Best flush mount roof bars 2018
Get set for a spring break as we test these kings of the load...
Roof racks (used interchangeably with roof bars) are one of the best ways to expand the luggage carrying capacity of your car. Also, they are significantly cheaper than running a larger car all year round just for the few occasions you need the extra space. So read on to find out the best roof racks that fit flush to your car.
How we tested them
Convenience is key with roof bars, both for initial assembly and then fitting and removing later. Modular systems inevitably require more time to build than mostly pre-assembled units, but that’s no excuse for poor design and fiddly procedures.
On the car the heavier the load a system supports, the better. But the bars’ own weight should always be a consideration, making tough lightweights the best combination.
Lockable bars offer more security, and aerodynamically enhanced designs prevent annoying noise and reduce the inevitable fuel consumption hit. We factored in cost using prices found online.
Price: £90Bar weight: 2.6kgMax load: 100kgRating: 5.0
These Italian-made aero bars are a surprise winner because they’re hardly crammed with innovation or groundbreaking features. Instead, they offer a lot for their comfortably sub-£100 price, with acceptable quality backed by a three-year warranty. Out of the box, the bars are almost fully assembled, and they’re a doddle to secure in position: unlock the cover and use the supplied hex key to tighten the jaws. They look good, too, thanks to their stylish, raked back feet, although this means they’re slightly shorter than many here – closer to 110cm than 120cm.
Farad Aerodynamic Aluminium Roof Bars
Price: Around £100Bar weight: 4.4kgMax load: 75kg Rating: 4.5
Are the days of paying a premium for practically silent aerodynamic bars over? Two sets here scrape in below £100, and these Farads are the better of the pair. As they’re modular, they are supplied as plain bars, feet and grips, so a fair bit of assembly is needed. But the components are well designed and the procedure is pretty slick. Plus, once built, these sit on the roof rails nicely, making them a breeze to secure in place. Max load trails the Summit bars’, while our main gripe is that a plastic key is used in place of a proper lock barrel and metal key.
Atera Signo RTD
Price: Around £145 Bar weight: 5.8kgMax load: 100kgRating: 4.0
The best choice of the premium bars, with exquisite build quality and innovative features, although all that comes at a price. Those clever touches include the rubber strip, in front of the T-Track, which stops whistling even though the channel is left open. Unlike with other bars, you don’t have to cut the track’s rubber strip into pieces and place it around the feet of whatever’s secured to the bars. The locking jaw-adjuster covers are a joy, too. It may be trivial, but we love how they just slot easily back into place.
Menabo Tiger Silver
Price: £78Bar weight: 3.5kgMax load: 75kgRating: 3.5
Although it’s new to the UK market, this Italian brand was established back in the early seventies. And judging by these bars, we suspect Menabo will become popular over here. Bearing in mind that this is the cheapest set on test, the spec is impressive. The bars come almost fully built, and the locks are much deeper routed than most designs; as a result, they’re more secure. The only compromises are the two-year rather than three-year warranty, reduced load rating and the fact you have to prise off the plastic bar ends to access the T-Track.
Modula OvalBar System
Price: Around £80Bar weight: 2.6kgMax load: 100kgRating: 3.5
It’s hard to think of an adjustable-length roof bar without imagining it being rickety or sagging when loaded. But neither could be further from the truth, making these bars’ telescopic design an advantage. They’re usable on many different cars and it’s easy to overlook how much easier they are to store when fully retracted. As the feet are always right at the ends of the bars, they look like an integral part of the car when fitted. Locks and up to 130cm length are bonuses. The lack of a T-Track is the main drawback.
Thule WingBar 961
Price: Around £200Bar weight: 4.5kgMax load: 100kgRating: 3.5
In our last test, Thule’s WingBars won. And we still think the beautifully made, almost silent running bars are superb. But the set tested last time was straightforward to assemble and easy to fit. Neither is true with these flush rail versions. Assembly is a bit fiddly, and fitting is made awkward by the jaws’ reluctance to part and their tendency to spring together. Slackening the adjuster bolt right back helps, but go a little too far and you find there’s nothing to stop it coming out altogether. Annoying.
Cruz Airo FIX
Price: Around £100Bar weight: 4.6kgMax load: 75kgRating: 3.0
The second aerodynamically enhanced bars here to sneak under £100, and Cruz’s Airo FIX are worth a look against the Recommended Farads. They’re around 10cm longer, and you can add locks for £10 more. But the Farads are easier to assemble and fit in place. Cruz has used a pair of pressed steel jaws and a small, clip-in, rubber shield to go around the rails. This works effectively, but keeping the rubber in place while fitting can be tricky, and each bar end has two bolts rather than one.
MontBlanc Roofbar Flex 2
These are the easiest, and fastest, bars here to fit. Unlock an end, flip down a lever and turn it to tighten or loosen the jaws. No extra tools are needed. But that’s the only obvious stand out feature of these pricey bars. All rivals use ultra-aerodynamic, low-noise profiles; these are simply rounded aero bars. Similarly, where you’d expect metal keys and lock barrels, all that’s supplied is a plastic star design. You get a good 120cm of bar for your cash, even if the weight rating is less than expected.
Also tested: Exodus Aero A120 Roof Bars
Price: £163 Bar weight: 6.5kgMax load: 75kgRating: 2.0
In this review
- 1IntroductionWhich is best roof rack on sale? We look at rail and flush mounting market leaders to find out...
- 2Best flush mount roof racks - currently readingGet set for a spring break as we test these kings of the load...
- 3Best rail mount roof racksWhich of eight sets of car roof bars can take the load this holiday season?
- 4Atera Signo RTOn paper, there’s not much between the Atera RT and our Best Buy, the Thule Wingbar.
- 5Farad Bars AluItaly’s Farad bars are the second cheapest set here, but don’t have a budget spec
- 6Thule WingbarWingbars’ enhanced aerodynamics allow quiet motoring, and didn’t affect mpg too greatly.
- 7Cruz Airo RThese look similar to Thule’s Wingbars, and are also quiet and refined on the road. In fact, they appear sleeker than most, as the feet are unusually compact
- 8Modula OvalBar SystemMost bars can be adjusted to fit cars with narrower roofs, by moving their feet inwards.
- 9WhispbarQuiet, low-drag roof bars were effectively invented by Whispbar, and these premium bars are beautifully built
- 10Mont Blanc 1250 Activa Alu
- 11Halfords Roof Bar System EThe howl on our test reminded us these are traditional square steel bars