The 5 best-used cars for a New Zealand road trip
New Zealand was built for road trips. Now that summer is here, it’s the ultimate road trip season.
From the soaring, expansive beaches of Northland (which you are free to drive on!), to the wild West Coast of the South Island – passing glaciers and stone beaches - New Zealand, put simply, is beautiful. And best travelled by car.
What’s it like to road trip in NZ?
Think pie stops, impromptu dips in the sea, excellent coffee, and much more. All great stuff.
The New Zealand roads, on the other hand, leave much to be desired. Our roads are always windy (a pro, or a con, depending on who you ask), frequently riddled with potholes, and often strangely cambered. Local drivers who know them can drive aggressively. Incredibly, we still have one-way bridges on our main state highway.
Nearly 40 per cent of New Zealand’s local roads are unsealed. And you’ll want to use those roads to access some of New Zealand’s most breath-taking scenery. Wild beaches and scenic vistas await when you take the road less-travelled. Yet these roads command a respect of their own – and a vehicle that is suitable. Our roads are often in poor condition, narrow, or have sharp drops to one side. Our (sometimes) wild weather changes how you need to drive, requiring additional care.
So, what are the best-used cars to buy for the iconic New Zealand road trip? It depends on the type of touring you are looking to do, of course, but our recommendations below will get you through most NZ driving situations comfortably.
2012 Subaru Outback
First up is the iconic Subaru Outback. The Outback started life as a lifted Legacy – fit to meet more demanding terrain that the legendary Legacy simply didn’t have the ground clearance for. By now the Legacy part has been dropped, though the Outback and Legacy still share the same platform.
What makes it stand out on New Zealand roads?
A boxer engine means punchy, low-end torque, and smooth operation at all RPMs. All-wheel drive means ability in all situations. The larger engine size (2.5L+) means increased fuel economy when towing loads (or hauling the kids and bikes!). The car is spacious, and will get you anywhere you need to go. It’s a true all-rounder, suitable for all the conditions of NZ roads.
2009 Mazda 6/Atenza
The Mazda Atenza, also known by its NZ name, the Mazda6, is another great option. Better fuel economy than the Subaru boxers, and well known for its razor-sharp handling, the Atenza is a great option when you want to get carving twisties.
Some people consider Mazda as the BMW of Japan. Internally, they frequently hold BMWs as a benchmark – and it shows. Mazda are known for cars with a spirited soul, a driver’s car in the truest sense. This list features two Mazdas, and for good reason.
Listing the Atenza, in either a sedan or wagon option, is a simple call. It handles superbly, has a 4-cylinder engine that loves to rev, and returns excellent fuel economy.
2008 Holden Commodore SS-V
Maybe you want more grunt. Something that really responds when you put your foot down (while the sturdy V8 rumbles) and provides immense power to the rear wheels. This is true Aussie muscle.
This is certainly not the fuel-savers option. A hearty 6.0L V8 will, admittedly, drink petrol like water. But in bang-for-your-buck power, nothing can surpass the Holden Commodore SS-V. You get 350 horses to play with, and will rocket to 100 km/h in just over five seconds.
It is a highly composed car on the open road that rewards spirited driving.
2014 Ford Ranger
If you need grunt to haul, while retaining capability on and off the road, the Ford Ranger might be for you.
With the Ranger it is all about modifying it, in order for it to serve to full capability. Raise it up, put knobblies on, mount a snorkel, add a winch… the possibilities are endless.
The Ford Ranger is revered for a reason. The highly capable 3.2 turbo diesel power gives you stacks of low-end power to cruise up beaches and down rivers. Meanwhile, it handles superbly for its class.
2015 Mazda MX5-Miata
Rounding out this list we have the little Mazda MX5 Miata. It is simply iconic. With a soft-top and stick-shift, you have an open-road dream. Just think: wind whipping through your hair, sun beating down, as you attack twisty NZ roads in a car that begs to be pushed.
The MX5 has a reputation as a hairdresser’s car. Those people are wrong. The 4th generation MX5 is low, angular and mean-looking. Yes, the MX5 isn’t a large car. Yet it handles impeccably, giving an unbelievable amount of driver feedback and confidence. The power isn’t off the charts – but you won’t notice because you are having so much fun.
This car is the perfect overnighter, yet probably not suitable for long road trips, where you need extra space for gear.
Ready for your next car?
If you are looking to buy a used car, check out Industry Motor Group. All these cars on our list regularly turn up in our showroom and our online catalogue.
If you are looking for something different, we have a wide range of high-quality, affordable used cars, in every class. Come to our Penrose or Takanini car dealer, and talk to our friendly sales team for help finding a car that is right for you.
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