When it comes to driving to work, a comfortable commute can go a long way toward having a productive, satisfying workday.On average, Americans spend more than 25 minutes getting to their jobs, according to the Census Bureau.
Add the amount of time it takes to drive home, and it means about an hour stuck in traffic daily.
It may be impossible to eliminate gridlock, but being in the right car can help make a commute easier.
The best cars to handle the drive to work should have good fuel economy, be able to navigate stop-and-go traffic effectively, and be comfortable for all occupants.
Here are Bankrate’s top eight picks for the best cars for commuting, including their manufacturer’s suggested retail price.
This story was originally published by Bankrate.
Starting MSRP: $18,950
Engine specs: 1.5 litres, four cylinders
Gas mileage: City -- 53 mpg, Highway -- 46 mpg
Standard parts of the system include vehicle stability control, traction control, an antilock brake system, brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, which help keep the car stable when the driver uses the brakes.
This popular hybrid has one of the best estimated fuel economies of the entire list, and it has many safety features that are important to have in cars for commuting.
The features, part of what Toyota calls its Star Safety System, helped the Prius c model earn a 2012 Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The Prius also comes equipped with an AM/FM CD player that has MP3 playback capability and four speakers, so riders can comfortably listen to their favourite audiobook or song on the way to the office.
Advanced Prius c models also have an option to install the Entune information system, which provides real-time data on traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports and stocks.
The system includes the Bing search browser and Pandora Internet radio. It is a subscription-based service that's complimentary for three years.
Starting MSRP: $16,815
Engine specs: 1.8 litres, four cylinders
Gas mileage: City -- 28 mpg, Highway -- 38 mpg
This vehicle has a low MSRP as one of the top cars for commuting.
The above-average fuel economy and attractive price help workers who want to buy a car that gets them to work but still allows them to have money left over to put in their 401(k) retirement plans.
The roomy Elantra has 40 inches of front-seat interior headroom and an adjustable driver seat.
For those drivers who need to hear their favourite song before the start of the workday, the vehicle has a 172-watt six-speaker AM/FM radio, CD and MP3 audio system.
The Elantra also earned a 2012 Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS, based on the latest test scores available.
To earn the honours, Elantra had good performance in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and rear tests.
Hyundai backs their new vehicles with a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty and a five-year, 24-hour roadside-assistance service.
Starting MSRP: $16,700
Engine specs: 2 litres, four cylinders
Gas mileage: City --25 mpg, Highway -- 33 mpg
The Mazda3 has a sound system that includes 10 speakers, Bluetooth, CD/MP3 and USB connectivity on top models. The vehicle comes in seven colours.
The sleek but affordable Mazda3 is a highway fuel-sipper with technology dubbed Skyactiv-G, which enables the vehicle to reach as much as a 40 mpg threshold for highway fuel economy on one model of the Mazda3.
According to Mazda, new advances in the design of the transmission helped improve fuel efficiency by 4 per cent to 7 per cent.
The sedan also earned 2012 Top Safety Pick honours from IIHS, using the most recent test scores.
Advanced safety features include front and front-side-impact air bags, side-impact air curtains, an antilock brake system and traction control system.
Starting MSRP: $27,200
Engine specs: 2 litres, four cylinders
Gas mileage: City -- 47 mpg, Highway -- 47 mpg
The sedan earned 2012 IIHS Top Safety Pick honours, and it includes features such as front and side air bags, first- and second-row side air curtains, and driver and front passenger knee air bags.
The Fusion's Atkinson-Cycle I-4 engine option offers great fuel economy for highway and city driving, so commuters can make fewer trips to the gas station.
The 1.6-liter I-4 EcoBoost engine option offers a respectable 25 mpg city and 37 mpg highway with a manual transmission, while a 16-valve engine option gets 22 mpg city and 34 mpg highway.
Eco-conscious occupants may also appreciate the standard cloth seats in the Fusion Hybrid. They feature fibre that uses 100 per cent recyclable materials.
City drivers who have a Fusion with the EcoBoost engine also can take advantage of an auto start-stop option to save fuel money and reduce emissions.
When the vehicle comes to a stop, the engine automatically shuts off. As soon as the driver releases the brake pedal, the engine restarts.
Starting MSRP: $27,270
Engine specs: 2 litres, four cylinders
Gas mileage: City -- 30 mpg, Highway -- 42 mpg (TDI model)
The Audi A3 with a diesel engine has exceptional fuel economy, an important feature for a car for commuting.
The leather seats also help make for a comfortable ride to the office.
The A3 is another 2012 IIHS Top Safety Pick, and includes standards such as front dual-stage air bags, and thorax side air bags for front and rear passengers.
It also has a safety unlock feature if the air bags deploy.
For commuters driving in less-than-optimal conditions, the A3 has antilock brakes with electronic brake-pressure distribution and brake assist.
The sporty A3 comes in nine colours and features a 10-speaker sound system and MP3-compatible CD player.
Starting MSRP: $21,700
Engine specs: 2.5 litres, four cylinders
Gas mileage: City -- 27 mpg, Highway -- 38 mpg
The sedan also comes standard with a hands-free Bluetooth phone system, which is activated by controls that are located on the steering wheel.
Consumer Reports recently praised Altima by placing it on its list of cars with the best brakes -- important features for any commuter in bumper-to-bumper traffic during rush hour.
To help keep the car steady when the brakes are applied, the Altima comes standard with four-wheel antilock brakes and electronic brake-force distribution.
The Altima boasts a roomy interior, with rear seats that fold completely flat and provide ample room for clients' golf clubs or briefcases.
The vehicle comes in eight different colours.
Starting MSRP: $22,695
Engine specs: 2.4 litres, four cylinders
Gas mileage: City -- 23 mpg, Highway -- 31 mpg
The CR-V earned 2012 IIHS Top Safety Pick honours, based on the latest year available for testing.
Safety features include front and side air bags, side curtain air bags with rollover sensor, and a seat belt reminder, which is perfect for prompting carpool passengers to buckle up for a safe ride.
The CR-V also comes standard with daytime running lights, antilock brakes and a vehicle stability assist system with traction control.
The rear seat of the CR-V has a 60/40 split, meaning the left, right or both sides can be folded down to provide more space.
The roomy folding cargo area provides 37.2 cubic feet of space when the rear seat is up and 70.9 cubic feet of space when it's down.
Engine specs:1.4 litres, four cylinders
Gas mileage: City -- 101 mpg equivalent**, Highway -- 93 mpg equivalent**
The hybrid is also an IIHS Top Safety Pick for 2012. Safety features include eight air bags.
Volt technology includes a lithium-ion battery with rechargeable energy storage system and Voltec electric drive system, as well as a 1.4-liter gasoline-powered engine.
As a result, the car has total range of 380 miles, while the eco-conscious hybrid can drive up to 38 miles on its battery without using gas.
For local commuters, this could mean being able to drive to work without the need to make extra stops to fuel up.
Even with the federal tax credit, the MSRP is pricey when compared to other top commuter cars.
Still, the Volt currently qualifies for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500, offered for purchasing select plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles, or PHEVs.
This would effectively lower the starting price to $31,645. For more information on this credit and how long it may last, visit FuelEconomy.gov.
*Starting MSRP before a tax credit is applied
**Miles per gallon equivalent
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