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Wheels to Work: 5 Great Cars for Commuters

The perfect commuter car is all about efficiency.
A commuter wants a ride that will get them from point A to point B as cheaply and reliably as possible. Most commuters don’t need a great deal of cargo space or passenger space, and sports car levels of power aren’t likely to be a priority either. On the other hand, HOV lane access can be a huge plus on traffic congested freeways during prime commuter hours. Businesses like U Pull & Pay are great for getting the parts you need to enhance your own car’s efficiency, but if you are buying a new car specifically for commuting, there is one rather narrow segment of vehicles that fits the bill for the needs of a commuter car: hybrids and hybrid-electric or pure electric vehicles.

Toyota Prius Prime

The new lineup in the Prius family, the 2017 Prius Prime is notably advertised as the most efficient car in America. It certainly stands out as one of the most efficient Prius models, boasting an even higher mpg than the regular Prius in addition to a variety of extra advantages for commuters and a rather competitive price. This makes the Prius Prime probably the best commuter car in the country.

Unlike the regular Prius, the Prime is set apart by being a plug-in hybrid vehicle with a reasonable 25 or so miles of pure EV range. This number was a carefully chosen target for Toyota. According to their data, about 60 percent of American commuters travel about 25 miles to work. As long as they can plug in at work, they can make their daily commute using basically no gas and can reap the benefits of driving a pure EV without the range anxiety that usually accompanies cars like the Leaf or Bolt.

Even for longer range commutes, however, the Prime is still one of the best choices out there with its regular fuel economy being superior to any other gas-powered car. Factor in tax incentives that reduce the cost to the same or even less than a regular Prius, and it’s a clear winner.


Chevy Volt

The Volt was among the first true plug-in hybrid vehicles to ever hit the mass market, and it has had several important makeovers since its initial debut. The 2017 model of the Volt functions much more like a conventional hybrid than previous models and has improved efficiency after the battery is exhausted.

Overall, the Volt is remarkably similar to the Prius Prime with the exception of being quite a bit less efficient. Its key advantage is that it has about double the battery range compared to the Prime. The downside to this is that the Volt becomes much heavier and much less efficient once under gas power, and it has a price tag several thousand dollars higher. That said, it is still a good buy and may be advantageous to those very unlikely to ever drive beyond the approximately 50-mile range of the battery.


Nissan Leaf

The Nissan Leaf stands out as one of the few affordable pure EVs currently on the market. Pure EV means the car functions entirely on electric power and has a very hard cap on its maximum range. Unlike a plug-in hybrid, which can seamlessly switch over to gas for extended range, the Leaf will require a dozen hours of recharging once its battery has been depleted. This can be a major problem if a driver is not careful to keep the car charged and ensure they have access to a charge port when they need one. However, since commuter cars usually have rather well-defined routes, a Leaf used for commuting is unlikely to ever exceed its full-charge range.

The upside is that as battery costs and efficiency have fallen, the new models of Leaf get decent EV ranges. The 2017 model touts over 100 miles of range assuming all of its many efficiency-enhancing features are used. This is up from the rather paltry 70 miles of range on older models. The environmental advantages included, the Leaf will provide one of the cheapest commuter rides. Just be sure to have a backup car for road trips.


Honda CRZ

The Honda CRZ is a more affordable commuter car than the others in this lineup. Its cost advantage comes due to both its size and its lack of the large and expensive lithium ion batteries in plug-in hybrids and pure EVs. It is less expensive than the standard Prius at the cost of being even more compact, but it is an excellent commuter hybrid with a slick and modern look.

The CRZ functions like a regular hybrid. While it doesn’t have the higher-end advantages of a plug-in, and it doesn’t have quite as much efficiency as a Prius, it still gets a respectable number of MPGs at a very affordable starting cost.


Ford Fusion Energi

The standard Ford Fusion ranked as one of the best cars in all of Ford’s lineup. The Energi is Ford’s effort at turning their prime Sedan into a plug-in hybrid. While it suffers considerably lower efficiency for the same price compared to the Prius Prime, it does have the advantage of being slightly roomier. It also has a more standard and conservative appearance and interior design for those who may be scared away from the ultra-modern leaps made by the Prius. In most other ways, the car functions just like any other plug-in hybrid, able to maximize pure EV driving without the limitations of a pure EV vehicle.


When efficiency and reliability are the name of the game, these five cars are hard to beat. Each one provides excellent fuel efficiency and caters to the particular needs of a commuter.

Views: 60

Tags: chevy, commute, ford, hissan, honda, toyota


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