The term 'commuter car' can be somewhat misleading, as not everyone has exactly the same set of needs to satisfy when getting to and from work. The best commuter cars aren't always the ones that are designed for the short-haul slog through urban traffic - some people need to be able to comfortably soak up a hundred miles as part of their daily routine.
With that in mind, we've put together a diverse list of the 10 best commuter cars that cover the gamut from affordable econo-boxes to full-fledged luxury models. Take a look and see if you agree with our interpretation of what it takes to make a great commuter car.
Best Commuter Cars - 01 - 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid
The 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid is almost a no-brainer on any list of good commuter cars due to its fuel mileage alone. The compact Honda Civic Hybrid sedan is good for an exceptional 44-mpg in stop and go driving and 44-mpg on the highway, which means that whatever your commute looks like you are going to benefit from the automobile's thrifty engineering. The Civic Hybrid's 1.5-liter, gasoline-powered four-cylinder engine teams up with an electric motor in order to deliver 110 total horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque, and a continuously-variable automatic transmission is standard equipment.
Best Commuter Cars - 02 - 2012 Hyundai Sonata
The 2012 Hyundai Sonata is a mid-size, attractively-styled sedan that does a good job on longer hauls of keeping drivers feeling comfy and relaxed. The Hyundai Sonata's 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine makes use of a turbocharger to produce 274 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque, which means there is never a want for acceleration when jockeying for position in traffic. A six-speed automatic transmission, fuel mileage that is rated at 22-mpg city and 34-mpg highway, and the availability of heated leather seats, dual automatic climate control, and a panoramic sunroof round out the Sonata's commuter car appeal.
Best Commuter Cars - 03 - 2012 Toyota Corolla
The 2012 Toyota Corolla makes it onto this list of great commuter cars not due to any new-fangled technologies, or spicy design cues, but rather because it represents affordable, basic transportation. Some commuter cars need to be able to take a lot of abuse without complaint, and the solid, if somewhat pedestrian bones of the Toyota Corolla stand up well to the daily grind. Sold with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission, the compact Corolla sedan delivers 132 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque from a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine. Fuel mileage checks in at 26-mpg around town and 34-mpg highway.
Best Commuter Cars - 04 - 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is a commuter car for anyone who needs upscale comfort and features wrapped in a package that doesn't ding the wallet too much at the pump. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class, when ordered in Luxury trim, comes with a suspension system that coddles passengers, along with dual automatic climate control, a sunroof, and Bluetooth connectivity (useful for taking calls on the way to work). The most efficient version of the C-Class is the C250, which makes use of a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that is matched with a seven-speed automatic. Horsepower (201) and torque (229 lb-ft) are strong, and fuel mileage comes in at 21-mpg city and 31-mpg highway, and all-wheel drive can be ordered as an option.
Best Commuter Cars - 05 - 2012 Ford Taurus
The 2012 Ford Taurus is a big cruiser that is designed to ply America's highways while making sure that its occupants don't arrive at their destination all worn out from battling traffic. The Ford Taurus is a full-size sedan that provides the availability of both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, which is a major plus for commuters who live in snowy northern states. Underneath the hood the Taurus is outfitted with a 263 horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 that also generates 249 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, and fuel mileage for the four-door automobile shows as 18-mpg city and 28-mpg highway.
Best Commuter Cars - 06 - 2012 Honda Fit
The 2012 Honda Fit is a subcompact hatchback that is aimed at commuters with an active lifestyle. If your daily driving needs include the ability to haul around a decent amount of cargo then the Honda Fit has you covered thanks to its ability to swallow up to 57.3 cubic feet of gear with the rear seats folded forward. Drivers will also appreciate the Fit's frugality when it comes to fuel consumption. The hatch's 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine produces 117 horsepower and 106 lb-ft of torque and is rated at 28-mpg city and 35-mpg highway when matched with its optional five-speed automatic transmission. A five-speed manual is also available with the Fit.
Best Commuter Cars - 07 - 2012 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
The 2012 Volkswagen Jetta TDI is another commuter sedan that turns in an admirable performance whether asked to traverse city streets or cover longer distances between one town and another. The Volkswagen Jetta TDI is larger inside than most other compacts in its class, and it also provides a suspension system that turns aside the shocks and insults of broken pavement with surprising ease. The real appeal of the Jetta TDI, however, is its turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel engine. 140 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque are nothing to sneeze at, and when placed alongside the TDI's top notch 30-mpg city and 42-mpg highway fuel efficiency rating, it's easy to see why this version of the Jetta turns so many commuter heads. Transmission choices for the Jetta TDI include a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual and a traditional six-speed manual.
Best Commuter Cars - 08 - 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid
The 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid manages to mix the fuel efficiency of a gasoline / electric vehicle with the spacious confines of one of the most popular mid-size family sedans available. The Toyota Camry Hybrid drives very much like its gas-only cousin, which means that it's an effective commuting weapon in a diverse range of scenarios. 200 horsepower from the vehicle's 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor combo ensures that the Camry Hybrid never feels like a laggard off of the line, even with its automatic start/stop technology. Fuel mileage for the Toyota, which is shifted via a continuously-variable automatic transmission is at an exceptional 43-mpg city and 39-mpg highway.
Best Commuter Cars - 09 - 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco
The 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco isn't just another hybrid commuter car choice - it's a unique take on what an electric motor can bring to the fuel efficiency equation. The Chevrolet Malibu Eco is just as big inside as the standard model, but it packs a small electric motor that is used in conjunction with its 2.4-liter, four-cylinder mill to produce 182 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque. Even with the lack of an all-electric mode, the Malibu Eco provides fuel mileage of 25-mpg city and 37-mpg highway at a very reasonable price point. A six-speed automatic transmission is retained, which helps the mid-size sedan feel very much like a 'normal' car from behind the wheel.
Best Commuter Cars - 10 - 2013 Nissan Altima
The 2013 Nissan Altima is one of the very latest mid-size sedans to hit the market, and it offers handling that is a cut above most of its competitors - which can be a bonus when the road opens up on the way home from work. Even when you are stuck in heavy traffic, the Nissan Altima impresses with available features such as HID headlights, heated power seats, and a lane-departure system that can keep drivers safe even when their minds are still back at the office. Power plants offered with the Altima include a 182 horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder and a 3.5-liter V-6 that generates 270 horsepower and 251 lb-ft of torque. Continuously-variable automatic transmissions are standard for each motor, and fuel mileage for the four-cylinder is rated at 27-mpg city and 38-mpg highway.