists and bikes available in the UK today.
If any car is going to be suitable for slinging mountain bikes in or on top of, it’s the hugely practical Land Rover Discovery. Fold down all the rear seats and you’ll fit one or two in the back with their front wheels removed, but the alternative is to specify some dedicated official Land Rover accessories. There are tow-bar mounted carriers available that can carry two or three bikes with a total weight of 40kg or 51kg depending which you choose, or – if you have a stepladder handy – there’s the choice of roof-mounted fork or wheel-mounted carriers (to be used in conjunction with roof rails and cross rails, both sold separately). Capacity for two bikes on the roof, three on the tailgate and about two in the boot means your Land Rover Discovery could easily deal with even the most ambitious cycling holiday – and if you don’t fancy pedaling up a hill, chances are the Discovery could do the hard work for you, both on and off-road.
The Skoda Superb Estate features frequently in our top 10 lists, and with good reason: it’s immensely practical, comfortable, well equipped, decent to drive and reasonably priced. It’s also popular with cyclists thanks to its huge boot. With the rear seats folded, this should easily accommodate two bikes with their front wheels removed. If you’d rather not risk getting the Superb’s interior dirty, a set of roof rails and a bike rack are available from Skoda, and will also let you pretend you’re a support vehicle for the Tour de France – an event that Skoda sponsors and supplies cars for. If you prefer mountain-biking to road-racing, meanwhile, ticking the four-wheel-drive option box adds expense and reduces fuel economy slightly, but means the car should get you where you need to go when the call of the wild beckons. Choose the 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine if you don’t cover many miles each year, any of the 2.0-litre diesels if relaxed cruising and economy are your priorities, or the faintly mad 4x4 276bhp 2.0-litre petrol if you want to get to your destination as fast as possible. The Superb Estate looks great in SportLine trim, too, if you can stretch to it.
The latest Mercedes E-Class Estate has taken all the best bits of the old one and improved it still further. Granted, it’s still got a smaller boot than the Skoda Superb Estate, despite costing considerably more. However, pay the price and you’ll be getting a luxurious, quiet and swift estate car. While the E-Class Estate loses out to the Superb Estate on ultimate carrying capacity by 20 litres, it still has a vast boot that’ll accommodate a couple of bikes with their front wheels removed and the rear seats folded. A tow-bar-mounted rack is another option for up to three bikes (about £700 for a towbar and £600 for a three-bike rack), while up to two can be carried on the E-Class’ roof using rails (£200 or so) and bike carriers (about £100 each). If you choose this last option, the bikes’ total weight mustn’t exceed 100kg, but this shouldn’t be an issue unless you’re transporting electric bikes. The 220d diesel engine offers excellent economy and brisk performance, while standard SE trim has plenty of bells and whistles. Go for the sporty-looking AMG Line if you’d rather, but you may be better off selecting individual options from Mercedes’ generously appointed options list.
The Honda Jazz is the second entry on this list for the Japanese brand, and it highlights Honda’s considered approach to usability. Despite being a small supermini, the Jazz boasts impressive practicality credentials. If you want to transport your bike inside the Jazz, its clever ‘magic’ rear seats flip up against the seatbacks to reveal a flat, wide and open rear storage area that’s remarkably easily to load a bike (with its front wheel removed) into. If that option doesn’t appeal, a bike without its front wheel will also fit in the boot with one portion of the split-folding rear seats dropped, allowing you to carry three passengers. If you want to carry your bikes outside, a Honda-certified Thule tow-bar-mounted two-cycle carrier will set you back around £400, or about £550 for a folding version. Honda also sells a roof rack for the Jazz for around £300, but with a maximum load of just 30kg – there’s no official bike carrier for the roof.
With decent handling, a vast interior and the ability to seat seven, the Ford Galaxy has a lot going for it. As long as you’re happy having a large MPV, it also offers near-limitless flexibility for carrying bikes. With all five rear seats folded, you should be able to fit two bikes complete with wheels. If, on the other hand, you need to carry more than one passenger, the boot is vast in five-seat configuration and should easily swallow a pair of cycles, albeit with their wheels removed. A tow-bar-mounted three-bike carrier will set you back around £480, and even fully loaded, will tilt out of the way at the press of a pedal when you need to open the boot. You’ll need to purchase a towbar if you want this option, though, and that adds around £440 to the Galaxy’s price if you want the detachable version. Roof rails and bike carriers can also be purchased, and are more reasonably priced at £200 or so for a set of rails and around £60-110 depending which Thule bike carrier you choose.
It costs some £10,000 less than an Audi Q5, but there’s little in it when it comes to practicality: the Nissan X-Trail is a very big car inside. And that means plenty of space for bikes. How big? Well, the fact that the X-Trail offers the option of seven seats. Choose that third row of seats and space is 445 litres; forgo them and capacity grows to 565 litres. Fold the second row and you’ll have access to very close to 2,000 litres of room. There’s no load lip to haul your gear over and all the seats fold almost completely flat. On the road, the car is easy to drive, nimble and offers enough ground clearance to cross muddy ruts to find the best mountain-biking trails. Four-wheel drive is an option for those that do so regularly.
The Kodiaq is Skoda’s first large SUV and it’s a cracker. It’s available as a five or seven-seater and sports a vast range of features to make your life that little bit easier. These range from the £90 optional handles to drop the second row of seats without having to reach inside or walk around to each side of the car; to the standard removable boot light torch, umbrellas inside the front doors and an ice scraper behind the fuel filler cap. The Kodiaq is great to drive on-road, and very capable off it in four-wheel-drive guise. Although there’s no boot lip, a relatively high boot floor is a minor black mark.
The Vauxhall Corsa is tiny in this company, but it offers an integrated two-cycle carrier. The Flex-Fit carrier is a pop-out platform that hides behind the rear numberplate when not in use. Pull a handle in the boot and it slides out. Lock it in place, attach the additional rear lights and you’re ready to go. It’s not perfect, though: its £670 price tag is a little steep and you can’t have it if you’ve chosen a rear parking camera or a spare wheel. And you need to ensure your bikes’ cranks aren’t too large. But the Corsa’s Flex-Fit option is a novel solution to a common problem and one well worth investigating.
If you apply the pound-per-inch formula to your new-car purchase, you simply can’t get more value for money than the Dacia Logan MCV. The big, estate-only car is priced like a supermini, but offers boot space comparable to a Volkswagen Golf Estate. That’s impressive, but not as much as the price: the cheapest Golf is almost three times the price of the Logan. Unsurprisingly, it’s not hard to see evidence of cost-cutting in the spartan interior, while both the ride and handling lack the finesse of pricier rivals. Still, pass by the entry-level 1.0-litre SCe petrol engine in favour of the 1.2-litre TCe petrol or 1.5-litre diesel and you’ll have a non-nonsense car capable of easy A to B travel.
Although the SsangYong Tivoli XLV is an SUV, it’s almost a foot shorter than some full-size 4x4s, so loading its roof shouldn’t pose too much of an issue. SsangYong charges around £200-300 for a roof rack or bar system and a two-bike carrier for £150. Factor in a huge boot that’ll take an adult’s bicycle with both wheels attached and the rear seats folded, optional four-wheel drive and reasonable running costs, and it’s clear that despite a slightly underwhelming driving experience, the Tivoli XLV has a lot to recommend it as a cyclist’s companion. There’s only one engine available with the Tivoli XLV – a 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel – but you can choose between two and four-wheel drive, as well as a manual or automatic gearbox. The manual two-wheel-drive model will help keep costs down and economy up, though.