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With so many cars to choose from, it’s hard to know which model would be best for long road trips. SUVs are an ideal choice for large families with lots of luggage, but these vehicles don’t always get great gas mileage. Large sedans can also accommodate at least five riders comfortably but obviously offer less storage space.

That’s why CarFax’s list of the top 10 road trip cars and SUVs is helpful. In particular, the top three models in the roundup are worth a closer look.

Carfax’s top 10 road trip cars and SUVs of 2021

A dark-green 2020 Kia Telluride midsize SUV traveling on a highway through a desert
The Kia Telluride appears on Carfax’s list but doesn’t make the top three | Kia

On the lower end of the list of the best road trip cars, CarFax recommends the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Ford Mustang GT convertible. Both have powerful engines to make the drive more enjoyable, but they lack adequate passenger and cargo space. The Honda Ridgeline pickup truck, Subaru Outback wagon, and Volkswagen Atlas midsize SUV are far more accommodating.

The Kia Telluride and Toyota Highlander also appear on the list, offering roomier cargo areas than the other models. But not even the lauded Telluride can break the top three road trip vehicles on Carfax’s list. Here are the big winners:

The Honda Odyssey is the number 1 car for road trips

A minivan is one of the most convenient vehicles for a road trip. A 280-hp V6 powers the Honda Odyssey deftly, even when it’s loaded with occupants and cargo. The fuel economy is also decent on the highway, up to 28 mpg. CarFax estimates drivers will get 546 miles on a single tank.

Although it can’t be optioned with all-wheel drive, the Odyssey can still power through most wintery conditions with traction control. Despite its larger size, it doesn’t excessively lean around corners, and the ride remains comfortable throughout the trip. The Odyssey can seat up to eight riders on supportive cloth or leather seats. And all three rows provide adequate stretch-out space.

The Odyssey’s cargo capacity is another big selling point for shoppers looking for a road trip hauler. It boasts almost 39 cubic feet of space behind the third row. That row also folds completely flat, freeing up about 53 cubic feet more.

One drawback is that the second row must be removed manually, but at least the seats are foldable once taken out. Every seat is a Magic Slide, allowing riders to reposition them easily as needed.

Though the base-model Honda Odyssey is relatively cheap, it doesn’t include a center touchscreen, which might annoy road-trippers. Higher trims offer nice perks, such as a rear-seat entertainment center, an intercom for the driver, and a Wi-Fi hotspot.

The Mazda CX-9 is a close 2nd

The Mazda CX-9 doesn’t have as much cargo room as the Odyssey despite its higher starting price. And though it offers better fuel efficiency on the highway, its smaller fuel tank means slightly fewer miles between fill-ups on road trips. CarFax still recommends the CX-9 for its spacious interior, playful driving demeanor, and plentiful standard features.

The third row is definitely too cramped for adults on long road trips, but every seat is reasonably supportive. Front riders get heated seats among many standard amenities, and ventilation is available on some trims. And the infotainment system boasts a large 10.3-inch display screen, intuitive menus, and smartphone integration.

The Hyundai Sonata takes 3rd place

Being a sedan, it’s no surprise the Hyundai Sonata is the most fuel-efficient vehicle on Carfax’s list. It can get an impressive 37 mpg on the highway, allowing drivers to go 588 miles before refueling. The Sonata N-Line’s highway mileage drops to 33 mpg, but CarFax still recommends this performance model for its livelier engine and better handling.

Though the Sonata can seat only five, everyone still has plenty of space to move around. But it has only 16 cubic feet of trunk space, suitable for smaller travel parties. It also comes with a decent number of tech features for its $23,950 starting price, making it the best car for road-trippers on a budget.


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