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Best Car for the Mongol Rally

By March 10, 2012 8,493 Comments
This post is a good start in your wonderment and research for the perfect steed. We hope you find some of the answers you were looking for and get the best ride for your style

A quick reminder:  Mongol Rally rules have traditionally stipulated that a participating car must “generally be considered to be crap.”” ie – tiny, inappropriate vehicles, ideally with High Comedy Value, are required to participate.

Because the most important part of the rally is obviously the car, we will take a closer look at what our baby could look like. We want to pick our car wisely so we will be evaluating and test-driving a few cars over the next couple of weeks. And obviously we will share this with you!!!




Car Rules and Recommendation

This selection is made based on the Car rules for 2012 edition


  • 1.2L engine (you can go higher but need authorisation from the Adventurists)
  • Less than 10 years (aka 2003 or younger).


  • have a manual drive  – more economical and safer in the pamirs
  • Standard Petrol  – not diesel or lead-free since we will be very unlikely to find those type of fuel along the way.
Just to give you an insight, the unleaded petrol found everywhere in Europe and Australia is 95-98 RON octane, that means it’s really clean and doesn’t clog your motor.
The petrol we going to get on the other hand in Russia and CIS countries has an octane of approx  80 RON. Big difference between the 2 so using a normal petrol engine at 91 Octane gets us closer to the mark. More details on Octane and type petrol on Wikipedia

Top 10 Cars selection for the Mongol Rally

We never thought we’d find ourselves rally car shopping with a limit of a 1.2 litre engine (a Noddy car to you laypeople) and a distinct lack of focus on style, speed and the blind machismo required when choosing a vehicle. However, given the Rally’s specs for petite over powerful, we’d been relegated to a bunch of 2 door zippy, A to B apologies for what racing cars should be.

With no choice but to acquiesce and embrace our inner motoring SNAG, our final decision rested on the VW Polo. To see how we arrived there, below is a table of vetted used vehicles with their pros and cons, plus average UK prices and availability.

Photo - credit

Popularity* How many used  models for sale on Auto Trader UK

Average price* 2004 model on Used Car Expert UK







Avg Price*

Fiat Panda


2535 lb

(1150 kg)

Low running costs. Low legroom. The old Panda is boxier and chirpier than ever. £2,700

AUD 4,350

Citroen Saxo 548 1775lb(805kg) Good handling, typical French suspension. Cramped interior, minimum safety features. Tres affordable but right at the tin can end of safety. £2,000

AUD 3,250

Daewoo Matiz 156 1763lb(800kg) Excellent running costs, comes in fast colours. Emergency braking may lock wheels. Suspension light and bump heavy. £1,800

AUD 2,900

Chevrolet Matiz 275 1914lb(868kg) Cute and responsive. Small cabin, noisy engine. Merely the Daewoo version in a Chevy zip up suit. £2,500

AUD 4,000

Volkswagen Polo 4,721 2751lb(1248kg) Handles well, high on safety features. Low pick up, engine vibration. The safe choice for superminis. £3,545

AUD 5,700

Nissan Micra 2,918 1490lb(675kg) Spacious interior, light steering. Low stability control. Too twee for blokes on the open road. £3,550

AUD 5,700

Toyota Yaris 2,947 2303lb(1045kg) Good safety features. No cruise control. Light as a feather, but gutsy regardless. £3,450

AUD 5,550

Skoda Fabia 2,468 2374lb(1077kg) Handles well on rough surfaces. Interior feels somewhat flimsy. VW engine makes this quite the little hottie. £3,300

AUD 5,300

Daihatsu Sirion 113 1962lb(890kg) Good handling, big interiors. Tinny and unstylish. Try hard styling but sleeps two comfortably. £2,500

AUD 4,000

Suzuki Alto 373 1800lb(800kg) High safety features, good handling. Noise intrusion on rough surfaces. Low verve but high safety. £2,200


Suggested car upgrades for the Mongol Rally

Choosing the VW Polo for our vehicle was challenging enough for these two auto and mechanical celibates, however the decisions weren’t going to end there.

While the Rally rules stipulate participating vehicles must “generally be considered to be crap” – read tiny, inappropriate and rife with high comedy value – we knew we’d have to look into upgrades so our little tin can will be dust and desert friendly. Upgrading a car can be a nightmare, so we needed to decide upon additions that would give us hard and measurable safety and/or performance benefits.

Here’s what we came up with:

Solid steel wheels

Sporty cast metal alloys appealed to our inimitable sense of vehicular style, but we found out they can crack and break, and in the middle of some godforsaken Armenian burg, that would suck. We’ll need good solid wheels an inch in size higher for better ground clearance. Doing this can negate the need for protector plates on the bottom of the car. Although, we still make get these to make sure.

Good tyres

This sounds like a no brainer, but ending up with mediocre tyres prone to bursting in the middle of a Kazakhstan desert is a recipe for either a screaming match or swift depletion of our alcohol reserves. We know we need forest rally tyres, as opposed to tarmac rally, due to their excellent traction and suitability for gravelly, wet and dry conditions. We’ll keep you updated on our exact purchase but we’d be looking at Dunlop, Kuhmo or Yokahama as our chosen brand. In addition to this, we’d be looking at having two spares along for the ride.

Skid plates

We want to minimise as much vehicle damage potential as possible and given the terrain we’ll be experiencing on the Rally, skid plates are a definite worthwhile investment. They protect many parts of your undercarriage including the transfer case, steering linkage, oil pan and gas tank in many off road scenarios. There’s no way we’d be wanting to attempt to get any of these repaired if we can avoid it. We also realised we need skid plates that are bolted but not wielded in case you need to access something in the undercarriage.

Jerry cans

Just like we don’t want to get caught with 2 blown tyres and a single spare, petrol is another vital consideration. We’ll be taking two with us and never filling up both from the same source. We need them in the Karakalpakstan Desert between Beyneu, Kazakhstan and Konghirat, Uzbekistan, in the Pamir Mountains, and we’re sure we will need them in Mongolia as well.



Any advice on other upgrades we should be considering?

Heard of any rally car horror stories you need to warn us about?

Any other make or model we should consider?

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