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The best cars for a South African road trip

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we travel.

Jetting off to new countries is hardly possible – so what better time to explore our own beautiful country.

With more than 750,000km of road in South Africa – and even more untarred – there’s no shortage of places to drive.

It’s as much about the journey as the destination itself, too, and the fuel stops with fellow travellers – and a burger from Wimpy – make for great memories.

We’ve rounded up noteworthy vehicles perfectly suited to a road-tripping adventure this December – listed below.

Volkswagen Kombi

The Volkswagen Kombi’s reputation spans 70 years and it’s still a popular choice as a people-hauler for large families and tour operators alike.

However, its diversity of options is what earns it a spot on this list.

The Kombi is big enough to carry eight people along in comfort. If it’s luxury you’re after, the Caravelle more than caters for that by forgoing two seats in favour of swivel seats and fold-out tables – like a first-class airline ride.

Finally, there’s a California model with a tilt-up roof and basic kitchen and sleep facilities for those impromptu camping sessions next to the beach – making it a campervan without looking like a campervan.

It’s not a cheap car, though, priced from R663,000 for the Kombi. Prices can climb to over R1,000,000 for the Caravelle and California models.

The good news is that these busses have remained popular for many decades, so it’s easy to find one that fits your budget and remains affordable to maintain.

Haval H6 C

A popular option in South Africa at the moment are SUVs from the Haval stable.

It’s an SUV-only brand, so it goes without saying that it understands the market.

The Haval H6 C features a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine driving only two wheels, which is more than okay for most trips.

Best of all is that it is priced below R400,000 and comes with a 5-year/100,000km warranty, 5-year roadside assistance, and a 3-year/60,000km service plan.

There’s a large cargo area and integrated roof-rails for adding extra equipment, too.

Ford Ranger

It would be remiss to ignore a bakkie in this line-up.

Though most are utilitarian, the Ford Ranger stands out for its popularity and range of options – particularly in its double-cab guise.

There’s the robust 2.2 TDCi, torquey 3.2 TDCi, and the new 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel variants in a range of trim levels and options, including 4×4 or 4×2.

Its 10-speed auto gearbox then transforms the drive into a car-like experience.

But best of all is its Ford Sync technology, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support.

The cheapest Ford Ranger double-cab can be had for R398,700, going right up to the maniacal Ranger Raptor at R888,900.

Toyota Land Cruiser

The Toyota Land Cruiser 200 is literally the king of overlanding.

It’s as comfortable on tar as it is on sand, and will get you from Cape Town to Musina in comfort and luxury.

Additionally, if there’s an accessory for off-roading it will be available in a Toyota fitment – meaning a Land Cruiser can literally be built into a touring vehicle ready for anything.

While it’s no supercomputer, it has also caught up in the technology department of late as well.

This is not necessarily the road-tripping car for a quick jaunt down to the coast, but it’s a favourite for off-road adventurers carving their own paths through the wilderness.

It sports a 4.5-litre turbo-diesel V8 and is priced from R1,107,900.

Land Rover Defender

There are two options here, the old and the new.

Die-hard Land Rover fans stay true to the rugged simplicity of the original Defender – but it’s the new Defender we’re highlighting here.

Although it’s been beamed into the modern age with every conceivable gadget transplanted from the Range Rover, the Defender is still meant to be a go-anywhere, do-anything vehicle.

Unlike the old Defender, the new model had been engineered to drive like a car on the road, which makes it’s a perfect travel companion regardless of the destination.

Depending on the model, you can either have the smaller 2-door 90 or bigger 4-door 110 – which has been built to tackle the deepest jungles, while in reality it will be ramping pavements in Ballito.

This is a solid option for a luxury family car, and is priced from R948,000.

Suzuki Jimny

Whether it’s for couples on a romantic trip or singletons looking for adventure, the Suzuki Jimny is a popular, small, everyday car.

Its flexibility – and the reliability of its frugal 1.5-litre engine – makes it an incredible road-tripping companion.

While the Jimny is no speed demon, it will go pretty much anywhere a larger 4×4 will go and there is a huge range of aftermarket equipment available – including rooftop tents, lift kits, and proper 4×4 accessories.

It’s small though, and is not a family car unless it’s getting towed behind a campervan.

Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo

Road trips are not always about packing everything and the kitchen sink into the car and roughing it.

Enjoying the drive even if the destination is a 5-star hotel – accessed by perfectly smooth tar – is just as acceptable.

If this is your cup of tea, then pick a highway, pack your kids and luggage, and speed along in the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo.

All the prestige, handling, and performance that can be expected from a Porsche – without the bulkiness and top-heaviness of taller SUVs – is available in this car.

What makes the Panamera Sport Turismo unique is its station wagon profile, increased luggage carrying capability, and a choice of engines – from the 243kW 4S to the 340kW E-hybrid starting at R2,155,000.

Mazda MX-5

Roof down, wind in the hair, sunblock on, and a beautiful mountain road ahead.

That’s the road trip life and the Mazda MX-5 is the perfect road trip car.

Small and nimble, and not so overpowered that you’re exhausted by the end of a twisty pass, it cruises comfortably and has enough acceleration to get the heart pumping.

And when the wind and sun get too much, the roof slides over at the push of a button.

R538,200 will get you into this little car and provide many years of fun.

Special Mention – Ford Tourneo Connect

The sweet spot for multipurpose vans that make excellent family and road-tripping cars is the Ford Tourneo Connect.

Smaller than the full-sized Tourneo, its compact packaging makes it easy to use daily – while being spacious enough inside to carry everything on holiday with you.

Because it started life as a utility van, there’s loads of storage nooks and crannies.

Despite its utilitarian roots, there are comfort options like Ford Sync that make the Tourneo Connect a sensible choice.

Unfortunately, it’s no longer available as a new model from Ford.

There are still low-mileage models with service plans and warranties available on the second-hand market, though, from around R200,000.

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