The easiest cars to drive

Want to take the stress out of driving? The right car will help you relax whether you're crawling along the M25 or on a festival road trip

John Evans
Mar 18, 2020

Thanks to power steering - and driving modes that can make the steering super-light in many cars - increasing availability of automatic gearboxes, responsive engines and features including sat-nav, cars have never been easier to drive. Even so, some cars are better than others and modern cars don't get easier to drive than the cars below.

Increasingly, cars feature cameras that can read the road ahead, sensors that detect objects around the vehicle and systems that support the driver in near-autonomous way, meaning that many models can safely keep you in your lane and automatically maintain a safe distance behind the car in front, even if it stops or speeds up. We've rounded up the most stress-free cars to drive, so that all you have to do is get in, adjust the seat and go.

The emergence of electric cars has helped fuel this revolution, since fully electric cars have no gears to worry about and many slow quickly when you lift off the throttle - adding charge back into the batteries - meaning that in most circumstances you can drive the car using just one pedal. It's not just plug-in models that can be super-simple to drive, though. Modern petrol and diesel models are becoming easier and easier to drive.

All that said, some things that make cars easy to drive never change – such as good visibility, direct steering and controls that are intelligently placed and easy to use. These things matter and, fortunately, most car makers haven’t forgotten them in the rush to go techno. Keep reading for our roundup of the most simple cars to drive.

The easiest cars to drive

1. Nissan Qashqai

Our pick Nissan Qashqai Tekna DiG-T 160 DCT
Used deals from £5,890
Monthly finance from £118

The Nissan Qashqai features many of the basic features that make a car easy to drive including a raised driving position that provides good visibility, responsive engines and a new generation of improved, automatic transmissions that Nissan calls DCT. On top of these, it’s comfortable and good to drive.

For some years, mid-spec trims have featured a suite of excellent driver aids including a 360-degree around view monitor, a rearview camera, rear cross traffic alert and lane keeping assist. These not help you to see around the car when parking, but keep an eye out for cars around you when manoeuvring, to help you stay safe.

In 2019, though, Nissan went further by offering 'ProPilot' on DCT versions of some models. This is a semi-autonomous driver assistance system that assists with steering, accelerating and braking, and which automatically positions the car a safe distance from the vehicle in front.

2. Jaguar I-Pace

Our pick Jaguar I-Pace EV400 SE
Used deals from £49,500
Monthly finance from £673

Launched in 2018, there are already good numbers of I-Pace models, Jaguar’s luxury electric car, available used. That’s good because it brings the price of this superb car within reach for more people.

Waiting for them is a modern machine brimming with features designed to make driving easier. They include a head-up display conveying key information on the windscreen so you don't have to take your eyes away from the road, and an interactive driver display that can show this same info plus, for example, a sat-nav map display.

Driver assist features include an adaptive speed limiter that can automatically slow the car to the prevailing limit, a rear-view camera with guide lines showing where you'll end up as you reverse and lane keep assist that keeps the vehicle on the straight and narrow.

3. Nissan Leaf

Our pick Nissan Leaf 40kWh Acenta
Used deals from £7,950
Monthly finance from £155

Like the Jaguar I-Pace, the Nissan Leaf is another electric car that showcases many new driver convenience systems. Chief among them on the Leaf is the e-Pedal, a kind of brake and accelerator in one. Select this mode via a button on the dashboard, and this works by providing a greater 'regenerative braking' effect when you lift off the accelerator.

This process captures energy that would otherwise be wasted when braking - using it to add charge to the battery - and means that you can accelerate by using more pressure on the throttle, maintain a steady speed with gentle pressure on the pedal and slow down relatively quickly by lifting off the pedal completely.

Take your foot off the accelerator and the car slows down quickly - far quicker than if you simply took your foot off the pedal in a petrol or diesel car. It’s not as pronounced as using the brake pedal - and if you need to stop suddenly, you should still use the brakes - but in most circumstances it slows the car well enough that lifting off the accelerator is all you need to do to pull up safely.

4. Ford Focus

Our pick Ford Focus 1.0 125 Zetec Nav
Used deals from £5,390
Monthly finance from £109

Ford has brought much of the latest technology for making driving easier to more people in the shape of the current Ford Focus. Among its more notable features are Ford Easy Fuel which prevents putting the wrong fuel in, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and something called intelligent speed assist (ISA), which keeps an eye out for changing speed limits.

As cities become more congested and speed limits fall, these kinds of autonomous driving assistance are going to prove very popular to help reduce the stress of looking out for changing speed limits and speed cameras, meaning you can keep your eyes on the road and what’s around you. The ISA system uses a camera to detect speed limits and override the accelerator to bring the vehicle speed down. Some people say it smacks of big brother but it could potentially save lives and licences.

The fact that all of this cutting edge technology is available on such an affordable family car makes the Ford Focus a tempting option for anyone seeking the easy life on the road.

5. Volkswagen Up

Our pick VW Up 1.0 High Up
Used deals from £4,200
Monthly finance from £86

For many people, the fact that the VW Up is small, nippy and easy to see out of marks it out as an easy-to-drive car. However, a few choice options make it easier still. They include rear parking sensors and a reversing camera, yours for £570. Of if you’re buying used, be sure to check if the car you’re interested in has them fitted.

With light controls and an easy to use clutch and manual gearbox, the Up is a very relaxing city car to drive. Unlike many city cars, however, it's perfectly capable on faster roads and motorways.

The good thing about these compact city cars is that they tend not to be over-complicated with computerised systems and technology. You get a steering wheel, a clutch pedal and a gear stick to drive the car, and you'll normally have to turn the key to get the engine started too. Sometimes it's the simple things that count.

6. Volvo XC90

Our pick Volvo XC90 2.0 D5 Momentum
Used deals from £24,074
Monthly finance from £340

Here’s another high-riding SUV that is easy to drive thanks to its raised seating position. However, there’s more to the XC90 than just a good view out. For one thing, every model in the range has a suite of safety systems that Volvo calls IntelliSafe.

It includes things found on other vehicles such as autonomous emergency braking, distance alert should you get too close to the vehicle in front and even so-called run-off road mitigation, that safely slows the car if you were to skid off the road.

However, it also has Pilot Assist, a semi-autonomous system that takes the stress out of driving in heavy traffic by offering gentle steering support and speed control. It works in moving as well as stop-start traffic. It also uses the sat-nav to adjust the vehicle’s speed in corners, depending how sharp they are.

7. Volkswagen Golf

Our pick VW Golf 1.4 TSI Match DSG
Used deals from £6,795
Monthly finance from £133

The Golf has assistance features such as parking sensors, autonomous emergency braking and adaptive cruise control that ensures you keep a safe distance from the car in front but those things aside, it’s simply a very easy car to drive.

Go for the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine and this in part is down to the easy power delivery from very low engine speeds and a seven-speed automatic gearbox which is very well suited to the engine for relaxed but nippy performance when you need it. The Golf is also quiet and refined on all but the worst road surfaces, while its controls are all logically arranged so that at the end of a long drive you emerge feeling as fresh as when you set out.

It's the definitive family hatchback. So good is the Golf at providing a convenient and comfortable environment that there are no distractions or complications when it comes to actually driving.

8. Mercedes A-Class

Our pick Mercedes A-class
Used deals from £9,900
Monthly finance from £146

Voice control of a car’s media system is increasingly common. The current Ford Fiesta, for example, uses the third generation of the car maker’s system that it calls Sync 3. It makes driving a lot easier by allowing you to keep your eyes on the road instead of fumbling for radio stations or music, or inputting destinations on the sat-nav.

However, Mercedes has gone further with its so-called MBUX media system that can be controlled with speech commands. This means you can easily set the sat-nav, for instance, by saying 'Hey Mercedes. Navigate to...' and then providing an address. This is far safer than having to prod away at a screen - something which is either very distracting when driving, or requires you to stop completely.

For the slickest displays, upgrade to Premium equipment pack and you get two of them, each 10.3 inches in size and integrated within a sweeping glass panel that gives the dashboard a space-age look. MBUX can learn your personal preferences including those relating to music, seating position and comfort settings, so you don’t have to keep repeating yourself or resetting things.

9. Fiat 500

Our pick Fiat 500 0.9 Lounge
Used deals from £4,295
Monthly finance from £76

For many people, light steering is all they need to make a car easy to drive, especially at city speeds or parking when it would otherwise require more effort. The trouble is, at higher speeds you want a little more weight in the steering to make the car more controllable at speed.

As with most things it’s a compromise, but the Fiat 500 has goes one better by providing a steering system with two levels of weight. The system is called DualDrive and to operate it you simply press a button marked City on the dashboard. In a flash, the steering becomes much lighter.

Another city car that puts simplicity first, the Fiat 500 offers a pure driving experience. Everything is well placed inside the cabin and its minute size takes away the stress of driving around tight and congested roads.

10. BMW 3 Series

Our pick BMW 320d SE
Used deals from £20,900
Monthly finance from £299

Anything that makes driving at night easier has to be welcomed and here the new BWW 3 Series scores a bull’s eye. It has high-intensity LED headlights as standard and which light up the road like few others. This takes the stress out of driving at night, as you have a clearer view of the road ahead, so you can see any obstacles ahead of time and have more space to safely respond to them.

However, you can upgrade them to adaptive laser units. These are even brighter but better than that, they can adapt their beam to avoid dazzling oncoming drivers, while still projecting their beam further down the road. This means you can leave them on full beam, so that more of the road is illuminated than would be the case were they on dipped beam.

Considering the 3 Series is a mid-sized saloon car, it doesn't feel particularly large when you're sat behind the wheel. All round visibility is good and perfectly weighted steering helps you to feel under complete control at all times.

 

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