Best cars for a European road trip

Want a car for European road trips, whether that’s ski jaunts in the Swiss Alps or beach hols in Spain? These cars are perfect for the job

Gavin Braithwaite-Smith
Apr 15, 2021

Many of us dream of a European getaway in the comfort of the car. A chance to escape the congested roads of Britain as you explore new landscapes, taste different foods and enjoy some better weather. It doesn't matter whether you're heading for the slopes, beaches or cities, there are plenty of options within easy reach. You just need the right car for the job.

Many countries are within easy reach of Britain’s ports. There are ferry crossings to the likes of France, Spain, the Netherlands and Ireland, to name a few, while the Eurotunnel service connects Folkestone with Calais in just 35 minutes.

We’ve pulled together a list of the best cars for a European road trip. Whether it’s just you and your partner, or a getaway with the entire family, these cars are just the ticket.

While you might be raring to get travelling on a road trip, there's no need to even travel from your sofa to find the right car for you. With BuyaCar, your next car is just a few clicks away and we'll deliver it straight to your door.

Best cars for road trips in Europe

1. Porsche 718 Boxster

Best for the south of France

Used deals from £36,999
Monthly finance from £659*

Saint-Tropez is just a 12-hour drive from the Eurotunnel port in Calais. This means you can have breakfast in the UK with the prospect of enjoying dinner on the French Riviera. On your way back, you could enjoy the famous Route Napoleon - a scenic and challenging road to drive, which winds its way through the mountains of Provence.

If that's what you're after, you'll need a car that looks great on the streets of Saint-Tropez and is practical enough for a long weekend away. The Porsche 718 Boxster certainly looks good, while a combined total of 280 litres of luggage space in the front under the bonnet and in the back behind the engine should be enough for a couple of overnight bags.

Regardless of the engine, the 718 Boxster is fast enough to take advantage of the brilliant French roads, while the smaller engines in this version of the car compared with previous generations mean that fuel economy is pretty good for a car of this type. You won’t be spending most of your time filling up with fuel in French petrol stations. Not unless you need an excuse to buy some cheeseburger flavour crisps. When in France...

2. BMW M140i

Best for Germany

Used deals from £19,558
Monthly finance from £282*

Germany might seem like a strange destination for a European road trip, but there are a couple of very good reasons why car enthusiasts make a beeline for Deutschland. Approximately 70% of the 8,000 miles of autobahn in Germany have no speed limit, so you’re free to drive at whatever speed your car - and you - can handle.

Then there’s the famous Nordschleife racing circuit, which has been playing host to track day enthusiasts, racing drivers and manufacturers setting lap records for decades. It’s like a 14-mile toll road for petrolheads.

For this road trip, you need a car that’s fast, comfortable, practical and reasonably economical. The BMW M140i fits the bill. It has plenty of muscle under the bonnet, sends power to the rear wheels, offering more precise steering than front-wheel drive alternatives for the track, a 155mph top speed for the autobahn, and decent fuel economy for when you're ticking off the miles to get to your accommodation for the night. Wunderbar!

BMW 1 SERIES BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Mazda MX-5

Best for the Swiss Alps

Used deals from £13,279
Monthly finance from £263*

Every keen driver should experience the Swiss Alps in a sports car. It conjures up images of James Bond in a classic Aston Martin DB5, one of clear blue skies behind a vista of snow-capped mountains, and a glovebox filled with the finest Swiss chocolate.

If that’s whetted your appetite, you’ll need a sports car to get the best out of the mountain passes and hairpin bends. The Mazda MX-5 is the ideal car, as it’s comfortable and quiet enough for the journey to Switzerland, but precise and agile for when the roads turn twisty. It's even impressively affordable.

The boot is large enough for a couple of overnight bags, but this car is all about the way it drives. Opt for the 1.5-litre engine if you enjoy the thrill of getting the best from the MX-5’s sublime gearbox, or the 2.0-litre engine for more power and a brilliant soundtrack. The hills will be alive with the sound of enjoyment. Yes, we know The Sound of Music was set in Austria...

MAZDA MX-5 BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Kia e-Niro

Best for Norway

Used deals from £32,999
Monthly finance from £588*

Norway is the electric car capital of Europe. According to the World Economic Forum, almost two-thirds of new cars sold in Norway in September 2020 were electric. The Volkswagen ID.3 was the best-selling car, followed by the Tesla Model 3 and the Polestar 2.

Predictably, Norway’s electric car charging infrastructure has been developed to match the demand for electric cars. There are around 10,000 public charging points in the country, and approximately 1,950 fast-charging stations.

All of which makes Norway the ideal country for a zero-emission Scandinavian getaway. The Kia e-Niro offers up to 282 miles of electric range per charge, which means you’ll have to recharge three times on your way from Calais to Oslo - not much when you consider that you'll want to split the long journey up. Because it’s so practical, you can take four of your mates on a Norweigan adventure, too.

KIA NIRO BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Volkswagen Golf GTI

Best for Romania

Used deals from £14,745
Monthly finance from £242*

Fans of Top Gear may remember an episode in which Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May went on a road trip in search of driving heaven. Having spent a few hours enjoying the corners and stunning views, the trio claimed Davos to Stelvio in the Alps was the greatest driving road in the world.

Then they discovered Romania. More specifically, they discovered the Transfagarasan highway. 'We were wrong,' declared Clarkson. 'This is better than the Stelvio. This is the best road in the world.'

The Telegraph, meanwhile, has described the road as a 'Scalextric set stretched over more than 50 miles'. To enjoy it, you need a great hot hatchback - something fast and satisfying to drive, but small and agile enough to deal with the countless curves. Few high-performance hatchbacks are as rounded as the Volkswagen Golf GTI. Great for the journey to Romania, but simply brilliant on this rollercoaster of a Romanian road.

VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GTI BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Abarth 124 Spider

Best for the Italian coast

Used deals Limited stock

There are few places on earth as romantic as the Italian coast. From colourful fishing villages to stylish seaside resorts, the Italian Riviera is famous for its rugged cliffs, turquoise waters and fine food.

Its beauty is no secret, but there’s one Italian sports car that might have slipped below your radar. The Abarth 124 Spider is based on the Fiat 124 Spider, which itself is built by Mazda in Japan. In fact, it shares the platform it's built around with the brilliant MX-5 sports car above.

There are a few key differences, most notably the 1.4-litre turbocharged engine and the rorty Record Monza exhaust system. Whisper this, but the Abarth 124 Spider is arguably the best version of the current MX-5. It’ll look and sound great on the streets of Portofino.

ABARTH 124 SPIDER BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Suzuki Vitara S

Best for Iceland

Used deals from £11,995
Monthly finance from £214*

A road trip to Iceland is an adventure in more ways than one. Getting there will be your first challenge, as you’ll have to make your way to Denmark for the ferry crossing from Hirtshals to Seyoisfjorour. The voyage takes from two to three nights, depending on the schedule.

Once there, you can enjoy the Ring Road, which extends around the coast of Iceland, with a total length of 832 miles. It’s mostly paved, but there are some unpaved gravel surfaces in the east of the country. Off-road driving is illegal in Iceland, so paved or not, you'll want to keep to the route.

That said, it’s probably an idea to take a car with the reassurance of four-wheel drive. Something that’s fuel efficient but powerful enough for the journey to Denmark. The Suzuki Vitara S is the ideal car. Power is sourced from a punchy and efficient 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine, while the car weighs little more than a supermini, making it satisfyingly nippy. The boot is large enough for a family holiday, too.

SUZUKI VITARA BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Alfa Romeo Giulia

Best for Scotland

Used deals from £17,499
Monthly finance from £239*

Some of the best driving roads in Europe can be found on your doorstep. Wales, Exmoor and the North Yorkshire Moors are three areas that spring to mind. Then there’s Scotland, which is many people’s idea of driving heaven.

The North Coast 500 route was launched in 2010. Since then, it has attracted visitors from around the world, each one enjoying the 516-mile drive that starts and finishes in Inverness. The route follows the coastal edges of the North Highlands, taking in the likes of Wester Ross Sutherland, Caithness, Easter Ross and the Black Isle.

The Alfa Romeo Giliua is the ideal car for a Scottish adventure. It’s rear-wheel drive, like a traditional sports car and has precise steering, so you’re likely to enjoy the drive, but it’s comfortable enough for the long trip north. All versions are great to drive, but the high-performance Quadrifoglio offers the most smiles per mile. Its Ferrari-derived engine is a modern classic.

ALFA ROMEO GIULIA BUYERS' GUIDE

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

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