There are few better ways to explore the beauty and diversity of Australia than a road trip.
But choosing the right car for your trip can be a challenge. Travellers heading into the outback will need good off-road ability while campers will need lots of luggage capacity. And since you’ll be spending a lot of time in the vehicle, it makes sense if it’s spacious and comfortable to drive as well.
Since we love a good adventure ourselves, we've come up with a shortlist of the 7 best cars for an Australian road trip. The criteria for our list was simple: the car needs to have excellent off-road ability, be easy to drive, and have plenty of luggage space.
So get your bags packed and your route planner ready and check out our 7 best cars for a road trip across Australia.
1. Toyota Land Cruiser 300
Price from: $89,990 Plus on-road costs
Economy: 14L/100 Km
Towing capacity 3500 Kg
We had to start this list with the ultimate luxury off-roader. The Toyota Land Cruiser 200 was king of the hill for more than 14 years, but it was starting to feel a little long in the tooth. So we, like everyone else, were keen to see how the new 300 model stacks up against the old one.
The new car is a giant step forward in dynamics and comfort. It’s easy to drive both on and off-road. The 3.3-litre V6 engine provides good fuel economy for a vehicle of this size and the interior is comfortable and has plenty of room for seven. So, if you can afford it, the mighty Land Cruiser remains the ultimate luxury off-roader.
Excellent off-road ability.
The interior has lots of space and is a nice place to be.
Easy to drive both on and off-road.
Expensive compared to the old 200 series.
Cheap plastic on the underbody is not very durable.
The third row of seats is tight on legroom.
2. Nissan X-Trail
Price from: $28,990 Plus on-road costs
Economy: 7.9L/100 Km
Towing capacity 1650 Kg
Seating: 7 (With the optional third row of seats)
The Nissan X-Trail is one of the most popular SUVs in Australia, and it’s not hard to see why. The car is compact, making it easy to drive. But it’s also spacious, seating 7 comfortably. The X-Trail also comes well equipped, has a range of engine options and it’s good looking as well.
With a base price of $28,990, the X-Trail is also one of the more affordable cars on the list. However, in the standard configuration, it is missing some items you may expect to be standard. For example, while it can seat 7, you’ll have to pay extra for the third row of seats. And by the time you specify 4 wheel drive and leather trim, it starts getting pricey.
Plenty of space for all the family.
Easy to drive.
Seat 7 but the third row of seats is an option.
It's a little bit dull to drive.
3. Kia Sorento 2022
Price from: $46,850 Plus on-road costs
Economy: 9.7L/100 Km
Towing capacity 2000 Kg
The original Kia Sorento proved very popular. This was thanks to its cost-effective pricing, reliability and excellent driving dynamics. The new model, clad in sexy new clothes, aims to step things up. As a result, it feels more upmarket and refined than before. The updated engines also include a range of petrol and diesel options.
However, while the new Sorento comes very well equipped, it has jumped in price compared to the old model. This is part of Kia’s move into the premium market segment, alongside cars such as the Mazda CX-9. But the new Sorento is nice to drive, has plenty of room and promises excellent fuel economy.
Nice to drive
Expensive compared to the old model
No hybrid option available in Australia
Dual-clutch transmission feels clumsy
Limited luggage space
4. Jeep Gladiator
Price from: $65,450 Plus on-road costs
Economy: 12.4L/100 Km
Towing capacity 2721 Kg
The Jeep Gladiator is the car die-hard Jeep fans have been crying out for. The Gladiator is a dual-cab pick up that takes inspiration from the original Willys Jeep. Pickups like this are great for road trips because they allow plenty of space for camping gear.
This is a competitive market space in Australia, however. So what makes the Gladiator stand out? Well, excellent off-road ability for a start, and it comes well equipped compared to rivals. Oh, and one final thing, you can remove the doors and windscreen for a truly unique driving experience.
Cool evocative styling
Removable doors and windows
Excellent towing capacity
Not the most economical
Not as manoeuvrable off-road as the Jeep Wrangler
Steering is a little vague
5. Ford Ranger 2022
Price from: $30,190 Plus on-road costs
Economy: 12.4L/100 Km
Towing capacity 3500 Kg
The Ford Ranger has long been a favourite thanks to its excellent off-road ability. For 2022 Ford is launching an all-new Ranger. This comes with bold new styling, more fuel-efficient engines and updated suspension.
The new model has some big shoes to fill, the original Ranger is one of Australia’s best selling off-road pickups. Fortunately, they haven't done anything to break the mould. It uses the same trusty formula of a V6 engine mated to a choice of manual or automatic transmissions. So expect the same trusty ford mechanicals in a sexy new body.
Great off-road ability
Excellent towing capacity
Some plastics feel cheap
Not as cheap as it used to be
No plug-in hybrid available at launch
6. Mitsubishi Triton
Price from: $29,190 Plus on-road costs
Economy: 11.7L/100 Km
Towing capacity 3100 Kg
The Mitsubishi Triton is often overlooked by buyers of off-road pickups. The more popular Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux dominate the sales charts in this segment. But the Triton is worth a look. If nothing else because it offers good value for money and comes with a 10-year warranty as standard.
The Triton is available with a choice of diesel and petrol engines. The standard transmission is a six-speed manual but an automatic transmission is also available. On the road, the Triton is quiet and handles town and country roads well. But it can’t quite match the Ford Rangers pose off-road. All things considered, this is a great all-rounder that is easy to live with.
Good fuel economy
Not as good off-road as the Ford Ranger
Long rear overhang
Cramped rear seats
7. Hyundai Tucson
Price from: $23,700 Plus on-road costs
Economy: 8.1L/100 Km
Towing capacity 1600 Kg
The mid-size SUV sector is a crowded one, so why did we choose the Tucson? Well, because with prices starting at $23,700, it’s one of the best value SUVs on the market. Especially when you consider the car comes equipped with lots of safety equipment as standard.
Despite its budget price, the Tucson doesn’t look or feel like a cheap car. The exterior is stylish and the interior feels like a car costing twice as much. While on the road the Tucson handles well both on and off-road, especially the 4x4 versions. The only real downside is that it feels a little underpowered compared to some of its rivals.
Not as economical as some rivals
Feels a little underpowered
So which is the right car for your road trip? That decision comes down to the size of your group, and whether you are camping or staying in hotels.
Our advice is for campers to go with a dual-cab pickup and families to go with an SUV. After that, it comes down to personal preference and of course, budget.
Ready to set out on your next road trip with a new car? Get an obligation-free financing quote with Credit One - Australia's best-rated finance broker.