We often bandy about the term “easy to drive,” but what exactly do we mean? When we talk about ease of driving, we generally mean a car with simple controls, good sightlines, and a lack of confusing technology—one that allows you to operate it with a minimum of distraction. A smaller car that is easy to park certainly helps as well. For the sake of this list, we’ve also added a few vehicles that take complicated motoring tasks and make them simpler to deal with. So let’s take a look at the 10 vehicles we think are among the easiest to drive.
10 of the Easiest Cars to Drive
Photo Credit: General Motors
The phrase “easy to drive” instantly suggests cars like the Chevrolet Spark, a small and inexpensive hatchback that looks like it could fit into your pocket. The Spark’s small size and big windows make it a breeze to drive, especially in crowded urban areas, and its small size means that it’ll fit easily into most parking spots, even next to one of those big SUVs that never seems to fit between the lines. The Spark also features a simple and straightforward interior, with easy-to-read gauges and simple climate controls. It comes with a touch-screen stereo using Chevy’s MyLink interface, which we think is one of the best in the business. Best yet, it’s very inexpensive, which makes it easy to own.
Photo Credit: Volkswagen
A car doesn’t have to be small to be easy to drive. Take, for example, the Volkswagen Passat, a roomy family sedan with a generous back seat and a large trunk. Granted, it won’t fit into the same tiny parking spots as a Chevy Spark, but other than that it has many of the same attributes: Simple and easy-to-use controls, clear gauges, big windows, good sightlines, and a minimum of distracting gee-gaws. The Passat has a quiet, comfortable ride, which eases fatigue on long trips, and good handling that gives the driver confidence should she have to suddenly swerve or brake to avoid trouble. This isn’t the most showy sedan out there, but it is very easy to live with.
Photo Credit: Mazda
Mazda MX-5 Miata
Lest you think that easy-to-drive equates to boring, allow us to present the Mazda MX-5 Miata, a car that perfectly fits our definition of easy-to-drive. The Miata fits like a glove and is so responsive that you can practically think it around corners. It’s small enough to park almost anywhere, and with the top down, visibility couldn’t possibly get any better. Even the convertible top is easy: It’s manually operated, and designed to be opened and closed with a minimum of effort and without leaving the driver’s seat. Just pop the latch, give the top a good shove upwards, and the sky is yours.
Photo Credit: Honda
Driving a pickup truck can be a real pain—they tend to be big, unwieldy, and not the most comfortable vehicles to drive on a bumpy road. The Honda Ridgeline makes life with a truck much easier. Instead of using traditional body-on-frame construction like a typical truck, it’s built like a crossover SUV with unit-body construction. That gives it a smoother ride and more interior space, and makes it easier to park and maneuver. It also has a lockable bed in the trunk, which provides secure storage. Though the Ridgeline doesn’t have the extreme off-road or towing abilities of a fullsize pickup, it does the vast majority of jobs that pickup owners demand from their trucks, and yet it’s just as easy to live with as an SUV.
Photo Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
If the Honda Ridgeline is the easy-to-drive alternative to a full-size pickup, then the Dodge Durango is the easy-to-drive alternative to a fullsize SUV. Let’s say you have a boat or a camper to tow, but your budget doesn’t dictate a dedicated tow vehicle; your best alternative is a fullsize SUV. But like a fullsize pickup, these vehicles can be a real pain to live with on a day-to-day basis. The Durango strikes a nice balance: It has the brawn to tow up to 7,400 lbs—enough for small boats and campers as well as car and horse trailers—and yet it’s tidy enough to fit into smaller parking spots. And the Durango fits our other easy-to-drive criteria, with an easy-to-learn control layout and a straightforward infotainment system.
Photo Credit: Nissan
Here’s another classic easy-to-drive small car with a twist: The Versa is the least expensive new car on the market, which means it’s very easy to afford one. Matter of fact, for the same money as a decent used car, you can probably buy yourself a brand-new Nissan Versa, and have the added advantage of a full factory warranty. The Versa meets our other easy-to-drive criteria as well, with a straightforward control layout, small size, and great visibility, plus it’s a Nissan, which means it’s about as reliable as the sunrise. But unlike some of the smaller cars on this list, the Versa has a generously-sized back seat and trunk—and that makes it one of the easiest family-friendly cars to drive.
Photo Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
Small, easy-to-drive vehicles don’t necessarily have to be cars. Case in point: The new Jeep Renegade. Here’s a vehicle that fulfills most of our easy-to-drive criteria: Small size, easy handling, simple controls (though truth be told, visibility out front could be a wee bit better). It’s easy to park and uncomplicated to operate. It’s also good fun, with cheeky styling inside and out and a playful attitude, and it has an optional all-wheel drive system that makes getting through rough terrain surprisingly easy—just select one of the terrain modes (snow, mud/sand, etc.), then take it slow and let the electronics do the bulk of the work.
Photo Credit: Mercedes-Benz
When it comes to getting through urban traffic, few cars make the job as easy as the smart fortwo. We’ve had the pleasure of piloting the 2-seat Smart car around Manhattan, and no car is easier to maneuver—if you find yourself in the wrong lane, chances are you can squeeze into the gap between the cars next to you. And if you make a wrong turn, the Fortwo will pull a U-turn in a narrow alley. Smart even has a smartphone phone app that will help you find Smart-sized parking spaces—spots that other cars could only fit into if you cut them in half with a blowtorch. If you equate ease of driving with maneuverability, it doesn’t get much easier than the Smart Fortwo.
Photo Credit: Chevrolet
There are buyers out there who would like to own an electric vehicle (EV), but are concerned about range—what happens if they need to drive further than their EV’s battery can take them? The Chevrolet Volt makes the transition easy. Here’s a car that operates for just over 50 miles as a full EV—no gasoline power required at all. And should you need to go farther than that, the Volt has a full-size gasoline engine that fires up and supplies power for the car. You can drive clear across the country if you like, without the need for an EV charger. Speaking of which, the Volt uses a standard Level 2 charger, which makes it compatible for other EVs, and it qualifies for the same $7,500 federal tax credit as other EVs, which means it’s a very affordable way to try out electric driving.
Photo Credit: Land Rover
Off-roading is serious business: It takes robust hardware and good training to get a vehicle to crawl over terrain that would be difficult to walk through… unless, of course, that vehicle is a Range Rover. A sophisticated electronically-controlled 4-wheel-drive system allows the Range Rover to tip-toe over hill and dale (and rocks and mud and streams) pretty much by itself, alternately applying power and brakes to individual wheels to keep itself on the move. We wouldn’t recommend off-roading without some form of instruction, as there is still the potential for damage to limbs and fenders, but if you find yourself in a pinch—or merely a bad snowstorm—the Range Rover makes it easy to get yourself un-stuck.