Choosing a practical vehicle involves tough choices. While beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, practicality has its focus more linked to the wallet. Comfort is essential, but efficiency tends to take precedence over luxury, and form follows function. Our list of most practical vehicles runs the gamut from compact sedans and hatchbacks through comfortable cruisers and workhorse trucks. Although some folks may notice that this Autobytel list of 10 practical cars is light on SUVs and crossovers, these vehicles tend to be less fuel efficient and a good bit more expensive.
10 of the Most Practical Cars
Photo Credit: Toyota
The Toyota Corolla is our choice as the most practical compact sedan for 2017 thanks to its safety technology, roomy interior, and proven reliability. The Corolla includes Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) technology as a standard equipment on every trim level for 2017. Features like adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert (with steering assist), automatic high beams, and a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection may be optional on other vehicles, but they’re included with every 2017 Corolla. The Corolla is one of the roomiest small cars on the market. Its rear seat is one of its best attributes, with 37.1 inches of head room, 41.4 inches of leg room, and 54.8 inches of shoulder room.
Photo Credit: Honda
Honda Civic Hatchback
The Honda Civic Hatchback gets the nod as the most practical 5-door hatchback of 2017. With a sleek fastback-like design, the Civic hatch provides a roomy back seat, ample cargo space, and plenty of style. The 1.5-liter turbocharged engine delivers 180 horsepower in Sport trim, and a 6-speed manual transmission is offered in the base LX and Sport models. This is the new bargain hot hatch. The back seat provides 37.4 inches of headroom and 36 inches of legroom. There’s 25.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat and 46.2 cubic feet with the rear seat folded down. This new Honda is efficient, too; the base LX is rated by the EPA at 30 mpg city/39 mpg highway (with the 6-speed manual).
Photo Credit: General Motors
The Chevrolet Bolt is our hands-down choice for the most practical full-electric vehicle (EV) of 2017. It’s the first mass-produced mainstream EV to achieve over 200 miles of range on a full charge and is the recipient of the coveted 2017 North American Car of the Year Award. The Bolt’s 60-kWh battery pack is covered by a 100,000 mile/8-year warranty. DC Fast Charging adds up to 90 miles of range in approximately 90 minutes, while Level II charging provides up to 25 miles of range for every hour the Bolt is plugged into the charger, up to the maximum range of 238 miles. Chevy’s perky little EV is quick, too, hitting 60 mph in just 6.5 seconds.
Photo Credit: Subaru
The Subaru Forester earns our pick as the most practical small SUV for 2017, due to its standard all-wheel drive (AWD), strong residual values, and excellent safety ratings. While other small SUVs may lure you in with low prices for the front-wheel-drive base models, AWD always adds to the bottom line. Subarus tend to hold their value quite well, so when it comes to trade in on a new vehicle, you’ll be able to recoup more of your initial outlay. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the 2017 Subaru Forester a Top Safety Pick+ when fully equipped. The Forester 2.5i is rated by the EPA at 22 mpg city/29 mpg highway with a manual transmission and 26/32 with the continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Photo Credit: Chevrolet
The 2017 Chevrolet Colorado lands a spot on our list of most practical vehicles as the most fuel-efficient midsize pickup truck. The Colorado is rated by the EPA at 22 mpg city/30 mpg when equipped with the 2.8-liter Duramax turbodiesel engine and rear-wheel drive. The 4-wheel-drive Duramax Colorado is rated at an equally impressive 20/28. With 269 lb.-ft. of torque on tap and a maximum towing rating of 7700 pounds, the Colorado diesel is built for the long haul. The infotainment system provides Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Optional 4G LTE Wi-Fi keeps the entire crew online, whether you’re headed for hills or the jobsite.
Photo Credit: General Motors
The Buick LaCrosse is a big comfy cruiser, well suited to families and golfers. As such, it's our choice as the most practical fullsize sedan of 2017. The direct-injected 3.6-liter V6 engine pumps out 310 horsepower. It includes a stop/start system for improved fuel economy in town, and cylinder deactivation for extra efficiency on the open road. The 2017 LaCrosse is rated by the EPA at 21 mpg city/31 mpg highway with front-wheel drive, and 20/29 with all-wheel drive. The spacious rear seat provides 37.2 inches of headroom and 40 inches of legroom. With 15 cubic feet of storage capacity, the trunk has plenty of room for your clubs, and the rear seat folds down with convenient trunk-mounted releases.
Photo Credit: Kia
The boxy little Kia Soul defies description, with a roomy interior designed to accommodate four fullsize adults in a vehicle with a compact footprint. Whether you describe this Kia as a compact crossover or a 5-door hatch, it surely earns a spot on our list of most practical vehicles. The base Soul provides an affordable point of entry, while the new top-of-the-line Turbo Soul is fitted with a spunky 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that cranks out 201 horsepower and has an EPA rating of 26 mpg city/31 mpg highway. The Soul is also available in a fully electric version that supports Level I, Level II, and DC Fast charging and has a 93-mile range.
Photo Credit: Hyundai
Choosing the most practical hybrid was tough. While the Toyota Prius has endured as the hybrid sales and fuel efficiency king for years, there’s a new kid in town: the Hyundai Ioniq. This Hyundai tops the EPA’s fuel economy charts in 2017, with the new Ioniq Blue earning a remarkable 57 mpg city/59 mpg highway/58 mpg combined rating, squeaking past the Toyota Prius Eco at 58/53/56. The Ioniq will also be available as a fully electric vehicle and a plug-in hybrid. The Ioniq’s sleek 5-door hatchback design is packed with aerodynamic features that help to achieve a 0.24 coefficient of drag while maintaining plenty of cargo space. The 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Photo Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
The Chrysler Pacifica earns its place on our list of most practical vehicles for 2017 as the most modern minivan on the market. The Pacifica seats up to seven in comfort and is available with a conventional or plug-in hybrid drivetrain. The conventional model is rated by the EPA at 18 mpg city/28 mpg highway, while the Pacifica Hybrid is rated at 84 highway MPGe, with an electric driving range of 33 miles and a total driving range of 566 miles. The plug-in hybrid’s battery can be recharged in as little as two hours with a Level 2 charger. The accolades continue to roll in for the new Pacifica; its most recent honor is being named the 2017 North American Utility Vehicle of the Year.
Photo Credit: Ford
Ford Transit Connect
The Ford Transit Connect XLT is a compact van with a big heart. Available in both cargo and passenger variants and with two wheelbases, the Transit Connect earns a spot in our list of most practical vehicles thanks to its extreme versatility. An 18.1-foot turning radius allows the Transit Connect to tackle the tight spots and the dual sliding side cargo doors provide easy access to the cargo (or seating) area from either side. There's a whopping 124.3 cubic feet of cargo room behind the bucket seats of the short-wheelbase van, and 149 in the long-wheelbase Transit Connect. The 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine produces 197 horsepower on 93-octane gasoline, and returns respectable EPA ratings of 22 mpg city/29 mpg highway. The base engine, a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, isn't quite as thrifty, with EPA ratings of 20/27.