Best cars for long distance driving

If you’re going the distance, you’re going to need a car that majors on comfort and efficiency. Here are eight suitable options

Gavin Braithwaite-Smith
Jul 22, 2020

You’ve got a long journey ahead of you, so what do you need? A packet of travel sweets in the glovebox. A bottle of your favourite hyper-caffeinated drink in the cup holder. Maybe a smartphone loaded with the podcasts you’ve been meaning to listen to. What have we missed?

That’s right - the car. All reliable vehicles are capable of going the distance, but it’s not quite as simple as that. You’re going to want something with comfortable seats, a quiet and efficient engine, air-conditioning and smooth suspension. Otherwise, the car may get you there, but you'll be in no mood for that family catch up, business meeting or holiday.

Once you have all the basics covered, you may want to consider heated seats, smartphone connectivity, a cup holder, digital radio and sat-nav for taking the strain out of long trips. Fortunately, you can get all this and more - for a reasonable cost - when you order a car via the BuyaCar website.

We’ve selected eight cars that are great for long distance driving - and shouldn't break the bank. And, if none of these quite take your fancy, check out our best cars for long commutes and best cars for motorway driving.

Best cars for long distance driving

1. Vauxhall Astra

Used deals from £5,000
Monthly finance from £93

Starting our roundup with a Vauxhall Astra is a little like Take That opening a concert with an obscure B-side track you’d rather forget. We know you’d really prefer a Volkswagen Golf or a Ford Focus. But hold your horses, because the Astra has the potential to… ahem, relight your fire. Could it be magic?

Magic is a stretch, but the current Vauxhall Astra is far better than you might think. If your only experience with an Astra was a tired rental car you borrowed for that dreary sales conference in Macclesfield, driving the new Astra could be your greatest day. That’s enough of the Take That references.

The seats are comfortable, the cabin is nicely insulated from wind and road noise, all versions come with more tasty kit than a Gadget Show prize giveaway, and the 1.6-litre diesel engine sips fuel like a teetotal vicar nursing a gin and tonic at a garden party. What’s more, because it sheds its value faster than a VW Golf, the Astra is one of the underrated bargains on the BuyaCar website with low cash prices and affordable monthly payments - even for relatively new models.

VAUXHALL ASTRA BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Citroen DS3

Used deals from £4,890
Monthly finance from £99

Before Citroen launched DS Automobiles as its standalone upmarket brand, the stylish DS3 wore its Citroen badge with pride. What really matters is that the Citroen DS3 is a good car for long distance driving thanks to its upmarket aspirations and good comfort levels.

Although it’s based on the humble Citroen C3 supermini, the DS makeover is comprehensive. It’s worth remembering that the DS3 was designed to rival the Mini Hatchback, so you get smart exterior styling, an upmarket cabin with plush seats, and lots of toys as standard. Cruise control, a height adjustable driver’s seat, plus a steering wheel adjustable for height and reach are just some of the goodies that make the car a great long distance machine.

But there’s more, because the Citroen DS3 is as good on a motorway as it is on a country lane. Comfortable and relaxed when cruising, but great fun when the long straights turn to sharp corners. It’s not all good news, because for all the style in the cabin, you won’t find a cup holder.

DS 3 BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Jaguar XE

Used deals from £12,500
Monthly finance from £199

In our review of the Jaguar XE, we criticised the car for its relatively small boot and slightly tight rear seats. If it’s just you in the car, the lack of rear space won’t be a problem, while the diesel engines offer a terrific blend of performance and economy.

In terms of driver appeal, the Jaguar XE is closer to the sporty BMW 3 Series than it is to the more comfort-oriented Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4. That’s to say that it’s fun to drive but also excellent for covering long distances. In fact, we’d argue that it provides the sportiness of the 3 Series with most of the comfort of the C-Class.

To keep pace with the Germans, Jaguar has treated the XE to a number of updates, culminating in the comprehensive facelift of 2019. If you can stretch to a nearly-new model, you’ll benefit from a much-improved cabin, an excellent array of in-car tech and an impressive level of standard equipment.

JAGUAR XE BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Lexus CT200h

Used deals from £12,600
Monthly finance from £179

The Lexus CT200h is a bit of a late bloomer. Earlier versions of the car were hard to recommend, especially in the context of premium rivals such as the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class. But time moves on, and the CT makes a lot more sense in 2020 than it did in 2010.

Key to this is a decade of improvements. Power is sourced from the 1.8-litre petrol-electric hybrid setup you’ll find in the third-generation Toyota Prius, which delivers diesel-like fuel economy with the smooth refinement of a petrol engine. You can expect to achieve fuel economy of 60mpg+ on a long journey.

Soon after its launch, the Lexus CT was awarded a ‘Quiet Mark’ by the Noise Abatement Society for the level of noise entering the cabin. Make no mistake, this Lexus offers the kind of interior hush you’d associate with a Rolls-Royce if you drive gently.

You'll want to avoid models with the larger alloy wheels for the best ride comfort and learn to live with the at-times frustrating 'CVT' gearbox, which does without conventional gears and holds the engine at set speeds when accelerating hard. A relaxed driving approach will get the best from the CT200h, though.

LEXUS CT BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Volvo XC60

Used deals from £13,058
Monthly finance from £217

The original Volvo XC60 enjoyed a remarkably long innings, remaining on sale for the best part of a decade. During that time, it cemented a reputation for being one of the most comfortable and safest family SUVs on the market, which is why we’re recommending it for long distance use.

In truth, it could claim a berth on this list on the basis of its seats, which are amongst the most comfortable you’ll find at any price. Volvo has a knack of creating seats that are both comfortable and supportive - a long journey in an XC60 is no more stressful than having a hot bath.

We’d recommend the entry-level 2.0-litre D4 diesel engine for its economy, and the SE Lux Nav trim for its long list of standard equipment. Regardless of the model, you’ll enjoy an SUV with space for five, a cavernous boot and an upmarket cabin.

VOLVO XC60 BUYERS' GUIDE

6. BMW 5 Series

Used deals from £11,300
Monthly finance from £197

We’re not going to bamboozle you with internal model names, but the BMW 5 Series in question here is the F10, produced from 2010 to 2017. Although the newer version represents a huge step forward, the high prices make it hard to recommend at this stage.

You can buy an F10 5 Series for around the same price as a humble city car, however. Not bad, especially when you consider that this was the best executive car you could buy just a decade ago. It’s not quite as comfortable as the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, but it’s nicer to drive and packed with clever tech.

There’s a generous level of kit as standard, including alloy wheels, leather seats, Bluetooth and, from May 2013, standard sat-nav, though many models before this will have had nav added as an option.

Beyond that it all comes down to how much cash was splashed by the original owner on options, but you won’t be feeling short-changed, regardless of the 5 Series you drive home in. The 520d offers an excellent blend of performance and economy. It’s as economical as the less powerful 518d, but almost as quick as the less efficient 525d.

BMW 5 SERIES BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Citroen C5 Aircross

Used deals from £16,993
Monthly finance from £218

There are so many SUVs on sale in 2020, it’s getting increasingly difficult for manufacturers to stand out from the crowd. So how does Citroen differentiate the C5 from the pack? Quite simply, comfort.

‘Progressive Hydraulic Cushions’ - that’s what Citroen calls the suspension system on the Citroen C5 Aircross. We’ll spare you the tech lesson, but the system is designed to absorb dips and bumps in the road. It’s brilliant on broken surfaces, with the suspension all but eradicating the sudden jolts you might experience in rival SUVs. You’ll also enjoy the wide and comfortable seats and the near absence of wind and road noise entering the cabin.

All versions get a 12.3-inch customisable digital instrument panel, an eight-inch touchscreen media system, digital radio and dual-zone climate control, but you’ll need a Flair or Flair Plus model for Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, sat-nav and acoustic laminated side windows. Get one of those for maximum long-distance comfort.

CITROEN C5 AIRCROSS BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Volvo V90

Used deals from £17,399
Monthly finance from £253

Have you ever taken a luxury spa hotel for a drive along the motorway? Neither have we, but we reckon it could be as relaxing as driving the Volvo V90. If everybody drove one of these, we’re certain that road rage would be a thing of the past.

Almost everything has been designed to deliver a calm and relaxed driving experience. The seats are comfortable and supportive, the dashboard layout is minimalist and easy on the eye, and the voice control system actually works. Arguments with a robotised voice will be a thing of the past.

An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard across the range, so you needn’t worry about changing gear. You also get Pilot Assist as standard, a system that allows the car to pretty much drive itself on motorways and A-roads. It even controls the car in a traffic jam, so you could find that even driving on the M25 will be a pleasurable experience.

We’d opt for a Volvo V90 on 18- or 19-inch alloy wheels for the best ride comfort. If you opt for the stylish 20- or 21-inch rims which wear low-profile, comfort-reducing tyres, we’d recommend the optional air suspension, which makes the V90 feel like it’s riding on a cushion of air.

VOLVO V90 BUYERS' GUIDE

 

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