(LOS ANGELES, March 23, 2010) – The Automobile Club of Southern California and AAA released its top vehicle picks for commuters today. Long commutes have become an increasingly common daily activity for many Americans, and having the right vehicle for those long drives is key not only to saving money and being environmentally-friendly, but also staying safe and comfortable during many hours on the road.
The average motorist spends about 41 minutes a day traveling about 22.5 miles roundtrip to/from work in personal vehicles, according to the National Household Travel Survey.
The AAA’s team of experts, who test drove and reviewed hundreds of vehicles, has compiled a list of the top vehicle picks for commuters based on practicality, safety, comfort, fuel efficiency and affordability. The Auto Club’s Car Buying Service online research tool is a resource for those in the market for another car or truck.
Southern California car owners also have a new green tool to help them become more knowledgeable about low-polluting cars with the Green Car Guide, just-published by the Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center (ARC). At least six vehicles in the green car report are on the AAA list of top commuter vehicles, including the Ford Fusion and Honda Insight.
The Auto Club Green Car Guide tries to help drivers with selecting a vehicle that is fuel-efficient and low-polluting. It also provides real-world evaluation of 46 green vehicles, including hybrids, low-emission conventional vehicles (PZEVs), clean diesels, natural gas-fueled vehicles and fuel-efficient non-hybrids.
AAA’s Top Picks for Commuter Vehicles
- 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. Both models are PZEV’s.
- 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 and is a PZEV to boot. 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, PZEV emissions 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 are certified as PZEV’s, 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 (although it uses more expensive premium). 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, unexcelled 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.