Often the best way to discover your country’s most picturesque areas and hidden gems, road tripping is a wonderful pastime. A New Zealand roadie can be particularly incredible.
Thanks to our little country’s geography, our roads hold plenty of variety. Depending on where you’re headed, you’re likely to encounter twisty seaside roads, unsealed gravel, snow and more.
Inevitably, you want to make sure that the car underneath you is fitted to the task. Here are six used car picks that could make your next road trip a great one.
1. Nissan Elgrand
SUVs might be all the rage at the minute, but if you’re wanting to take six or more people around the country in comfort, there’s still nothing better than a proper people mover like the Nissan Elgrand.
It might never have been offered new in New Zealand, but thanks to the huge popularity of grey imports from Japan, you are never too far away from an Elgrand. Sold with either a 2.5-litre four or 3.5-litre six and either seven or eight seats, the Elgrand brings plenty of luxury car elements – like captains’ chairs with footrests, electric sliding doors and dual sunroofs – to an affordable price point.
A rugged gravel basher it certainly isn’t, but you have to give respect to a car that can pack business class comfort (for those in the second row, at least) and seating for eight, for the price of a new Suzuki Swift. Twenty grand will net you a decent example third-gen model, whilst $30,000-$40,000 can get you a more modern facelift grade.
2. Toyota Camry Hybrid
Are you a fuel economy nerd? Do you adore it when bystanders mistake you for being their Uber driver? Well, the Toyota Camry Hybrid could be the car for you.
With a surprisingly practical boot space, handy rear legroom and plush ride, a Camry of just about any generation would be a great road trip companion. Not to mention that Camrys, like most Toyotas, are next to bulletproof.
They’re also a fuel economy maestro. Truth be told, the economy returns from a hybrid diminish on motorways, but you’re still likely to return better figures than those wielding a V6. A fact worth knowing when petrol is still nudging $3 a litre in some areas. Buy the newest one that fits your budget and enjoy.
3. SsangYong Rhino
For thousands of New Zealanders, going on holiday means towing something. A camper for staying in. A boat for hauling in snapper. A jet ski for larking around on the lake. So inevitably, for a large portion of people, the perfect road trip warrior is a ute.
So, why pick the SsangYong Rhino? It doesn’t boast the reputation of a Toyota Hilux or Ford Ranger, nor the power under the bonnet. What the Rhino does boast, however, is the best back seat in the ute game. Great headroom and enormous legroom, with a welcome amount of seat recline. Those wanting a ute to haul the kids should consider the Rhino.
These are available for prices starting in the mid-$20,000s – a bit of a depreciation hit for those who bought them new, but solid value for those wanting to pick up a ute with 3.5 tonnes of towing ability and buckets of room inside. Keep an eye out for the XL models with the extended bed, too.
DAMIEN O’CARROLL/FOOTAGE SUPPLIED
Ford has launched the new version of the Everest SUV, with a bold new face, more luxury and more capability on and off-road than ever before.
4. Ford Everest
For those that want a ute, but don’t want a ute, the proverbial ‘ute with a boot’ ladder-chassis SUV is the probable segment of choice. They often feature a slightly more diminished towing capacity than their ute cousins, but on the flipside they keep the same off-roading abilities, gain an extra row of seats in the back and strike a slightly more civilised silhouette when parked at the supermarket.
There are plenty of decent body-on-frame SUVs out there, like the Toyota Fortuner, Isuzu MU-X, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and the SsangYong Rhino’s blood brother – the Rexton. But, it’s the Ford Everest that is best for the big roadie.
Since the launch of its second generation in 2015, the Everest has always been at the pointy end of its segment for ride quality and refinement. Early models come with Ford’s capable 3.2-litre five-cylinder diesel. Those wanting an even smoother ride can opt for a newer 2.0-litre bi-turbo model.
5. Mazda MX-5
You might not be able to cram eight people in one, or even really a couple of decently sized suitcases, but nothing is as likely to get you as immersed in New Zealand’s bustling fauna and flora as a drop-top Mazda MX-5.
The MX-5 is, of course, one of the most enjoyable cars to drive in the world. But, when it comes to road tripping and absorbing the country’s best spots, the real benefit of a convertible like this is the ability to take the roof off, feel the wind and soak up a 360-degree view of your surroundings.
They aren’t as cheap or as plentiful as they used to be, but you can still get a first, second, or third-generation MX-5 for not a lot of coin. Eight to 12 grand will get you something fun and functional from any of those generations, as well as a ticket to one of the most enthusiastic and passionate owner communities around.