Best commuter car: Find your best option for the daily commute
When you drive to work, whether it’s 5 miles or 50 miles, you’ll want the best commuter car to make your journey the best experience you can have. You can choose a commuter vehicle filled with modern technology like smartphone integration and a Wi-Fi hotspot. Along with supportive technology, you want to select a car that’s comfortable, safe, and reliable. In this article, we’ll talk about factors, characteristics, and features that make a good daily commuter car.
What makes a good commuter car
Several factors make for a good commuter car. For one, you want to look at the best gas mileage cars. You also want a car that’s enjoyable to drive and just the right size for your commuting needs. For example, a subcompact car is ideal for short commutes in the city for one or two people, but an all-electric SUV is better for long commutes with several people.
Technology helps make any commute more pleasurable, so you’ll want to look for features such as a user-friendly infotainment system with navigation, smartphone integration, and a quality sound system. Safety features are some of the most important features to look for in a commuter car. Driver-assist features like a lane mitigation system, collision-avoidance systems, and adaptive cruise control can give you peace of mind by keeping you and your passengers safe.
Factors to consider when choosing a commuter car
Everyone has different needs for a commuter car, causing you to ask yourself the following questions: Do you need a big car, a compact car, or a car with superb gas mileage for your commuter car? Are your priorities for a perfect commuter car safety, cargo space, or technology features? What if you’re not sure?
To help you understand the qualities of the best daily driver car, consider these factors:
You work hard for your money and don’t want to spend it all on gas, so fuel efficiency is a major factor in choosing a commuter car. The ideal engine types for a commuter car are gasoline, all-electric, or a hybrid mix of gas and electric. When looking for an affordable daily driver, search for the best mpg used cars to help stretch your commute budget. Use the U.S. Department of Energy’s website, which lists combined fuel economy ranges, to help you examine a vehicle’s fuel efficiency capabilities.
Reliability and maintenance costs
Reliability is another key aspect to consider when looking for the perfect commuter car. Finding a reliable vehicle ensures it can handle your daily driving needs while reducing the worry of the car breaking down prematurely. Look for auto brands with good reviews from reliable sources with an authoritative voice to see where the vehicle ranks for reliability. In addition, you want to factor in maintenance costs. Many newer cars come with a factory warranty that covers select repairs depending on the age or mileage of the vehicle.
Comfort and convenience
Comfort and convenience enhance your driving experience, including:
Seating and cargo space
If you drive alone or with one person, consider having a compact commuter car for maneuverability and efficient gas mileage. However, if you commute with others, you’ll want a vehicle that can comfortably fit adults in the rear seats, such as a sedan or small SUV. You should also examine the available cargo space to carry supplies like briefcases, portfolio cases, and other work-related items. Hatchbacks and SUVs often have more cargo space than sedans, which only have trunk space.
Technology and safety features
Technology features help make your commute pleasurable and convenient. Most newer cars come equipped with an infotainment system that lets you access applications such as navigation, maps, and music. Safety features include driver-assist technology, such as pre-collision warnings, lane mitigation systems, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high-beam headlights. Look for top safety ratings like Top Safety Pick+ (TSP+) from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and five-star overall ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Price and affordability
Price and affordability rank high as factors to consider when looking for a commuter car. How much can you afford to put down on a new car? Is there room in your budget for monthly car payments and recurring repair costs? Maintaining a vehicle can take a chunk of money out of your wallet, and you’ll need to budget for these costs.
Top commuter car categories on the market
This section will give you an overview of the best commuter cars by category.
Compact cars, like the Chevrolet Spark, are great commuter cars for city traffic because of their maneuverability. These small cars have a short wheelbase, making it easier to take tight turns on narrow streets and park in challenging spots. Compact cars are best for solo commuters or having one passenger, as these cars often only have two doors and small back seats.
Sedans are the most popular commuter cars and for good reasons. They have a roomy interior so passengers in the back can ride comfortably. They come with a good amount of trunk space for carrying groceries and generally get better gas mileage than large SUVs. Most car designers make sedans, like the Toyota Corolla or Nissan Sentra, with raised seating that offers clearer visibility for the driver. In addition, most brands who make sedans equip this style of car with engines producing robust horsepower ideal for accelerating onto the freeway.
If you need a commuter car with flexible storage solutions and easy access to the cargo area, consider getting a hatchback car. Similar to sedans in design, power, and features, the main benefit of having a hatchback is the amount of available storage space. You can fold the second-row seats flat on a hatchback allowing for more space, and many hatchbacks have a 60/40-split rear-folding seat ideal for carrying large items. Honda makes a hatchback version of the Civic, and Toyota makes a Corolla hatchback.
Electric and hybrid vehicles
Electric and hybrid vehicles stand out from other commuter cars for their excellent gas mileage. All-electric vehicles also have an impressive, long driving range. The Hyundai Ioniq Electric rises to the top of the lineup of all-electric vehicles. It features an mpg equivalent (MPGe) range of 110 to 132 in the city and a driving range of about 300 miles on a full charge.
Detailed review of the best commuter cars
After extensive research by government and scientific agencies, including the U.S. Department of Energy, the NHSTA, and the IIHS, we’ve based our findings on the best commuter cars you can drive. You can find most of these cars in select U.S. cities within our Flexcar fleet.
Honda has made the Civic since 1972, and to this day, it remains one of the top commuter cars in the U.S. This four-door sedan is available in various trim levels, like Sport, EX, and Touring. Commuters will appreciate the sports-tuned suspension system and 180-horsepower turbocharged engine on select models. These specs are perfect for helping the Honda Civic get enough power to speed up onto the freeway.
Honda has given the Civic well-appointed features like heated front seats and a one-touch power moonroof for the EX and Touring trim levels. The Honda Civic sedan provides up to 14.8 cubic feet of trunk space and a fold-down rear seatback for extra cargo. The Civic has a spacious interior with ample headroom and legroom, comfortably fitting up to five people on the two rows of seats.
Make your commute pleasant by listening to music from your Apple CarPlay and Android Auto playlists through the available Bose premium stereo system. Technology features include an interactive touch screen, navigation, and real-time traffic to help you manage traffic flow and patterns. Modern Civics come equipped with the Honda Sensing suite of driver-assist features such as collision mitigation braking, a road departure mitigation system, and blind-spot monitoring with a rear cross-traffic assist.
Combined fuel economy: 33 mpg to 36 mpg
NHTSA overall safety rating: Five stars
IIHS Safety rating: TSP+
People have been driving the popular Toyota Corolla since it made its debut in 1966. This great commuter car comes with four doors as a sedan, a sedan-hybrid, or a hatchback. You’ll find a 169-horsepower engine under the hood of the gasoline-only Corolla. The hybrid version of the car gets a gas engine paired with an electric motor for a combined output of 138 horsepower. The Corolla comes standard with front-wheel drive. If you want more traction when driving on wet or slippery roads, choose the trim levels with all-wheel-drive.
This roomy Toyota Corolla sedan comes with two rows of seats where up to five people can ride in comfort. Depending on the trim, the Corolla comes with luxury features like heated front seats and an optional power moonroof. Toyota equips this spunky car with connected services such as voice recognition, cloud-based navigation, and integrated music streaming like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s a breeze carrying work and school supplies with 13.1 cubic feet of trunk space in the sedan.
You and your passengers will feel safe riding in the Corolla as it comes equipped with the Toyota Safety Sense bundle of driver-assist features including a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection and proactive driving assist. Other safety features in this system include lane departure alerts and automatic high beams.
Combined fuel economy: 34 to 35 mpg for 2-liter engines and 44 mpg for hybrid 1.8-liter engines
NHTSA overall safety rating: Five stars
IIHS Safety rating: TSP+
Nissan has been making the Sentra since 1982 and it’s still a popular commuter car. This small sedan is affordable, capable, and stylish, making it an excellent daily driver. Whether cruising down the freeway or maneuvering through city traffic, you’ll appreciate the agile handling and power of the Sentra. This car comes with a four-cylinder engine that delivers 149 horsepower mated to a continuously variable transmission and a front-wheel-drive system that completes the drivetrain.
Up to five people can ride in comfort on the two rows of seats found inside the Nissan Sentra. Some Sentra trim levels offer optional interior features like power-adjustable front seats and dual-zone automatic climate control. Heating options available for the sedan include heated front seats and a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel. You get lots of room to carry supplies in the trunk, which has 14.3 cubic feet of space.
Anyone will appreciate the Nissan Sentra’s technology, like the infotainment system with a 4- to 7-inch touch screen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. Optional technology features include a premium eight-speaker Bose audio system, NissanConnect services with onboard Wi-Fi, and class-exclusive USB-C charging ports. Nissan takes safety seriously and equips the Sentra with Safety Shield 360 driver-assist features like automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and a blind-spot warning with automatic rear braking.
Combined fuel economy: 32 mpg to 33 mpg
NHTSA overall safety rating: Five stars for 2020 to 2022 models
IIHS overall safety rating: TSP
The subcompact Chevrolet Spark first came on the U.S. market in 2013. It is a good commuter car for driving short distances and through congested city streets. This two-door hatchback car comes with a spunky 98-horsepower engine suitable for zipping around town. The Spark comes with front-wheel drive and pairs with a five-speed manual or continuously variable transmission.
The Spark has two rows of seats and can carry up to four people. The upper trims have excellent features like heated front seats, simulated leather upholstery, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. With 11.1 cubic feet of cargo room with the rear seats upright or 27.2 cubic feet with the seats folded down, you’ll have plenty of room for suitcases or shopping bags.
As you drive along, listen to your favorite playlists as the Spark’s infotainment system has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Standard technology features include Bluetooth, a Wi-Fi hot spot, and two USB ports. You can also opt for power windows and door locks, a sunroof, and a six-speaker stereo system. The Chevrolet Spark provides plenty of available driver-assist features, including a forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and rear parking sensors.
Combined fuel economy: 32 mpg to 33 mpg
NHTSA overall safety rating: Newer models not rated
IIHS overall safety rating: Good
Hyundai Ioniq Electric
When you’re looking for an all-electric small SUV to use as a commuter car, consider the handsomely styled Hyundai Ioniq Electric. The world first had access to the Hyundai Ioniq Electric in 2016, and commuters today still appreciate the impressive driving range of up to 300 miles this electric vehicle gets.
You can choose the rear-wheel drive version of the Hyundai Ioniq Electric that has one electric motor pumping out 225 horsepower. Commuters needing more power can select the all-wheel-drive version with two electric motors for an output of 320 horsepower. Both motors pair with a single-speed transmission for seamless shifting.
This SUV has two rows of seats where up to five people can ride comfortably, with plenty of legroom and headroom for everyone. Hyundai equips the Ioniq Electric with upscale, tastefully designed interior materials. You’ll sit on stain-resistant cloth or, H-Tex trimmed seating surfaces, and those riding in the front can enjoy heated seats. Technology enthusiasts will appreciate the 12.3-inch HD touch screen that comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Additional tech features include Bluelink’s Connected Car Service, Connected Care, Remote Charge Access, and Guidance Package, valid for three years after enrollment.
The Ioniq Electric comes equipped with Hyundai’s SmartSense suite of driver-assist features, including blind-spot and rear collision-avoidance assist. You’ll also appreciate having forward collision-avoidance assist, a lane mitigation system, and smart cruise control with stop-and-go technology.
Combined fuel economy: 110 to 132 MPGe in the city and 87 to 98 MPGe on the highway
NHTSA overall safety rating: Five stars for the 2022 and 2023 AWD model
IIHS overall safety rating: TSP+
Wrap-up of the best commuter cars
When you’re looking for the perfect daily driver, you have many options. Using the information and detailed reviews of our choices of the best commuter car, you can narrow your search to the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Chevrolet Spark, and Hyundai Ioniq Electric.
This list includes a compact car for easy city driving and two sedans with plenty of room for the driver and passengers. It also highlights hatchbacks that let you carry lots of supplies and an all-electric vehicle for optimal fuel economy. Each of these vehicles comes with fabulous features like modern technology, advanced safety features, and powerful engines to help you get to where you’re going.
Subscribing to Flexcar is the perfect way to have a commuter car with flexible driving solutions. It’s a breeze to order the perfect Flexcar for your commuting needs. When those needs change, or you want to drive a different vehicle, simply order the new one you want. Then, choose your pickup location or have it delivered, and off you go with a commuter car to use with no long-term commitment to that particular vehicle.