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Best cars for dogs

More than 80 per cent of dog owners take their canine companions along in their vehicles.

What happens when they become the judge?

The AAA in the US recently compiled a list of vehicles that will appease drivers, passengers and canines and keep them safe and comfortable.

More than 80 per cent of dog owners take their canine companions along in their vehicles - anything from a trip to the shops to long-haul road holidays - so there's good cause to keep the pooch happy.

Here's the top 10 dog-friendly vehicles based on factors such as crash test ratings, safety features, fuel economy, ease of animal ingress and egress, cargo area size, availability of tie-down hooks and easy-to-clean interiors.

1. VOLVO XC60: Has a roomy cabin with accessories including rubber mats for the cargo area and a pet barrier that connects to the tops of the rear seats. Safety features include City Safety that automatically applies the brakes to avoid low-speed rear-enders in traffic.

2. SUBARU FORESTER: Gets the nod for a roomy, comfortable accommodation for people and their pets. The ride is stable and the all-wheel drive handling is predictable. The cargo floor is 670mm off the ground so is easy for most dogs to jump in and out.

3. HYUNDAI SANTA FE: The cargo space is good for even larger breeds of dogs and Hyundai - and suppliers - have many accessories to make life on the road easy for the dog. These include rubber mats, beds and pet dividers.

4. MAZDA3 hatch: Among compacts, the AAA says the Mazda3 is a standout. Handling is sharp, the ride is very good and the hatchback's interior is exceptionally flexible, though its suitability for larger breeds is in doubt. It also rates for the wide opening rear doors, hatch and robust interior.

5. MINI COUNTRYMAN: This is the Maxi of Minis. The longer body structure, foldable rear seats, four doors and big rear hatch make it easy to get even a larger breed in and out.  As for the driver, this maxi Mini is great fun to drive. Its handling is crisp and immediate, acceleration is brisk and braking secure.

6. KIA SOUL: It's roomier than its exterior dimensions suggest, which makes the Soul a good choice for transporting smaller and mid-size breeds. Aftermarket accessories to make the trip easier include thick, heavy-duty mats and pet-resistant seat covers. The ride is a bit firm, but the handling is good. The windows are bigger than average for a good view to the sides.

7. BMW 3 SERIES TOURING: This wagon offers handling and agility that rival some sports cars. BMW offers a wide range of accessories to make the car more suitable for pet transport including sturdy dividers that confine a dog to the cargo area. The compact interior may be a better choice for medium to smaller breeds.

8. TOYOTA RUKUS: The "Camry in a box" has a big, useable interior with a large rear hatch. The durable materials, excellent access from four doors and flexible seating design make it a good choice for small to medium pets. Accessories such as a cargo division are available as aftermarket products.

9. PEUGEOT 3008: Rates alongside the 4007 as having a versatile interior but the car - not SUV - looks of the 3008 add a bit of class. The 3008 rides high and has a flat floor with a low loading height, making it not to difficult for athletic medium-size pooches to enter and leave. The diesel is also frugal and low in emissions.

10. SKODA OCTAVIA WAGON: Huge cargo area with massive underfloor storage make this a winner for the bigger dogs. A good list of accessories, strong fabrics and flexible seat arrangement also make it a durable pet hauler. The diesel engine is also miserly on fuel. More room with more class but more cost is the Skoda Superb wagon.

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