Thule Sidekick Review
Cons: Compromised security, difficult assembly and installation
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Our Analysis and Test Results
We here at OutdoorGearLab are committed to scoring the products in our review and evaluating them objectively, not in relation to their price (we save that for the "Value" section below). So despite being one of the least expensive products in this review, we simply cannot recommend this product because of its low scores in every category.
Ease of Use
For this scoring metric, we were all about convenience. Boxes that met our basic needs scored 5's and 6's, while those that surpassed our expectations scored 7's and 8's. The Sidekick, unfortunately, scored a 4 because it failed to meet our minimum qualifications both in assembly and ease of opening/closing while having an average mounting system.
Most of the products were either fully assembled or ready to mount in a few minutes or less. The Sidekick was a whole different beast. It took two of our testers close to an hour to put this thing together, complete with a full tool kit, frustrated pacing, pinched fingers, and multiple readings and re-readings of the instructions. Two people are definitely required, as one person has to hold the lid while the other tries to attach it to the bottom. Even the weather stripping needs to be cut to size and installed. The part that surprised us the most was that the locks needed to be built. This was confusing, and we had a hard time lining them up properly aftward. Whether this was our fault or a common problem, we'd expect to do a little less work for a product with the Sidekick's price tag. Our main problem was not just that we had to do some assembly, though- it was that we assembled a product that then didn't work well or pass our security standards.
During assembly, we noticed that two of the plastic bolt-protector caps did not fit the bolts we'd been given. We re-read the directions to see if we could have made a mistake, but something was wrong. Our research indicated that other users had also had this problem, which made us think this was less a fluke than a common issue. We'll talk about why this is such a big problem in the "Security" section below.
The one thing the Sidekick has going for it is a relatively easy mount. While more time consuming than that of our top-ranking boxes from Yakima and Thule, we actually thought the U-bolt system was fine. This system really didn't take too much time. Compared to systems on the premium cargo boxes, it is very intuitive, which we appreciated. As far as opening and closing goes, we found some big issues. The lid is floppy and we had trouble lining it up correctly. There are two locks instead of one, the only box with this design, which we thought was somewhat annoying, though that may be in place to try and boost the box's security. Overall, we were disappointed in this cargo box and its lack of user-friendly details.
For this category, we tested each product against its three biggest nemeses: rain, wind, and time. Wind never seemed to disrupt the Sidekick, despite its floppiness (neither did any box we tested), but we were a little concerned about how it would fare against the other two. While we carefully watched our gas mileage during testing, none of the boxes in this review had any impact on our efficiency and none created any noise while driving.
This box uses a U-bolt mounting system which requires a series of holes to make the fit universal. Thule employs a series of vinyl stickers to cover the unused holes. While our box held up during a rainstorm, we would be nervous about trusting it with our electronics or other valuables. To be fair, Thule doesn't claim complete protection from the elements, but we would generally consider some of the higher-end boxes in this review to be functionally waterproof.
Lastly, the Sidekick is pretty floppy — enough that we had concerns about the longevity of this box due to its lackluster building materials. Every detail of this box seems to have been poorly planned, and we're not sure that it would make a great investment if you're looking to get years out of your cargo box.
This is the only box in this review that gave us serious concerns about security, receiving another 4/10 for below-average performance.
If nothing else, we ask our roof box to keep our things safe, and we wouldn't trust the Sidekick for a second. We had to install the locks ourselves, but when we tried to lock it, we couldn't get the lid to line up. And while every other box in this review doesn't let you take the key out until properly latched, we actually removed the key and thought it was locked until we pulled up on the lid and noticed that it hadn't actually latched. We were shocked! This is the only box that you could actually put the keys in your pocket and walk away from without it being locked properly, and as such, we think we'd be paranoid about its security whenever we left it or drove away.
On top of the inconsistent latching system is a major concern with the rear bolts. The system involves placing a bolt in a plastic holder, screwing the lid to the bottom, and then snapping a plastic cover to the bolt via the holder. Except that the plastic cover didn't fit. We're not sure why we encountered this glitch, but our web research indicated that we're not the only ones that have had this problem. The issue here is not just cosmetic but a massive security risk. Without the plastic covers, all you need is a screwdriver and a few minutes to remove the bolts and open the box. Compared to the seamless construction of the other five boxes in this review, we would never trust the Sidekick with our valuables.
We understand that most cargo boxes look kind of the same, and while none particularly knocked our socks off, we have almost nothing to say about the Sidekick's simple design.
We like the grey color of the Sidekick but this is our personal preference. It is shaped like a mini version of our favorite boxes, but its tiny size looked silly when we mounted it on bigger cars (think less stylish British fascinator hat). However, we did think the Sidekick looked pretty nice on smaller cars. That is, except for the ill-fitting bolts on the back missing their plastic covers.
While the relatively low price tag of the Sidekick might initially make it attractive to a budget-conscious shopper, the poor performance of this cargo carrier makes us reluctant to recommend it even for those on the tightest of budgets — especially since there are similarly priced products that perform significantly better.
Honestly, we were really surprised by how mediocre the Sidekick was. Difficult assembly, flimsy materials, and a compromised security system all contributed to the Sidekick receiving the lowest score of any box in this review, and unless you were driving a car too big to be compatible with the SportRack's rear opening system, we cannot imagine recommending this product.
— Lauren DeLaunay