Best cars for night driving

Driving in the dark can be a frustrating experience in the wrong car, so we've rounded up the best cars for night driving

Sam Naylor
Dec 11, 2020

If you commute by car then you’ll spend a significant chunk of the year driving in the dark. In the winter, long nights can force us to get into our cars and head home from work in complete darkness, so you need to be sure your car is up to the task.

Even if you don't use the car to get to work, having a car that takes the stress out of night driving should keep you safe and make sure you don't have any avoidable incidents. Read on for some tips on driving at night as well as our pick of the best cars for travelling in darkness.

Driving in the dark

There are a few things you can do when driving at night to make life easier. A key one is to avoid dazzling others, so pay attention to your headlight beams. Make sure they’re dipped when traffic is coming towards you and this should also reduce the chance of you being flashed and potentially dazzled yourself, limiting your view of the road ahead.

Automatic high-beam technology is fitted to some of the cars on our list, which can help do this job for you, as they automatically put beam on when there's nothing ahead and dip the lights should you approach other vehicles.

Some other tips for driving in the dark include keeping your windscreen clean to avoid glare, keeping dashboard lights dim enough that you don't strain your eyes and driving more slowly to give you extra time to react to an unexpected event, such as a pedestrian or animal in the road that might initially be hard to spot.

Night driving car

The most important aspect of choosing a car that’s good at driving in the dark is the headlights. These are a hugely important part of your car and are often overlooked. After all, some headlights are far better than others, with the best keeping you safe, reducing eye strain and making nocturnal drives more relaxing.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is an American road safety body that rates many aspects of a car’s safety - and the headlights are one of the key areas tested. We’ve used the findings of this organisation to pick out models rated as having the best lights for driving at night.

Our list includes hatchbacks, SUVs and saloon cars, so there’s bound to be a model that suits your needs and budget. All the cars we’ve picked are great buys for plenty of other reasons too, which we’ve explained below.

As the IIHS is an American body, it doesn’t test many cars available in the UK (as they’re not on sale in the US) - so we’ve picked out one small car at the end of our list that caters to British drivers looking for a supermini for less than £10,000 that has powerful LED headlights as standard.

Best cars for driving in the dark

1. Mazda 3

Stylish and great-to-drive hatchback

Our pick Mazda 3 2.0 Skyactiv-X MHEV GT Sport
Used deals from £18,995
Monthly finance from £291*

The Mazda 3 comes with LED headlights and automatic high-beam lights, and like all but one of the cars on this list, is approved as having a good-quality beam for night visibility. It also helps that the Mazda is a great car that should have a broad range of appeal for many drivers.

First and foremost, the Mazda 3 is fantastic to drive. It’s not all that fast but it’s a joy to be in at all speeds. The steering weight, gear shift and driving position are all spot-on for keen drivers and not only is it satisfying and enjoyable, but the 3 is also really comfortable. It’s great on long trips and short hops alike.

It’s not hugely practical - the boot is on the small side for a car of this size and the rear seats are more cramped than we’d like. There’s room for adults but alternatives such as the Honda Civic below are much more accommodating in the back. The Mazda has lots of kit and its clever 2.0-litre petrol engine is really economical, too.

MAZDA 3 BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Honda Civic

Practical and reliable family hatchback

Our pick Honda Civic 1.5 VTEC Turbo Sport
Used deals from £12,990
Monthly finance from £244*

If you need a practical family car that’s good for driving in the dark, try the Honda Civic. With auto high-beam and LED headlights it’s got the right credentials for nocturnal trips, and it’s a winner in many other areas as well.

The Civic is really big inside, with a large boot and plenty of room in the back seats. It’s also good to drive, comfortable and comes with plenty of standard equipment. There’s always the mad Type R version for hot hatch fans but for most, the normal model in 1.5-litre petrol form will be a good choice as it’s still enjoyable to spend time in.

The styling isn’t for everyone, and the media system can be a bit of a pain to use, but it does come with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, so you can use your phone apps. You can switch the screen off to reduce glare in the cabin at night, too.

HONDA CIVIC BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Kia Soul

Quirky looking electric 'crossover'

Our pick Kia Soul 150kW First Edition 64kWh
Used deals Limited stock

The latest Kia Soul is a great commuter car, and not just because it’s fully electric. The LED headlights are great for driving at night, and adaptive cruise control takes the sting out of stop-start traffic as well, as it can keep you a safe distance behind the car in front.

Of course, what helps even more is that you’ll never have to stop at a petrol station again, because if you charge up at home then you’ll have no trouble getting to work and back with the Soul’s 280-mile driving range on a single charge. That’ll be enough for a whole week’s worth of commuting for many drivers.

The Soul is good in other ways as well - it’s comfortable and easy to drive and has lots of cutting-edge kit included as standard. It’s quite pricey, but all electric cars are at the moment and if you factor in the fuel savings it offers, it could cost you less than you think. If it fits your lifestyle then it could be much better than a petrol or diesel option even disregarding the fuel savings.

KIA SOUL EV BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Mercedes C-Class

Saloon that’s great for motorway trips

Our pick Mercedes C220d AMG Line Premium 9G-Tronic
Used deals from £18,480
Monthly finance from £343*

If you spend a lot of time driving on the motorway at night then the Mercedes C-Class is a superb choice, especially in C220d form. The diesel engine is really economical at these speeds and the LED headlights on certain models (we’ve picked an AMG Line Premium here) offer a good view ahead.

The C-Class is focused on comfort and it very much delivers, as it’s really smooth at higher speeds. The cabin is luxurious too and that extends to the seats, which are soft but supportive, which is great for long trips. It’s nice and quiet inside, too.

There’s lots of room inside for passengers and while the saloon boot isn’t that versatile, it’s big enough for a family holiday. The C-Class is also fitted with plenty of standard equipment, and higher-spec cars have two impressively large display screens that give the car a very modern feel and have lots of useful features.

MERCEDES C-CLASS BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Volvo XC40

Upmarket family SUV with good safety kit

Our pick Volvo XC40 T4 Inscription Pro automatic
Used deals from £33,990
Monthly finance from £464*

If you’re looking for an SUV that’s great for driving at night then you can’t go wrong with any Volvo model - the XC60 and XC90 are both superb larger models that have loads of high-tech safety kit to keep you safe no matter the time of day. We reckon the smaller XC40 is the best value of the bunch, though.

It’s smaller than the other Volvos but still comes with excellent LED headlights as standard and other technology such as automatic emergency braking, which puts the brakes on if it senses an obstacle - and it does so much faster than a human can react. That’s great for when animals cross the road at night unexpectedly.

The XC40 is practical, well equipped and feels upmarket inside too. The minimalist interior will appeal to fans of Swedish design. We’d go for an automatic model as it’s a smooth gearbox and shouldn’t set you back much more than the manual.

VOLVO XC40 BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Toyota RAV4

Medium SUV with low running costs

Our pick Toyota RAV4 2.5 VVT-i Hybrid Design
Used deals from £22,000
Monthly finance from £309*

In general SUVs cost more to run than equivalent hatchbacks, but if you want to save money on running costs while still having the practicality of a larger car, try the Toyota RAV4. It’s a hybrid, so there’s an electric motor that helps to save fuel compared with a conventional petrol model.

The RAV4 isn’t anywhere near as economical as the Prius it shares parts with, but it’s still good for an SUV especially around town, where it can run on electric power alone for short periods. It’s quiet and calm inside in traffic jams as a result, and the LED headlights are great at night.

Thanks to the spacious interior it makes a great family car, and its big boot is useful too. It’s comfortable and easy to drive, although it’s a fairly large car considering it’s only a five-seater. Parking sensors and a reversing camera help to make it easier to park, though. You don’t need a high-spec model to get the LED headlights either.

TOYOTA RAV4 BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Hyundai Santa Fe

Large, comfortable family SUV

Our pick Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 CRDi Premium
Used deals from £17,952
Monthly finance from £328*

If you need a large SUV there are plenty of choices with LED lights as standard, but the Hyundai Santa Fe is a great option. It has the IIHS seal of approval for its headlights but is also much more luxurious than it looks from the outside.

It’s a match for some much more expensive models on the inside, as the cabin is really high quality and has loads of equipment as standard. The Santa Fe is also spacious and very comfortable on the road, even over harsh potholes and bumps.

The 2.2-litre diesel engine is a little noisy on the outside but it’s still quiet inside the car and the engine is punchy, so you don’t have to work it too hard. The Santa Fe is a great car for longer trips as you won’t mind spending plenty of time in the Hyundai’s impressive cabin enjoying the smooth driving experience.

HYUNDAI SANTA FE BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Suzuki Swift

Small hatchback available for under £10,000

Our pick Suzuki Swift 1.0 Boosterjet SZ5
Used deals from £9,499
Monthly finance from £163*

The US-based body we’ve used to pick out the other models on this list doesn’t include any superminis in its tests, as small cars of this size aren’t popular in America. If you’re on a tighter budget and want a car with full LED headlights and auto high-beam lights, then the Suzuki Swift is a good choice.

In SZ5 trim it has those, and it’s also a great car elsewhere as well. The 1.0-litre engine is enjoyable to use and economical and the car overall is great fun to drive as well. Being a supermini, it’s not massively spacious in the back but the boot is decent for a car this size.

The Swift is very light even by the standards of other small cars, which means tyres and brakes last longer, and being a Suzuki it should be reliable. It’s also really affordable, as even relatively new examples can be bought for nearly half their new list price.

SUZUKI SWIFT 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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