Best cars for commuting in the UK

More and more people are driving to work but not all of them have the best car for the job: these are the best cars for commuting in the UK

Joe Holding
Sep 28, 2021

The world has changed dramatically over the past year. Many of us still work from home, and many of us are wondering whether we will ever need to commute regularly again.

But, there are still millions of others who have to travel to get to work - among them countless key workers. If you're one of them, commuting by car may now be your preferred option, if you'd rather avoid the bustle of public transport.

And that's understandable, even as it feels like the worst of the pandemic is behind us, sitting on a busy train might still feel like an unnecessary risk. At least in your own vehicle you can keep yourself to yourself and be under control of your own situation. If that's the case, you might be looking for a reliable and comfortable car for commuting.

So, what are the best cars for commuting in the UK? If you live in an urban area and you don’t have far to travel, chances are that you’ll want something fairly small, with good fuel economy and a comfy, well-equipped interior. If you’re going to spend several hours a week behind the wheel, you’ll probably want something with a touch of luxury about it. You can check out our recommendations for the best cars for longer commutes here.

Either way, you don’t need to break the bank to find the perfect car for commuting with BuyaCar. Find the right car for you from the comfort of your sofa, order online and your next car can be delivered straight to your door.

Best cars for UK commuters

1. BMW i3

Used deals from £17,990
Monthly finance from £274*

The electric BMW i3 is hands down one of the best commuter cars in the UK. Why? Well for a start its small proportions make it great to drive, as well as easy to guide through city streets. The 170hp electric motor means it’s quick too - especially when accelerating up to 30mph - as its electric motor provides instant power - so diving into gaps in traffic won’t be a problem.

Then there’s the interior: BMW refers to the inside of the i3 as an ‘interior world’, with a variety of stylish design themes made from sustainable materials. The dashboard is extremely clean in design and uncluttered, with a number of wood options - including unusual finishes like eucalyptus - making the i3 a calming place to tick through the miles. Just what you need after a long day at work.

Then there are the running costs. Charging the latest i3 fully at home should cost around £6, perhaps even less if you take advantage of lower tariffs overnight. That’ll give you some 160 miles of driving range, making it much cheaper to run than a petrol or diesel car. And you can have the peace of mind of leaving home with a full 'tank' every morning if you can plug in at home.

On BuyaCar, 2020 models are starting to appear for less than £30,000, although older examples can be found for half that money. Just be aware that some older models offer lower range per charge figures, so it's important to understand what range figure is offered by the specific car you're considering - while ‘Range Extender’ variants have an onboard petrol generator, too, which can kick in to boost range if the batteries run out of charge.

BMW I3 BUYERS’ GUIDE

2. Ford Focus

Used deals from £7,400
Monthly finance from £156*

There are three things you can rely on in life; death, taxes and the Ford Focus. The hatchback has been the most popular car of this type in the UK for years, trusted by generations to be all the car they ever need.

The Focus ticks a lot of boxes; it’s very practical, large enough for a small family, it handles corners very well and offers the prospect of good fuel economy. There are a variety of petrol and diesel engines to choose from, while essentials like air-conditioning and a number of airbags all come as standard.

A new-generation Focus arrived in 2018, introducing ‘mild hybrid’ technology for improved fuel economy. You can get these on BuyaCar for less than £20,000. If your budget is lower, however, a five-year-old petrol with a punchy turbocharged 'EcoBoost' petrol engine will set you back around £7,000.

FORD FOCUS BUYERS’ GUIDE

3. Nissan Juke

Used deals from £7,448
Monthly finance from £155*

There’s no ignoring the high-riding SUV craze. So called 'sports utility vehicles' - which offer a boxy shape and high driving position - have sold in huge numbers since they started gaining traction in the UK over the last decade or two. And among the first to capitalise on this popularity was the Nissan Juke.

The Juke's real selling point, though, is not its shape or height, but its unique looks, which really make it stand out. The styling makes it look like something of an off-roader, while the high driving position means you have a good view of the road ahead. You get a lot of kit, too, with climate control, Bluetooth connectivity and a touchscreen media system available depending on the trim level.

A new Juke arrived in 2019, pushing prices down for the previous-generation car. That means that the youngest of the original model should cost no more than £13,000 on BuyaCar. We'd recommended looking for one with a 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine or a diesel, as this will give you the best combination of acceleration and efficiency. You may still be tempted by low-mileage examples of the latest model, however, as they can be found from under £17,000, with that starting price likely to drop lower and lower as the months go on.

NISSAN JUKE BUYERS’ GUIDE

4. Volkswagen Up

Used deals from £5,000
Monthly finance from £118*

For a commute through a city, there are few better options out there than one of the very best recent city cars - the Volkswagen Up. The little VW has been with us since 2012, getting the basics right and then adding a whole range of more desirable elements - such as style, a high-quality feel and a fun drive. As one of the more spacious cars in its class, the Up will seat four adults with no issue, while the 251-litre boot offers more space than most rivals can manage.

Models with a 1.0-litre turbocharged engine will zip around town with ease, although the Up is a little out of its comfort zone at motorway speeds. For those after some extra performance there’s a GTI version, which ups power to 115hp - a decent amount for a car of this size and weight. As a result, the GTI accelerates from 0-62mph in 8.8 seconds, much faster than any other Up.

There’s also an electric version that’s recently been updated: 2020 examples of these offer some 160 miles of range and the kind of low running costs provided by all electric cars, though older versions with a lower range are available for a reduced purchase price.

VOLKSWAGEN UP BUYERS’ GUIDE

5. Citroen C3

Used deals from £5,495
Monthly finance from £125*

If comfort is your main priority from a car, then look no further than Citroen C3. Ride quality has been Citroen's main selling point over the last few years, with softer suspension setups than most other manufacturers tend to go for. This means that Citroens soak up bumps in the road very well, which is very handy given the UK’s ample supply of potholes. That's why another Citroen appears on our roundup of the best cars for potholed roads.

The C3 hatchback epitomises this approach, although the downside is that it will lean quite a lot going round corners at speed. This isn’t a huge issue on a typical commute though, and the smooth ride - coupled with Citroen’s distinctive take on interior design - should make for relaxing journeys to and from work.

If you have a fair bit of distance to cover, the BlueHDi diesel engines get close to 60mpg, which is about as good as it gets. You’ll want to avoid over working the diesel engines however, as they can get quite noisy with heavy acceleration. Three-year-old diesels are available on BuyaCar for around half of the original price - well under £10,000 is enough to find a decent used model.

CITROEN C3 BUYERS’ GUIDE

6. Hyundai Ioniq

Used deals from £15,600
Monthly finance from £268*

The Hyundai Ioniq isn’t a very exciting car to drive; in fact, it’s not exciting at all. However, for a while now it has held the title as the most affordable plug-in hybrid vehicle on sale today, though, making it the cheapest route to plug-in driving. All you have to do is make sure you plug it in regularly to get the most of the electric motor.

Plug-in hybrid versions of the Ioniq (there are non-plug-in hybrid and electric models too), have both an electric motor and a conventional engine. The former runs off a battery that you charge by plugging the car in, which is capable of 20-30 miles of ‘fuel-free’ driving. If your commute is less than that you’ll save a fortune on petrol - provided you charge at home every day - and even if you need to revert to using the engine you could still see upwards of 80mpg.

Entry-level SE models come with a five-inch touchscreen media system, while the higher Premium and Premium SE trims add a larger eight-inch screen. These are easier to use on the road and add Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which allow you to use various features on your smartphone on the move. Ioniqs that are a couple of years old are available from around £16,000 on BuyaCar. If that seems steep, be sure to factor in the potential savings in running costs - provided you're likely to charge the car regularly, that is.

HYUNDAI IONIQ BUYERS’ GUIDE

7. Toyota Corolla

Used deals from £15,950
Monthly finance from £239*

The Toyota Corolla is another hybrid (there’s a non-hybrid option, admittedly), although its small battery is charged by the engine to help boost efficiency as opposed to offering any meaningful electric-only range, as is the case with the plug-in Hyundai above. The system works too, with the 1.8-litre variant hitting 65mpg on paper.

As well as being hybrid, the Corolla jumps on another trend we’re seeing more of these days; an automatic gearbox. The system used by Toyota isn’t as slow to react as some we’ve seen from other brands, and it removes the hassle of having to change gear manually. If you find yourself in traffic a lot of the time, this could make your commute far less strenuous.

This version of the Corolla only arrived in 2019, although we’re already seeing lots of used models appear on BuyaCar for less than £20,000. There’s an estate version of the Corolla too, offering a lot more space if you’re prepared to spend extra.

TOYOTA COROLLA BUYERS’ GUIDE

8. Renault Zoe

Used deals from £11,799
Monthly finance from £235*

If you’re tempted to go electric but you don’t want to spend BMW i3 money, the Renault Zoe is a great budget alternative. It sacrifices the upmarket interior and eye-catching looks for a much more conventional package, giving you a useful amount of electric driving range for a relatively low outlay.

The newest versions of the Zoe contain a 52kWh battery that’ll do some 245 miles on a single charge. The mid- and top-spec trim levels are nicely equipped too, with Iconic cars getting cruise control, rear parking sensors and climate control on top of the automatic headlights and wipers that are standard on the entry-level Play versions. These 2020-on models are starting to appear on BuyaCar in increasing numbers, with prices tumbling quickly as this recently launched car gets older.

Older versions - with a smaller battery and official range of 186 miles - can be found for £10,000-£12,000, and while these cars are noticeably less capable, this won’t matter if you have a short commute. And if you can charge up easily at home, that only adds to the convenience. A claimed range of 186 miles is still pretty strong compared with a number of new electric cars anyway, and more than enough for a large proportion of drivers.

RENAULT ZOE BUYERS’ GUIDE

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta Titanium:

Monthly payments over 48 months: £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage allowance: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

Buyacar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

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