Don’t try to squeeze your hound into a Fiat 500, like I do. There are plenty of cars that are better suited to the job. Whatever your budget and size of dog, there’s a model out there that will fit the bill and keep your pup happy. I test drive five with my Hungarian Vizsla, Malin, to see which is our favourite (woof!).
Renault Captur (from £14,195)
Renault wanted owners to think the new Captur was the dog’s doodahs from the start. Not only does it feature one of the biggest luggage areas in its class, the boot floor also performs a neat trick to keep canine passengers from trashing the trim.
One side is lined with heavy duty rubber for wet paws, and the other is carpeted to stop bags and shopping sliding around the boot. You wonder why somebody hadn’t thought of that one before.
The Captur, launched in May, is an ‘urban crossover’, which is just another name for a compact SUV with attitude. The chunky body mouldings and raised suspension suggest that this is a serious off-roader when it’s actually two-wheel drive only.
This means that driving over rough terrain with your hound in the back to go ‘walkies’ is a no-no. However, the 1.5 dCi model can return a frugal 76mpg and is so green it doesn’t require a tax disc.
Captur is based on the Renault Clio and, while Malin got to grips with the rubber floor and low-loading lip, the head height isn’t good for larger dogs. By the end of the week he was pining for the back seat.
Audi Q3 (from £23,875)
The Q3 is a medium-sized hatchback based on the Audi 3, but with raised suspension to create an SUV. It also has the option of quattro four-wheel drive too, although the cheapest 4×4 version is £26,740.
Audi-built quality and trim levels are exceptional, which is why you are paying a premium. Again, boot space is a little tight for larger dogs but it’s more than adequate for short journeys to the park.
A friend of mine takes her Labradoodle to Hampstead Heath in a Q3 – though after six weeks she relented and let her dog sit on the back seat instead. Audi does a range of seat covers, too.
To put this in perspective, the Audi’s 460-litre boot is slightly larger than the BMW X1 SUV, or roughly the same size as the current generation Golf.
It’s cosy for Malin-sized dogs but if you have posh paws, then the Q3 is a practical all-rounder best suited for the urban environment.
Subaru Outback (from £29,995)
The Outback is a big estate car with raised-up suspension and serious four-wheel drive ability. The styling is a little dated now but a new version is on the way that looks sleeker and much more refined.
It5’s a rival to the Volvo XC70 and Audi allroad, and has a cavernous 526-litre boot and high roof line. This makes it perfect for bigger breeds to enjoy the comforts of the Outback over any distance.
Subarus are famously rugged and well-built, making them popular with farmers and country types the world over. It’s a car that will tackle whatever you throw at it with ease, including a couple of Labradors.
Malin was happier jumping in the Outback than any other car tested here. There’s a low-loading lip, which makes it good for older dogs. And with the back seat down, the luggage space increases to a Deerhound-sized 1677-litres.
Kia Soul (from £12,600)
Big dogs like to sit up, which is why the Soul is in a class of its own when it comes to headroom in the boot. The Kia is as spacious as a Range Rover and is the cheapest car in our canine car test.
Bold styling has turned the Soul’s box-like profile into a dogmobile that looks like no other SUV on the market. While boot capacity tops out at 354-litres, it’s easy to lower the back seats and create 1367-litres of doggy playground.
The entry-level versions are a little basic on the inside but higher up the range, the Connect Plus model has an eight-inch, touchscreen navigation system that makes easy work of finding the best walking spots.
Kia offers a choice of 1.6-litre petrol and diesel engines, though most UK buyers will opt for the derv. Kia is aiming to launch an all-electric version in a few months time.
Hyundai i40 (from £20,355)
The i40 has the least inspiring name and no four-wheel drive but it packs a whopping 553-litre boot. That’s bigger than a Vauxhall Insignia or Ford Mondeo estate. Fold the back seats down and that rises to 1,719-litres.
Inside, there’s a clever under-floor boot compartment to store the pet food and the whole car feels roomy and bright, which is what nervous dogs like when you try to coax them into a vehicle for the first time.
The Hyundai is also worth considering because it represents excellent value for money as a family car and load-lugger. The entry-level, 2.0-litre diesel version returns up to 66mpg and has a five-year, unlimited mileage warranty.
And if you want your pet pooch to travel in style, the i40 estate is by far the prettiest of the pack. The BlueDrive technology, which includes Stop-Start, means I could save enough for some extra Malin treats too.