How much do you feel you deserve to enjoy every hour? When returning to the office is on the cards, particularly when public transport may still be a source of anxiety, it’s tempting to look at your next used car as something that should be as minimal and cheap as possible – but if you’re spending two or three hours a day in there, by necessity rather than choice, surely you deserve to make the most of it?
Comfort is the name of the game here, and going against years of car-buying habits, we’re going to start by saving you 50% of the effort you make when driving. Yes – it’s time to accept that automatic gearboxes are the easiest win for commuting in towns and cities. When you plan to upgrade your auto – start by looking for an auto.
Why upgrading your commuter car is a good idea
There’s more to life than miles per gallon, but to be fair to car manufacturers, huge strides have been made in efficiency meaning you can get a smooth, comfortable car that returns 40 to 50mpg with ease. If you spend a lot of time stuck in traffic, the automatic gearbox will save stress and discomfort, and the sophistication of stop/start or even hybrid technology will save fuel, emissions and wear & tear on your engine.
Good climate control with cabin filters, automatic wipers, automatic lights – the list of benefits keeps on growing, and yet you don’t need to spend a lot to get this technology.
Outside of cities with ultra-low emissions zones (ULEZ) you can take advantage of older diesel cars no longer compliant – though beware poorly maintained examples. In those cities, you could switch to petrol – where cars met the required limits earlier, and thus can be older – and end up better off if you don’t do many miles.
Of course, older hybrid cars and SUVs offer the best compromise, with modern technology, smooth automatic gearboxes backed up with electric motors, and generally acceptable emissions regardless of age.
Isn’t a smaller car more environmentally responsible?
If you only need it for yourself for commuting, you’d be amazed by how well-equipped and comfortable the Smart Fortwo is for a lone occupant – and it’ll happily sit at motorway speeds as well.
It is limiting though, for carrying family, friends and stuff. Here are some used car upgrades that will make your commute something you can look forward to.
Well, at least on the way home.
Vauxhall Insignia – for dual-carriageways
The Insignia’s efficient engines are motorway-proven, and the large, comfortable car is focused on providing the best driver comfort for the best price. It blends in, but on the highest spec models you’ll feel pampered behind the wheel, without paying for it at the pumps.
Audi A5 Sportback – for the rural run
If your commute is from your village escape to the urban congestion of the nearest – or not so nearest – city then the Audi A5 Sportback is the ideal do-it-all car. Relatively economical in all specifications (yes, even the RS5 can achieve over 30mpg easily) it’s sporty and engaging behind the wheel, but has a large, useful boot behind the back seats. It looks good, too.
Toyota C-HR – a sporty hybrid
Relatively small and easy to park, the Toyota C-HR has a high driving position and driver assistants (on some models) to help take the stress out of traffic jams. As a self-charging hybrid it can return well over 50mpg and is exceptionally smooth in stop-start traffic.
Nissan Leaf – fully-electric
Got a charger at the office? Never mind two pedals – welcome to one-pedal driving. The Leaf’s powerful electric motor and relatively large battery should handle a 40-mile each way commute without a charging point, or 80 miles if you can charge at work or on the way. Zero emission driving isn’t too expensive, either – a used Nissan Leaf, over a couple of years, could cost less than the fuel you put in your old petrol or diesel car.