SportRack Vista XL Review
Cons: Awkward rear opening, flimsy lid
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SportRack Vista XL
$398.99 at Amazon
|$579 List||$660 List|
$509.99 at Amazon
Check Price at REI
|Pros||Simple design, lots of room, decent price||Great value, easy to install, dual-opening||Relatively inexpensive, easy to attach, convenient to use||Textured matte finish hides blemishes, easy to install||Well-priced, decent looking, fits long skis and snowboards|
|Cons||Awkward rear opening, flimsy lid||Limited to <170cm skis/boards, not the sleekest look||Won’t fit longer skis, longer crossbar spans can be problematic for install||No handle, only opens on one side, pricey||Not the easiest to install, less convenient|
|Bottom Line||This is a great value buy with a simple design and functional features||If you are searching for a cargo box without busting your budget, then we highly recommend this option||If you are searching for a well-priced cargo box and don’t need to transport longer skis and boards, then this is a great option||If you are searching for a bare-bones cargo carrier without bells and whistles, then this is a good choice||If you want to transport skis and snowboards on top of your car without spending a ton, this is a great option|
|Rating Categories||SportRack Vista XL||Yakima RocketBox Pr...||Goplus Rooftop Carrier||Thule Pulse||SportRack Horizon A...|
|Ease of Use (40%)|
|Specs||SportRack Vista XL||Yakima RocketBox Pr...||Goplus Rooftop Carrier||Thule Pulse||SportRack Horizon A...|
|Weight||28 lbs||40 lbs||25 lbs||36 lbs||25 lbs|
|Volume||18 cu ft||14 cu ft||14 cu ft||16 cu ft||11 cu ft|
|Dimensions||63" x 38" x 19"||74" x 33" x 16"||63" x 31" x 15"||76" x 33" x 16.5"||88.75" x 21" x 15.75"|
|Additional Available Sizes||n/a||Pro 11 (11 cu ft), Pro 12 (12 cu ft)||n/a||Alpine, M||L (16 cu ft), XL (17 cu ft)|
|Maximum Ski Length||n/a||170 cm||140 cm||181 cm||210 cm|
|Access||Rear||Dual-side||Dual-side||Passenger Side||Passenger side|
Our Analysis and Test Results
While we may not recommend this box to our adventurous friends looking for long-term gear storage for their every-weekend trips, we might recommend this to our parents who are looking for a little extra room for their occasional vacation. Its simplicity could be frustrating if used daily, but if you're on a tighter budget or don't plan on using your cargo box all the time, we think the SportRack Vista XL is a great choice, especially when compared to similar boxes in its price range.
Ease of Use
For this metric, we picked the three most important criteria: assembly, installation, and opening/closing. The Vista XL scored major points because it comes fully assembled, has a relatively straightforward installation, and includes a user-friendly lock and handle.
The Vista XL comes ready to mount right out of the box, saving loads of time and energy. This box uses a U-bolt mounting system and is impressively easy to understand and install. While it takes a bit longer to do than the more advanced mounting systems of the expensive Yakima and Thule boxes, the installation of this box is pretty painless. We wouldn't want to take it on and off every day, but for more occasional use, it's fine.
Every other box in our review opens from the side except for this one, which opens from the rear. We have mixed feelings about this. When we first mounted this box on our lead tester's van, it was impossible to reach everything inside. The box is much wider than any other in our review, and whether from the side or the back, we couldn't reach the back corner. Frustrating. We then put the box on another tester's Honda Element and had the same problem. Finally, we mounted it on our photographer's Subaru Forester, and we could actually use it. While we didn't mind the rear opening in this case, we definitely would have scored this box higher if it had the standard side opening, which we think is more universally friendly. We talked to a friend who loves rear-opening boxes for loading snowboards, and at 63 inches long (or 160 cm), you may be able to load your snowboard in this box (though most skis are out of the picture). The rear opening seems to be a point of personal preference, but we are hesitant about recommending this box to drivers of big cars.
Though lacking the sturdy, ergonomic handle of the top-tier products, the Vista XL is surprisingly easy to open and close. The lid overlaps the bottom of the box enough to form a pretty effective grip, and we never had trouble latching it correctly. We had no complaints about the key lock's straightforward and smooth design. The lid is pretty floppy, and this box doesn't match the user-friendliness of more expensive boxes, but this simplicity can be a gift for the right user.
The majority of the boxes in this review all felt secure enough to trust with our gear, but this metric also includes an assessment of the security mechanisms. The locking system of the Vista XL is simple but effective. Despite lacking in special features, we felt pretty confident that this box would keep our belongings safe from crooks. The only thing that might hinder this is the flimsy materials, but we still think a thief would need quite the tool to break in. The U-bolts are small but strong, and we think it would be next to impossible to rip this box off a car. That being said, while we felt comfortable leaving our things in the Vista, it should be noted that the manufacturer explicitly warns that the locks are meant to deter theft, not prevent it, and we agree that it seems much easier to break into the smaller lock of the Vista than those of the more expensive boxes we tested.
Like almost all the boxes in this review, it is impossible to lock your key in the box because the lid must be latched and locked to remove it. As someone who always locks her keys in her car, that is a must-have feature for our lead tester. That said, we don't like that the Vista XL has no special features for making it easy to see if the lid is latched or not. On the other hand, we never had trouble getting the lock to line up and latch properly, even with the flimsiness of the lid, which impressed us.
We subjected our boxes to time, miles, and the elements to get an idea of their potential longevity. We're slightly concerned by the seemingly flimsy building materials of the Vista XL, but it showed no signs of distress after our rounds of testing. We docked it points mostly for its flimsy lid and were pleasantly surprised that there was no measurable impact on our gas mileage with this box or any of the models we tested.
Compared to the seamless design of other models, we would be cautious about putting our electronics in the Vista XL unprotected. For the U-bolt system to be universal, there are multiple sets of holes to choose from depending on your crossbar width. Because of this, you're left with holes in the bottom of the box. SportRack's solution is to provide some vinyl stickers to cover the holes. While this helps, they are pretty easy to pull off. The Vista X* should keep your things dry in a normal rainstorm — these holes are tiny, mind you — but we would recommend putting your moisture-sensitive belongings in a drybag before going in the box. Despite the box's flimsiness, the wind didn't seem to affect it, and we never heard any rocking or whistling, no matter how fast we were driving.
The Vista XL lost durability points because of its floppy lid. This is one area where you can see the price difference vis-a-vis the more expensive models in this review. The plastic is much thinner than any other box we tested. The lid is extremely flimsy and prone to open fully on one side and only halfway on the other. This wasn't too annoying, as we just had to give the less open side a little boost before it shot right up, but it paled in comparison to the top scorers in this category.
We know what you're thinking: are any of these cargo boxes all that attractive? While we can't speak for everyone, we do have clear preferences, and as people who care about style, we couldn't help but give the appearance a small percentage of the overall score. We looked at color, finish, and shape and found that the Vista XL is, well, pretty average. It is wider than any other model we tested (though only by a few inches) but significantly shorter (63 inches compared to the 80-inch minimum of our "long and leans"), giving it a stumpy appearance. We don't hate it, but it does look much more normal on something small like a Subaru Forester than a bigger Honda Element.
We generally think you get what you pay for with cargo boxes. While much less fancy than the boxes at the top of our charts, we think an occasional user would find value in the Vista XL at a fraction of the cost of higher-end boxes.
While we were annoyed by its rear opening, the SportRack Vista XL is an alright option if you need a simple solution to get your gear around without spending a ton of cash.
— Lauren DeLaunay
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