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  1. #1
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    Considering MTB friendly cars: Impreza, GTI, Element

    So I've just started looking into getting a new car. I'm looking for something that will allow me to put a large full suspension MTB in without taking off the wheels. Some of the cars I've been considering is a Subie WRX wagon, VW GTI, and Honda Element. With the rear seats folded down, can I fit a large, full-suspension MTB in without removing any of the wheels? I would rather not deal with a bike rack.

    Any comments on these particular choices? I'm mainly looking for a daily driver (good mpg) and some utility. The added power + AWD of the WRX would be good for heading up into the mountains, but I don't know if a bike will fit in it. The GTI seems like a fun car, especially with the 2.0T engine and DSG transmission. The Element has the most utility, but it's kinda ugly and doesn't look that fun to drive.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
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    I had an Element (AWD 5-spped) for 4 years, until we had our third child and had to get rid of the 4-seater. I loved it and had more fun driving it than any other vehicle I've owned. I got 25 mpg consistently, was able to put my 29er in without removing the wheels, and had a ton of fun driving in the snow. I loved zipping around those ginormous four wheel drive suv's scrambling for traction. I'm sure it has much less punch than the others on your list, but I would give it a test drive before you count it out.
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  3. #3
    Dirt Junkie
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    WRX Wagon

    Specialized Enduro SL medium. It fits in the back, not sure if a large will though.

    Rock
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  4. #4
    it's....
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    I drive an Element and it is the most convenient vehicle for MTB.
    However, it is short on creature comforts and is very loud when driving at highway speed.
    It rattles and gets worse with mileage, not to mention the 5 spd tranny went out at 88k miles.
    Honda reliability is not what it used to be in the 90's.

  5. #5
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    Doubt you will fit any bike with both wheels in the back of a GTI or WRX without completely trashing the interior. No offence to the person who posted the photo of the bike in the WRX above, but this is a great way to kill your interior quickly (I would never subject a new GTI or WRX to that abuse).

    If you are hell bent on transporting them inside, then the Element is your best bet. Buddy of mine has one and it will easily swallow multiple bikes AND is simple to clean up afterwards. You can literally hose out the interior of an Element if you jack up the front to aid the water in running out the rear.
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  6. #6
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    +1 with what A1an said above...myself I would NEVER trash my car by doing what the affore mentioned chap did (also no offence). I always keep a 20mm x 1.5m x 2m foam sheet in my car all rolled up ready to be used when I need it as well as a large plastic sheeting. I have to say that this hass protected my cars interior extremely well and my Alfa has suffered NO damage what so ever...

    Currently I have an alfa 147 GTA ( I had a Brera and sold it because the Ausy v6 was total crap, which had about as much aesthetic and performance treatment as John McCain), I can fit 2 Freeride bikes with a 6 man tent, BBQ, body armor and all associates pads and helmets with an eski and other smaller parts. I usually take all wheels off, seats off and I place a large foam sheet under a 2mm thick 2m x 2m plastic sheeting in the back with the split fold seat down to protect the cars interior. So far I have done this for 2 years and there is not one element of damage of scuff marks in the car and its GREAT for driving to where I need to go. Although, AWD or 4WD are better in this regard.

    So, I think 2 of the best cars to get right now for both MTB and other sprting related trips and functions would be the VW Golf GTI and the new Subaru Impreza wrx/ STI - depending on cash flow.

  7. #7
    THELAND photographer
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    Dare I.....Dare I.......

    ive fit two large FS bikes in the back of my PT cruiser without taking wheels off and seats folded down...you can fit like 5 if you take the back seats out and remove the front wheels tho...pretty sweet

    oh and now

    3 trays on the roof
    2 bike rear rack
    can fit as many bikes as people in the car with room for gear and comfort

  8. #8
    Dirt Junkie
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    WRX Interior...

    My interior took some wear and tear from the bike, but what you may see in the picture is all that's happened to it (in 4 years of constant use). Some black streaks (scuff marks) from the tire on the back of the rear seat and some dirt on the strut tower. This is not visible when the seats are up and the cargo security panel put into place (which is most of the time). I figured it's the cargo area, I'll put cargo there. I have put 2 bikes in using the same method with cardboard in between. I now exclusively use my reciever bike rack, not from worrying about my interior, it's just easier to load and unload, but less secure.

    Maybe I'm weird, and no offense taken on the remarks about trashing my car. I had the same attitude when I was young. That being said, I don't trash my car, I use it. I like my car and take pride in it, but it's a tool. I didn't buy it for resale. It's not an investment that I'll make money off of. I will keep it for a very very long time. That's just my attitude and if yours if different, that's great, you will be the kind of person I'll buy a used car from.

    Also in regards to the PT Cruiser, my Ex had one, cool car. It's not the most refined car on the market, but they're inexpensive, reliable and one of the most useful cars as far as cargo carrying I've ever owned.

    I've also heard that the Elements are good as far as versitility, but you need to be careful about overloading them. I do seem to see a lot of them going down the interstate loaded pretty heavy with the rear suspension all saggy and rear tires splayed out. But it's a Honda, will probably run forever.

    Rock
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  9. #9
    jrm
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    I usually take the front wheel off

    Quote Originally Posted by Rock
    Specialized Enduro SL medium. It fits in the back, not sure if a large will though.

    Rock
    Or if im traveling ill take both wheels off in order to make room for other cargo. For some reason my subaru interior scuffs if i just look at it wrong. ive had a couple of how the heII did that get there moments.
    Wreck the malls with cows on Harleys

  10. #10
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    Vw Gti

    You won't get a bike in a GTI with both wheels mounted. You'll barely get it in with the front wheel removed. If you're not willing to remove at least the front wheel, skip the VW. Although the new Jetta SportWagen looks really cool and that should fit the bill quite nicely... and it comes in a 2.0T DSG. Plus, it'll handle quite well; it is a GTI with a bigger butt.

    Sincerely,
    Resident VW Nut

    Current:



    Old (Same car, different color):

  11. #11
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    Oh so SWEET......Love your GTI. And the surfboard on top, boy do I miss surfing man...big time!

  12. #12
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    Thanks everyone for the reply. It seems that unless I get an Element, I'm going to have to take the wheels off. I wanted to avoid using a bike rack mostly because I'm concerned that someone might try to steal the bike (or parts of it) if its on a bike rack.

    I test drove a WRX with an auto transmission and also an Audi A3 (which I will assume is similar to the GTI). The WRX kinda sucks with the auto, but it's one of the requirements that I have for my next car.

    I currently drive a truck, so I just throw the bike in the back. But that prevents me from leaving the car/bike unattended. Anyone every have theft problems with their bikes on a bike rack?

  13. #13
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    Element is a neat vehicle!!

    Me and my girlfriend got an Element, and it works great for biking. Lots of space. Enough ground clearance to get down a reasonably rough dirt road, and all wheel drive for the snow, or in our case sand. Seats are waterproof. Easy to keep clean. Slide the front seats forward and inflate a full size air mattress inside, and can sit up in bed.

    We rarely have the back seats installed. You can see from the other guys picture, that the seat folds flat, and then against the window. You can also pull a lever, and just yank the seat out and put it in the closet.(which is where ours stay until relatives visit) This gives you tons of room.

    We took home a full size refrigerator(gate closed) and also a washer and dryer together (also with the rear gate closed) Amazing little vehicle.

    We use a receiver hitch rack for the bikes. Went on trip to Flagstaff, and took plastic gear tubs, and rigged it up so all the gear was stacked up and tied toward the back, which left a couple feet of room for two big dogs behind us, and we got 25mpg.

    It is not a sports car, but it will get down the road nicely. Had to tell my girlfriend to back off it coming from San Diego with my new dirt bike on a trailer, and I look over and she's cooking along at 95mph!! Take off the lead boot honey! Don't know if the trailer wheels were even on the ground!!

  14. #14
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    That's a dilemma for sure. The Element wins hands down as far as no hassle hauling of bikes inside. Unfortunately of the group you list it's also going to be the most boring and least comfortable to drive. Whereas the WRX is going to be hands down the most fun with great driving dynamics & ergonomics, as well as heated seats and real AWD (depends on where you live if this is important or not). Only you can decide what matters most to you. I drive a WRX wagon myself so I am probably somewhat biased. I prefer to rack our bikes and have a smile on my face whenever I am behind the wheel. BTW, I don't consider the Element ugly at all, in fact its more interesting visually than other suvs, which tend to all have a generic, cooky cutter style. I think the "look" or "style" of the vehicle should be well down on a list of priorities. Like fashion, what's in or cool today will only be old news tomorrow. Reliability is outstanding for both Impreza or Element.
    edit: just noted you want an auto tranny which pretty much kills the fun factor in any vehicle )-8. That would push me towards the Element, or I would learn to drive a stick.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by BitterDave
    Thanks everyone for the reply. It seems that unless I get an Element, I'm going to have to take the wheels off. I wanted to avoid using a bike rack mostly because I'm concerned that someone might try to steal the bike (or parts of it) if its on a bike rack.

    I test drove a WRX with an auto transmission and also an Audi A3 (which I will assume is similar to the GTI). The WRX kinda sucks with the auto, but it's one of the requirements that I have for my next car.

    I currently drive a truck, so I just throw the bike in the back. But that prevents me from leaving the car/bike unattended. Anyone every have theft problems with their bikes on a bike rack?
    If you have a $3,000 bike, and leave it unattended inside, outside, or otherwise, it could disappear. Smashing a window is just as easy as cutting a cable lock. Inside a vehicle might be harder to see though, so less of a target, and you also have the car alarm going off.(those things no one even turns their heads for when they go off)

  16. #16
    ballbuster
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    Second the Jetta Sportwagon

    When car shopping for a used car, the sales person at the VW lot asked why I wasn't considering the new Jetta Wagon, considering my price range and with the financing incentives and all. After he showed it to me, I seriously considered it.

    For $19k, you get a nicely equipped Jetta Wagon. It comes with tons of stuff standard. I liked the sunroof that goes from the front of the car most of the way to the back, and with a retractable sunshade. Tons of space inside. IIRC, the new 50 state diesel adds like $2k to the price tag after the gubmint rebate. Even the base 5 cyl engine is nice and torquey.

  17. #17
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    Well, I guess I don't really need a "fun" car since I already have a BMW M3... manual of course. But it wouldn't hurt to get a fun car that is also practical. The reason to get the auto tranny is so that my girlfriend can drive it and split the driving during long road trips. That and I would imagine it would be a pain to try and drive manual while wearing my fishing boots... another activity of mine.

    I tested a WRX with an auto tranny and the turbo lag kinda sucked, but it's still better than an underpowered 4-banger. I just tested a GTI today and really liked the car, but like DrumSchtick2112 said, I think that a bike with one of the wheels removed might still be a tight fit.

  18. #18
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    I was in your situation a few months back, but I was down to the Element and the Rav4. I ended up with the Rav4 since the Honda dealer would not give me a decent amount on my trade and the element had no storage compartments that could hide items - they were all open. The Rav4 gets good gas mileage, but the rear door is a bit of a pain if you put the bike in rear wheel first since your back is against the door. I am able to get a medium Stumpy or a medium 29er rigid in with both wheels on by turning the front wheel - not sure if a large MTB would fit. I have the 4cyl Rav4 which has nice pickup, but it also comes in a V6.

    The Rav4 is not necessarily fun, but works well for keeping the bike hidden while at work and I am able to fit the bike and my gear. It also has 4 doors instead of the suicide doors which is easier for me since I have kids.

    John B.

  19. #19
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    Why don't you just get a cap for your pickup truck if bike security is the reason for switching vehicle?

  20. #20
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    Long time VW owner

    After 27 years (I am a very slow learner) I finally switched to a Subau Legacy Outback wagon. As was pointed out, you will not fit a bike with both wheels on in a GTI.

    The Element seems the best choice. I decided against it for a number of reason but mainly because of the lack of creature comfort and the superior AWD system on the 6-cylinder Outback.

    The one constant for VW's was that they were fun to drive and broke a lot. Quite a lot! Be they GTI's, Passats, Rabbits, Golfs, Jettas, VR6's, Turbos, standards or automatrics, (everyone in the family had one) they broke and they cost way too much to repair and maintain so I could never recommend a VW to others.

    They did get darn good gas mileage though.

  21. #21
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    I know this one isn't on your list, but I was in your same situation and here's what I came up with......Ford Freestyle/Taurus X. I know I know, they're pretty much butt ugly (not as ugly as the Element in my opinion) and a Ford, but you might try driving one.

    I was VERY impressed once I drove one and they appear all but perfect for MTB usuage. Roughly the same mileage as the Element, can seat up to 7 and the rear folds flat in a snap for plenty of room for a bike with both wheels on.

    Here's the kicker...because it's a Ford, they hold little of their resale value and you can pick them up REALLY cheap. "08 Limited (full leather, sun roof, all the options) with 10K miles or so can be had for around $18K. Several '05-'07's out there with less than 30K on them for $12K. I checked Consumer Reports (and MTBR as well) and these things are "Top Picks" and appear to have very good reliability.

    Just a thought as I'm in the same situation as you and believe that's the route I'm going. Good luck.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strafer
    Why don't you just get a cap for your pickup truck if bike security is the reason for switching vehicle?
    +1

    A camper shell is going to be just as secure as tossing the bike inside the vehicle, especially with quality locks and either dark tinted windows or minimal windows.

    The bonus is that you won't ever have a muddy bike inside your vehicle.

    I have a Honda Fit that's spacious enough inside for two bikes (upright, even), but I carry them that way fairly infrequently because of the mess. Even though tossing them on the roof rack is less secure and cuts fuel economy, that's a fair trade for me in keeping mud off of my interior.

  23. #23
    Cheezy Rider
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    The Taurus X is probably your best deal. That said, I've had an Element for a couple years, and I'm real happy with it. Not as quiet on the highway as our Jaguar, but it's not that bad. I've taken it on a couple thousand-mile road trips and found it quite comfortable, and the AWD is nice in the snow. Is it fun to drive? Yes. As fun as a WRX or GTI? No, but it hauls a lot more stuff. And it's easy to load a bike into, wheels and all. The four-banger gets decent mileage and has enough power for my needs, I don't do a lot of drag racing. It's quiet, too, at idle you can't even tell that it's running.

  24. #24
    try driving your car less
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    our neighbor has an element. my kid called it 'a hummer that wouldn't take it's vitamin'. some people like humvees, so i have heard.


    GTI, WRX or element.
    either a 4dr gti or the wrx. element is not in the same league.

  25. #25
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    I've had a WRX wagon for 5 years [bought it used], and it's pretty handy. As one of the other posters mentioned, I USE my car. You can fit six 10' 2x4s inside! Who knew? Arranged correctly, I can fit 4 bikes in the back. The roof rack is good in excess of 180 km/h [in theory ]. The inside of the car gets dirty, but that's life. If I kept it in pristine condition I might get an extra $1k for it when I go to sell it, but I'd have to be careful with everything - it's not worth it.

    One of the things I didn't know about when I bought the WRX was the maintenance requirements. There are none! Well, that's not quite true, but it's close. As long as you don't do any major modifications [i.e. new turbo, BOV, FMIC], they run forever. I change the oil from time to time, put in a new clutch when the car was 5 years old [previous owner drove the hell out of it], and otherwise haven't done much else that was actually necessary. It is a very mod-friendly car that rewards conservative changes with significant gains in HP, TQ and suspension/steering response. If you get a used one, they are cheap for what you get.

    If you don't mind going with a slightly bigger vehicle, the Subaru Legacy GT wagon from 2005 onwards is awesome. It handles almost as well as the WRX, has more storage space and is a way smoother ride. I wouldn't get the H6 version. It's a bit of a slug, and bloody expensive.

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