10 Best Commuter Cars for US Roads
Have fun driving one of the best commuter cars on your way to work.
Published October 21, 2018
Many people think that if they need to save money on their daily fuel consumption that they must drive a boring, plain car. That’s simply not the case anymore since more and more stylish vehicles are also striving to be fuel-efficient. We’ve put together ten vehicles that aren’t just fun to drive, but each of these could also be considered to be the best commuter car.
We all know that hybrid and electric cars offer the best fuel mileage, but we wanted to go with regular gasoline cars for this article (minus one that we couldn’t resist). We also attempted to stick to reasonably priced vehicles for the most part. If you’re looking to save money on fuel, chances are you aren’t interested in spending that savings on the car itself. Now the hard part will be deciding which one is the best commuter car for your needs.
Finding the Best Commuter Car
How would someone pick the best commuter car? For people that use their car to drive back and forth from work every day, the vehicle starts to become like a living space. It’s bound to have lots of necessities that you need in your daily life and you’ll want something that also keeps you connected with the outside world.
As commuting times increase, one needs to think about more than just fuel economy. While we agree that’s important, it can’t be the only consideration. All of the cars placed in our list feature at least 30 mpg highway, but they also have so much more.
You want a car that features plenty of comfort, adequate cargo room, and some appealing interior features as well. Of course, a reasonable price is critical (but it’s okay to dream about #10).
That’s the criteria we used when we picked the top 10 best commuter car models currently available. Get behind the wheel of one of these and start enjoying your ride to work.
1. Porsche 911 Carrera (30 mpg highway)
There are few cars as iconic as the Porsche 911. All models now come with turbocharged engines, except for the GT3. Not only is this a fun ride, but also fuel-efficient with a rating of 30 mpg on the highway. Figures like that are good enough to earn a spot on the best commuter car list.
Aside from its fuel mileage, there’s a lot to look forward to while driving this sports car. The impeccable handling brings drivers to life plus it offers a premium interior that allows for customization. Daily drives are a breeze with the practical and comfortable cabin. It’s like this car was designed to drive every day to work. Just don’t forget to take it out for fun too.
2. Ford Focus ST (30 mpg highway)
If you’re looking for a joy to drive and an all-around exciting vehicle that doesn’t break the bank, the Ford Focus ST is the best commuter car for you. The practical hatchback design makes it easy to carry anything with you plus it achieves 30 mpg on the highway.
This spunky car comes equipped with a 2.0-liter inline four engine that produces 252 horsepower. This gives it plenty of acceleration. On top of that, it has playful handling with sharp, responsive steering. If we had a list going of the best commuter car under $30,000, the Ford Focus would be near the top of our choices.
3. Audi TT Coupe (30 mpg highway)
Later in this list you’ll see the Volkswagen GTI which offers better fuel economy than this, but the Audi TT is a higher-performance GTI with all-wheel-drive. Because of this, it deserved to make the list for the best commuter car. Even though there’s additional weight to accommodate the AWD setup, it still offers decent fuel economy numbers.
On top of that all-weather capability, it also offers superior performance. The sporty handling excites drivers and allows for confident driving no matter what the conditions are. The virtual instrument panel also keeps driver distraction to a minimum and is a great addition to this exciting coupe.
4. Ford Mustang Ecoboost (30 mpg highway)
There are many reasons that the Ford Mustang has been a fan favorite for so many years; it’s fun to drive. With the turbocharged four-cylinder engine, it’s also good on the wallet too. For drivers who want a sporty ride and superior fuel efficiency, this would be the best commuter car.
We’re going to tell you about the Camaro in a minute, but this car offers a little more power. It produces 310 horsepower plus 320 lb-ft of torque, so you can take the party anywhere you want. You’ll find that the Mustang is more than just a fun car to take to work, but also provides a sensual shape that allows you to stand out in a crowd. What we love most about the newest lineup of Mustangs is that Line-Lock now comes standard on all the pony cars.
5. Chevrolet Camaro Four-Cylinder (31 mpg highway)
The amazing Chevrolet Camaro is also a fan favorite. In fact, putting these two cars side by side on a list just leaves the door open for more debate about which is better. Let’s get past determining which one we like the best and stick to the list of best commuter cars. Even with the big V8 and automatic transmission, this sporty car will still achieve 28 mpg on the highway.
For more fuel efficiency, however, you would want to take the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder instead. It produces 275 horsepower plus 295 lb-ft of torque, so it isn’t as powerful as the Mustang. With that said it does get slightly better fuel mileage plus it will hit 60 mph in just 5.4 seconds. What’s nice about the Camaro is you can score a perfectly fast and efficient car for only around $30,000. Why spend more if you don’t have to?
6. Volkswagen GTI (34 mpg highway)
While most people are paying attention to the Golf R with all-wheel-drive, the GTI is screaming for attention. It’s a front-wheel-drive but is a complete blast on the road. It’s also cheaper than the Audi TT and offers about four mpg more on the highway as well when you opt for a manual transmission.
We love the hatchback versatility and upscale interior that comes with this car. The engine is also lively and the transmission provides the perfect amount of performance with efficiency. If you want to buy a used GTI from a few years ago, you’ll have the best commuter car under 10k. That’s something to consider if you’re looking to save money.
7. Mazda 6 (35 mpg highway)
If you want a fun to drive mid-size sedan, you aren’t going to find much better than the Mazda 6. This option as the best commuter car comes equipped with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 184 horsepower. Sure, this isn’t a speed demon, but it’s sufficient, especially when you pair it with the six-speed manual transmission.
If you have more money to sock into the purchase, you could even opt for the Signature or Grand Touring Reserve trim to add some more upscale features and materials to your car. Either way, the newer models come with freshened interior and exterior design. You’ll also be quite pleased with the handling and interior room.
8. Mazda 3 (37 mpg highway)
We can’t leave the Mazda brand before we discuss the Mazda 3. Sure, its compact design isn’t for everyone, but if you don’t need the room, it’s the best commuter car by far. You can choose between the 2.0-liter four-cylinder or 2.5-liter instead and still achieve more than 30 mpg on the highway. Of course, we’re going to recommend splurging on the larger engine and six-speed manual transmission.
If safety is a priority to you then you’ll also be happy to know that the Mazda 3 has some solid crash test scores as well. Even though you can get one of these new for less than 20k, you’ll still have access to some high-end features and top-notch interior. What a great way to treat yourself and not break the bank.
9. Honda Civic Sport (39 mpg highway)
You can’t talk about fuel efficiency without mentioning the Honda Civic Sport. It’s a hot hatchback and lots of fun to drive. On top of that, it’s our top pick for the best commuter car that isn’t a hybrid or electric. If you opt for a six-speed manual transmission, you’ll see about 39 mpg while driving on the highway.
The turbocharged engines give life to this line of cars while providing a ride quality that balances athleticism and comfort. There are also plenty of safety and technology features that come standard with the new models. The roomy cabin offers more space than you would imagine and the interior comes complete with high-quality materials.
10. BMW i8 (76 mpg)
We broke the rule we set at the beginning of the article, but it just wasn’t possible not to mention this beauty. Of course, at over $140,000 it isn’t an attainable dream by most, but it’s okay to picture yourself driving it. The BMW i8 deserves a lot of recognition because it goes from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.6 seconds. That’s due in part to the turbocharged three-cylinder which comes from the Mini Cooper. This powertrain is aided with two electric motors.
Of course, if you choose to drive your i8 in Sport mode, you’ll only see about 30 mpg, but sometimes you just have to live a little. What’s most exciting about this model is that they now offer a convertible model in the lineup. Think of all the places you could travel with this exquisite car. With this futuristic design, you’ll be sure to turn plenty of heads, if you can afford to.
Worst Commuter Cars
If we’re going to do an article about the best commuter cars, it only seems fair that we tell you about the worst. In picking our top five worst commuter cars, we choose models that are fun to drive and enjoyable. These aren’t vehicles you would expect to buy for fuel economy and aren’t generally considered great for anyone that wants to save some money.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk (13 mpg highway)
Yes, this isn’t technically a car, but it needs to be discussed because it’s an amazing SUV. This 4×4 features a V8 engine that produces 707 horsepower, but it doesn’t care the least about saving you money at the pump. With that said, the Trailhawk is one of the best off-road vehicles. Unless you need to cross mountains and streams to get to your job, it probably won’t make sense as a commuter car.
Dodge Durango SRT (19 mpg highway)
Conserving your fuel isn’t the goal of the Dodge Durango SRT. This SUV cares only about performance and it does a fantastic job. The 6.4-liter HEMI V8 produces 475 horsepower and the engine is happy to drink the fuel up. For those that want to haul lots of kids and gear, this Durango will leave you quite content. It has what you need to hit 60 mph in just 4.7 seconds. You won’t even look like a soccer mom in it with the 20-inch wheels and menacing appeal.
Mercedes-AMG SL65 (16 mpg highway)
Anyone spending more than $200,000 doesn’t need to think about fuel economy and saving money on gasoline. These high-performance roadsters won’t do anything to help you conserve your cash. What it will give you is a memorable ride with the 621 horsepower 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12 engine. When that’s paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission, you can hit 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds. If you have the money to opt for the active suspension, you’ll even achieve some superior handling.
Dodge Challenger SRT (16 mpg highway)
You want to have a horsepower war, then you want a Dodge Challenger SRT. If you have a desire to save money at the gas pump, don’t even think about this car. This muscle car is amazingly powerful with 485 horsepower but you could step it up a notch with the Hellcat Redeye and 797 horsepower. The Hellcat will go from 0 to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds during testing.
BMW M6 Gran Coupe (16 mpg highway)
This four-door coupe comes in an amazing performance version that features a 560-horsepower twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 engine. With the sport-tuned chassis paired with either a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission or six-speed manual transmission. Not only does this car get poor gas mileage, but you aren’t going to comfortably fit adults in the back seat.
Considering you can find low-cost vehicles that are the best commuter cars, it only makes sense to save more money on your daily commute. After all, what’s the point in spending all that time driving to work if you can’t put some money away. With one of our top ten options, you not only save cash on your drive to work, but you’ll also look good along the way. Enjoy your ride in a stylish, comfortable cabin and you might even start to enjoy the long drive each day.
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