Anything from the ultra-spacious Kia Sorento to the modest and efficient Toyota Prius can be used on a road trip. If you are going off-road, a reliable SUV is preferred over a sports car that hugs the road. Yet, don’t scoff at the 7-seaters that allow you the comfort of a minivan and the sturdiness of an SUV even if you only stay on the road.
Knowing what you want out of your holiday, be it short or long, is key to choosing between the best road trip cars. We know which model car to pick if you know what to expect on the road. So, lean back and enjoy the read as we get to discuss the best road trip cars you can take on (and off) the road.
The Best Road Trip Cars
When exploring a country, your absolute best tool for a successful journey will be one of the best road trip cars you can possibly get.
As with most things in life, there is not one answer alone to which one of the good travel cars is the best. It’s like our tips for renting a car in Iceland, only this time the focus is not on the best vehicle for visiting Iceland. We'll discuss the best road trip cars in general.
You need to take a lot into account when you go window-shopping for the best road trip cars to explore a country with. You need to scope how many you will be, how long you'll drive, how much time you will be spending in the car, and which types of roads you’ll be driving on.
Likewise, you also need to be aware that cars abroad can be different from what you’re used to. Just think of all the differences between American and European cars, and how that can influence your driving experience.
The Best SUV for Road Trips
Truth be told, an SUV is a car of compromise, regardless of if people like it or not. At some point in history, there was a need for a car that was as much a road-going car as an off-road-going car, and thus, the SUV was born. Renting an SUV is therefore the best option for those planning to drive on a multitude of road surfaces.
When it comes to the best road trip cars you can get, SUVs rank high only when you will need to go on rough gravel roads. Just like Iceland’s F-roads or a little bit off-road. In any other situation, it’s better to go with either a road-going car (for road trips) or an off-road going car. That's a better option for off-road trips, like driving in Iceland’s highlands.
Best Big SUV: Kia Sorento 4x4 7-seater
Taking the family on a trip can easily become a mix of constant sibling feuds as well as sweet memories that you will cherish for the rest of your lives.
With the KIA Sorento 4x4 7-seater, you’ll have plenty of space, run on automatic transmission, and can choose to get a hybrid motor. Your ride will certainly be smooth, quiet, and cheap throughout your entire journey. This is one of the best SUVs for road trips if you have a large family and want to avoid anyone feeling squished in the car.
Best Small SUV: Volkswagen Taos
Getting the best of both worlds doesn’t mean you have to go for the biggest, loudest, most equipped-to-the-teeth SUV In town. With the Volkswagen Taos, you’ll get everything you want in a smaller package.
Perfect for the smaller family or a group of friends who are longing for an adventure. The best small SUV for road trips will get you everywhere you want to go, smooth, efficient, and without any hassle along the way.
Best Car for Cross-Country Road Trips: Lexus NX300H Hybrid 4X4
The best vehicle for a cross-country road trip demands a mix of affordability, convenience, and style. However, if you expect to drive long hours, comfort should be one of your top priorities.
If you are preparing for a long cross-country trip, we recommend checking luxury car rentals. Sometimes you’ll be able to find a deal or a discount that makes the price of these rentals very competitive.
When it comes to the best luxury car for your road trip, the Lexus NX300H Hybrid 4X4 wins. It is the model for those who are ready to take the country and not let anything stop them, be it bumpy highland tracks or smooth tar roads.
This is one of the few cars you could both take off-road and still look like you just stepped out of a Bond movie! Or you can stay in the city and cruise the streets as if you’ve just won the lottery. It has a good amount of space inside and offers good fuel efficiency (which is always good on a road trip), while also looking like a million dollars.
Best for Family Road Trips: 2023 Kia Carnival
For the adventurous family, there are plenty of large rental cars for big families out there! From 7-passenger SUVs to even larger 9-passenger vans, but the one we think is best suitable for a larger group is the 2023 Kia Carnival.
If you've read our post on the differences between renting a minivan vs an SUV, and still can't decide what's best for you, the 2023 Kia Carnival is a great option that combines the main advantages of both types of vehicles.
It comes with enough space in the back row to seat your growing teenagers, without them being squished. It also gives them the chance to lean back a bit! Likewise, it is slightly raised too. You will then be able to clear some of the smaller bumps in the road, including those adventurous gravel roads you can find in remote places.
Best for Long-Distance Road Trips: Subaru Forester
On the top list of the best road trip cars, you’ll find that the Subaru Forester is one of the better options. The Forester has been on the market for more than 2 decades. The fifth generation of this model is then the result of countless hours of development where no stone has gone unturned.
This is undoubtedly one of the best cars to travel long distances with. It’s fuel efficient, slightly raised, and as noise-reducing as they come.
If you travel with four people, you’ll have plenty of room for both people and luggage, but squeezing another person in is not an issue. The trunk is spacious enough to fit all the luggage. Also, its noise-reducing tech allows you to listen to and talk to each other without having to scream your ears off.
Best Small Car: Volkswagen Golf GTI
Are you considering a small road trip? Or are you simply looking for the best small car for road trips? Well, there is nothing like the compact feel, performance, and unbelievable handling of the Volkswagen Golf GTI.
Say what you want about small city cars, but if you and your friends are taking off for the weekend, you want to have one of the best road trip cars you can get. The boot is more than enough for a couple of luggage bags. Also, its top-of-the-line German marvel of a motor will take you long distances, fast, and for a cheap price.
This car is very well suited for longer road trips and will be best for up to four people to fit somewhat comfortably in. The back seat is well-adjusted to accommodate adults, so you won’t have to worry about anyone getting unnecessarily smooshed in the back.
Best Sports Car: 2023 BMW M440i Convertible
Going on a road trip can be so much more than just fitting everything in a spacious minivan and keeping the kids entertained while you’re driving.
The 2023 BMW M440i Convertible is the dreamy version of the classic good travel car. The one that cuts through the countryside with the picnic basket in the back and your loved one by your side.
This is the best road trip sports car since it’s a luxurious, convertible 4-seater with a spacious trunk that can fit your luggage. The car hugs the road like a kid hugs a blanket! You can easily maneuver this beauty with a powerful engine and the characteristic stylishness that the BMWs are known for.
This is definitely one of the best road trip cars to get into if you are planning on going anywhere where you can have the top down and feel the wind in your hair.
Best Gas Efficiency: Toyota Prius
The first generation of this car got a bad rep. However, its record still stands as one of the most fuel-efficient cars on the market, excluding fully electric cars.
When it comes to the best cheap cars for a road trip, the 2022 Toyota Prius is the one you should be looking for. It’s often fairly cheap to rent as well as cheap to drive, so you will be able to keep to your travel budget more easily.
This might not be a top pick for the best road trip cars you can have since it offers some limited storage space. Also, the back seat isn’t as spacious as many other road trip cars. However, if you are looking for a budget alternative to the monster-sized SUVs, this is definitely in the top 3 for best road trip cars for gas mileage.
The Best Road Trip Cars in Iceland According to Your Journey
The land of fire and ice is the pristine place to get your travel groove on. When you’re looking for the best road trip cars, you need to first get your bearing right and ask yourself what you are looking for on this road trip.
Are you simply making a day trip around the Diamond Circle or going for 1–2 days around the Golden Circle in Iceland? Then you can easily get away with the smaller cars as long as you’re up to 5 people travelling.
But if you are planning to go coast-to-coast in the US or to roam around Australia, we suggest you take a closer look at any of the more spacious alternatives. They will certainly be the best road trip cars for you in this situation. And if you’re looking for the adventure of a lifetime, then you should consider renting a 4x4 and go off the beaten path.
Regardless of what you’re looking for, renting a car in Iceland is an easy affair once you have the basics down.