Best cars for night driving

Driving in the dark can be a bit unnerving in the wrong car, we've rounded up the best cars to take the stress out of night driving

Sam Naylor
Dec 2, 2021

During the winter months, longer nights can force us to have to drive in complete darkness, often with poorer weather conditions to boot. But regardless of the time of year, being able to drive safely at night with the best visibility is crucial for both you and other drivers, too.

Driving in the dark

There are a few key things to do in order to drive safely at night. The first 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. These cars automatically switch to high-beam when there's no oncoming traffic and then dip the lights when vehicles approach.

Some other tips for driving in the dark include keeping your windscreen clean to avoid glare or obstruction of your view, keeping dashboard lights dimmed so 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.

Choosing the best car for night driving

The most important aspect of choosing a car that’s as safe as possible to drive 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.

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.

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 £16,728
Monthly finance from £0*

The Mazda 3 comes with LED headlights and automatic high-beam lights, which give off a good-quality beam for night visibility. It also helps that the Mazda is a great car that boasts 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 even at lower 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 £16,433
Monthly finance from £0*

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 just fine for most drivers 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. This can also be used to maintain 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. Charge up at home and you’ll have no trouble getting to work and back with the Soul’s 280-mile driving range. This should prove enough for a whole week’s worth of commuting for many drivers, too.

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. But, 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 Limited stock

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 and 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

Volvo XC40 front three quarters view

Our pick Volvo XC40 T4 Inscription Pro
Used deals from £23,500
Monthly finance from £0*

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 operates the brakes much faster than a human can react. This is particularly great for avoiding incidents involving animals crossing 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.
If you are looking to go electric, the XC40 Recharge is also available and offers 259 miles of range - but this does command a much higher price than the petrol, diesel and hybrid models.

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 £24,609
Monthly finance from £402*

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, the Toyota RAV4 should be high on your list. It’s a hybrid, so there’s an electric motor that helps to save fuel compared with a conventional petrol model, as well as helping to reduce emissions.

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. At lower speeds, such as in traffic, it can run on electric power alone for short periods. At night, the LED headlights perform very well.

Thanks to the spacious interior and big boot, the RAV4 makes a great family car. 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 Limited stock

If you need a large SUV there are plenty of choices with LED lights as standard, but the Hyundai Santa Fe is one of our favourites. It has the American Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s seal of approval for its headlights and it is also much more luxurious than it may look from the outside.

Step inside and it’s a match for some much more expensive models, 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 this is well damped-out when inside the car. It is punchy, too, 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 impressive cabin while 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 £11,290
Monthly finance from £0*

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 these, and it’s also a great car elsewhere as well. The 1.0-litre engine is enjoyable to use and economical plus 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 of this size.

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