Driving back and forth to work can consume a lot of time as well as gasoline. In 2008, as gas prices began to top $4 gallon, motorists learned that “pain at the pump” had taken on a personal meaning. Some drivers were paying $100 just to fill up their vehicles, forcing them to look for alternative ways to get to work or downsize to a smaller vehicle.
Though gas prices have retreated significantly since that time, America’s appetite for smaller and more fuel efficient cars has continued to grow. A number of manufacturers are releasing all new models this year in response to customer demand with the Ford Fiesta subcompact and compact Chevy Cruze hitting showrooms before spring shifts to summer.
AAA, formerly known as the American Automobile Association, says that the average commuting driver spends 41 minutes daily behind the wheel which translates into an average commute of 22.5 miles. Some drivers have much longer commutes of one to two hours each way. In either case, a lot of fuel can be consumed on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis.
AAA also assembled its team of auto buying experts to survey current commuter car offerings basing their finds on a vehicle’s practicality, safety, comfort, fuel efficiency and affordability. But be forewarned as there are several surprise entries on the list, several vehicles that are expensive though fuel efficient.
Honda Insight: This car is among the ultimate in gasoline fuel economy while being reasonably comfortable for the driver and front-seat passenger. It’s also less costly and more fun to drive than some of its hybrid competitors.
Ford Fusion: Four-cylinder versions offer an appealing combination of power, riding comfort and handling competence. The Hybrid offers even more economy, but the fuel savings come with a major bump in the purchase price.
Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Everything that you ever hated about diesels has been exorcised in this latest version of the Volkswagen diesel engine. It is quiet, with just a trace of diesel clatter at idle; peppy, especially when underway; and every bit as economical as the most miserly hybrids. It also is great fun to drive. Comfortable front seats are a plus.
Hyundai Elantra: The new Blue edition is good for 35 miles per gallon. This fourth generation Elantra also is reasonably accommodating for a driver and three passengers with the interior nicely done. The 10-year/100,000-mile warranty suggests that you could keep this car in the daily commuting grind for years.
Subaru Legacy/Outback: These new models with their horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engines perform very well, and with their redesign for 2010, they now offer much better fuel economy and enhanced rear seat leg room. And for commuters facing snowy rides to work, the all-wheel drive helps ensure they will make it to work every time.
Honda Civic: Affordable, dependable, economical and comfortable, the Civic is one of the better performing compacts for a wide range of uses, including commuting. For drivers who want to enjoy the trip even more, the 197 horsepower Si sedan deserves a careful look.
Chevrolet Malibu: Stylish inside and out, the Malibu also is a competent performer on the road. Four-cylinder models offer more than enough power for the daily commute and promise decent fuel economy. The passenger cabin is nicely finished and roomy, both in the front and rear, making it a good choice for carpooling.
Honda Accord: Good for the commute and good for family transportation, the Accord is roomy, solid and economical when equipped with the four-cylinder engine. It also offers road manners that are beyond reproach.
Mazda3: The body for 2010 may not be to everyone’s taste, but there is no arguing with its crisp handling and above average power for the compact field. Fuel economy also is good. The ride can be a little flinty, so commuters facing long stretches of neglected urban highways may want to look elsewhere. However, for people who enjoy driving, the handling will more than make up for a few abrupt ride motions.
Commuters Vehicles Offering Efficiency and More
Practicality is an important factor that many commuters look for when seeking the ideal vehicle for long commutes. However, AAA Auto Buying experts understand that some want a vehicle that can serve dual purposes such as an efficient commuter vehicle that addresses needs for family or recreation or desires for luxury or fun. Because of this, AAA offers their picks for vehicles that can help address consumers’ secondary needs while still providing a smart choice for long commutes.
Mini Cooper: A premium subcompact, the Mini is both sporty and economical with fuel. Few cars are as much fun to drive. Commuters will be able to take one passenger only and the purchase price is higher than you might expect, based on size alone. However, few cars are as enjoyable on the road or offer as many safety features. Commuters might even choose to take the long way home.
Chevrolet Corvette: Who says the drive to work has to be boring? The Corvette is anything but, and when driven appropriately, it can even return near-compact car fuel economy of around 26 mpg on the highway.
Buick Enclave: Handling the commute for up to eight people, the Enclave combines an exceptionally quiet ride with competent handling and surprising room in all three rows. It makes for a smart choice for those seeking a large family vehicle on the weekends.
Mercedes-Benz GL: Roomy seating for seven, excelled refinement, all-wheel drive and the option of a surprisingly economical (for the vehicle size) diesel engine make this a highly desirable commuter for multi-adult carpools.
Volkswagen GTI: Sporty, fun to drive and able to return mid- to upper-20 mile per gallon fuel economy results with the 200-hp turbocharged engine, the GTI is full of surprises. Even the rear seat is good for two adults and the cargo area is surprisingly roomy. Four workers can easily store large laptop carrying briefcases in the rear and then be quite comfortable for the ride to and from work.
BMW 3-Series: The first sports sedan remains the best by many measures. What more enjoyable way to get to work and then return home? The engines are impressive for their power and refinement, the handling is top notch and the build quality is excellent, as would be expected for the price.
Were you surprised as I was to find the Corvette, Mercedes and BMW on the list? Well, look at it this way: not everyone wants to drive an econobox, preferring a sportscar or luxury model instead.
Adv. – If you’re planning to buy a new car, then you’ll want to get price quotes or find a dealer to arrange for a test drive. You may also want to arrange for your own auto financing which can save you hundreds of dollars on your next car loan.
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