Being that I work from home and review cars for a living, you might assume that I know nothing about the needs and wants of your average commuter. Although I readily admit that I try my hardest to avoid traffic jams when I am road testing cars, I do also have a long work history that involved offices, dress codes, having to shave in the morning and worst of an all-along drive to the workplace.
I used to work for Ford as a Service Advisor and drove a GTI to and from work, but as I was screamed at all day every day, I found myself longing for a serene commuting tool. I settled on a VW Passat sedan (this was back when Ford equaled recalls not quality) and found myself feeling far more relaxed on the way to and from work. I kept that car for 8 years, and it served me well until I stopped commuting. Well, I do still have to walk from my bedroom to my computer in the morning, but that is neither here nor there.
So each time I get behind the wheel of a new car each week I make sure to take long freeway drives to ensure that each vehicle I recommend is not just fuel efficient but also comfortable, quiet, feels stable at all levels of freeway forward motion and that the interior is a nice place to spend time.
Do you know that the average American spends 100 hours a year in the car driving to and from work, right? So why are you sitting in a rattletrap with smelly old Big Mac wrappers under the passenger seat? It’s time for a new car, dear commuter. You work hard. You deserve it. Just think of those 100 hours.
2011 VW Golf TDI/Jetta TDI
In a road test last year I averaged nearly 41 miles per gallon in a TDI diesel equipped Golf hatchback, so this is a terrific way to save money on gasoline. Or diesel as the case may be. The Golf may have a more upscale feeling interior than the new Jetta, but it is also more expensive, so there are trade-offs to picking either a trunk or a hatchback.
All TDI Golfs and Jettas are fun to drive, affordable, come equipped with surprisingly powerful 140 horsepower/236 lb. feet of torque diesel motors and are very low in carbon dioxide emissions. Six-speed DSG double clutch automatic transmissions are optional, but the meaty and precise six-speed manual makes taking side streets to work a more pleasurable proposition.
2011 Toyota Prius
There is a reason why you see so many Prius hybrids on the freeways in Southern California, and it has nothing to do with Cameron Diaz owning one. This hybrid is like a Zen isolation chamber amidst a sea of tumult and crazed driving. I spent six and a half hours in traffic on LA’s 405 freeway in a 2010 Prius, and I felt oddly calm the whole time. I am impatient by nature, so this fact was nothing short of miraculous. Great mileage is just the icing.
2011 Honda CR-Z
If you commute alone, why do you need anything else? The CR-Z is nimble and can squeeze into holes in traffic other cars or SUVs wouldn’t notice. But the amazing thing is how stable, planted and immune to cross winds that this two passenger hybrid sport coupe is on the freeway. Interior noise levels are low, I averaged 34 miles per gallon in one recently during a week of testing, and it looks cool. The cargo hold also holds a surprising amount of “stuff.”
2011 Subaru Legacy 2.5i
Does it snow where you live? Well, you can’t find many snow cars more frugal than the Legacy 2.5i with the surprisingly capable CVT automatic transmission (23 city/31 highway). There is enough power to keep up when the traffic starts moving but what you’ll love most about the Subaru is the spaciousness, the simplicity of its design and how secure you feel on the road.
2011 Kia Optima
Simply the best family car interior on the market today and even when fully loaded with every whiz-bang option, it remains a bargain. Highway mileage in the mid-thirties is promised, but high 20’s are more realistic. No matter, if I were in the market for a family sedan that doubles as my commuter, I would go with the 2011 Kia Optima.