The Toyota Prius and Camry Hybrid, Ford Escape Hybrid and Mercedes-Benz E320 Bluetec highlight a list, assembled by NewCarTestDrive and CarsDirect.com, of the best commuting cars . While fuel economy was an important factor in many of the choices, comfort, value and safety were also important to the judges. NCTD editor Mitch McCullough also gave weight to sound systems, noise isolation and overall mechanical operation. Big SUVs, while comfortable to drive and with plenty of storage, didn't make the list due to problems with maneuverability. Also, subcompacts weren't favored for safety concerns and lack of refinement.

Having lived in Los Angeles for 20 years and test driven hundreds of different vehicles, I have five important needs (in addition to fuel economy) that can actually make my commuting pleasant.
  • A fully adjustable seat with plenty of thigh support
  • A sun visor that stretches completely across the side window
  • Excellent outside visibility and mirrors that eliminate blind spots
  • A center console or fold-down passenger seat that supports the #1 combo from In-n-Out Burger
  • And finally, satellite radio has been a gift from heaven considering crappy radio stations in this city
Follow the break to read the complete list

[Source: NewCarTestDrive and CarsDirect.com]
``Best Cars for the Commute'' Identified by Experts at NewCarTestDrive.com and CarsDirect.com

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Car experts at two leading automotive websites, NewCarTestDrive.com and CarsDirect.com, today announced their picks for the "Best Cars for the Commute." The list features 10 vehicles from the 2007 model year that accommodate individual needs and preferences of today's commuters. It includes the Toyota Prius, Suzuki SX4, Ford Focus, Hyundai Sonata, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Acura RL, Mercedes-Benz E320 BlueTec, Ford Escape Hybrid, Ford Edge and the Porsche Carrera 4.

Average commute times have increased to record levels as more people live farther from work. According to a study released in October 2006 by the Transportation Research Board, the number of Americans commuting to work an hour or more each way rose 50 percent between 1990 and 2000.

The team of experts from the two websites which are owned and operated by Internet Brands, Inc. canvassed the broad spectrum of 2007 cars, SUVs and trucks that are on the road today and nominated 10 vehicles that met a set of stringent criteria.

"Beyond the obvious criteria of price and fuel efficiency, to be chosen an ideal commuter car, these cars also offered, among other attributes, a cocoon of smooth, quiet sailing, insulating the driver from the nastiness outside," said Mitch McCullough, editor-in-chief, NewCarTestDrive.com. "The ideal commuter car also is mechanically refined, with smooth brakes, a smooth throttle and a smooth ride. And, it offers unrestricted views of the road ahead and behind, with relatively small blind spots."

Mark McCready, director of pricing strategy and market analysis at CarsDirect.com, who commutes nearly 100 miles per day, considered comfort, convenience, safety and entertainment characteristics. "The best commuter cars have comfortable seats with controls that can be operated without distraction. The stereo also must sound great and offer easy-to-use switch stations or modes. Additionally, active and passive safety features must be ready for pile-ups. Bluetooth, real-time traffic reports and voice commands make life commuting just a little easier."

During their research, the experts also found issues with some vehicles that can hamper a commute. "Big SUVs and other extra-large vehicles are difficult to maneuver in heavy traffic, while small cars lack refinement and aren't as safe," said McCullough. "The firm suspensions found on sports sedans can spill your coffee, while manual transmissions, grabby brakes and overly sensitive throttles can turn the stop-and-go into an annoying exercise."

The 10 vehicles that shine in the daily grind, chosen by the editors at NewCarTestDrive.com and CarsDirect.com include:

Toyota Prius

With its excellent fuel economy, the Prius is the poster car for the hybrid market, and in some ways it's the perfect commuter-mobile. Large windows make for excellent visibility, while midsize roominess makes for a comfortable cabin. Best of all, many states let hybrids drive in carpool lanes.

Suzuki SX4

A totally new vehicle for 2007, the Suzuki SX4 boasts all-wheel drive, making it a superb choice for commuters in the Northeast, Midwest and Northwest states where weather can make roads slippery. The SX4 handles these conditions easily. The back seats are roomy enough for adults. Fold the rear seats down and there is a spacious 38 cubic feet of cargo room.

Ford Focus

The Focus is fun and economical. The cushy seats are comfortable, there's decent leg room and the controls are straightforward and easy to use. The Focus is small and handles well, allowing nimble lane changes. It's inexpensively priced: The ZX3 SE retails below $16,000 and comes with air conditioning, power everything and a decent sound system. The Focus has been around awhile and deals are available, including a $2,500 rebate on select models. The Focus gets an EPA-rated 27/34 mpg with the automatic.

Hyundai Sonata

The Sonata costs less than your average midsize sedan yet offers a smooth ride, a spacious cabin, and five-star crash test ratings. The seats are comfortable, there's a hook in the passenger footwell for securing a handbag, and compartments are conveniently provided to hold your stuff. The four-cylinder engine in the base Sonata GLS works just fine, and with an automatic, it retails below $19,000 and gets an EPA-rated 24/33 mpg.

Toyota Camry Hybrid

All-new for 2007, the Camry Hybrid is one of the best gas-electric hybrids available, according to the editors of New Car Test Drive. For its part, the new Camry is a terrific midsize commuter with its smooth ride and responsive throttle. The Hybrid version delivers an EPA-rated 40/38 mpg and emits almost no pollution. It comes with JBL audio, Bluetooth, electronic stability control and Toyota's Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system, or VDIM, that automatically adjusts steering and braking to make the ride as smooth as possible.

Acura RL

The Acura RL is loaded with technology tailor-made for the commuting regular who wants luxury. Bluetooth allows hands-free phone conversations, AcuraLink Navigation allows up-to-the-minute traffic information, and OnStar is ready to respond to emergencies. Most impressive is the Collision Mitigation Braking System and Adaptive Cruise Control, which quickly alerts the driver when traffic suddenly stops ahead. If the driver doesn't react, the system slows the car using the brakes, then ultimately takes steps to protect occupants from the impending crash. Acura's Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) comes standard and improves safety in slippery conditions. Best of all, the RL has a comfortable cabin lined in leather and it's easy to operate given its technology.

Mercedes-Benz E320 Bluetec

Lauded for its smooth performance, the Mercedes-Benz E320 Bluetec gets an EPA-estimated 27/37 mpg from its diesel engine. The Mercedes Bluetec is the epitome of modern diesel technology, smooth, quiet, clean-running. Its leather-lined interior features 10-way power front seats, ambient cabin lighting and all the convenience features to make it a commuter's sanctuary.

Ford Escape Hybrid

The Escape Hybrid boasts an EPA-estimated 36/31 mpg while offering the cargo space of a compact sport utility. The Hybrid version is a smooth, comfortable vehicle that drives almost identically to a regular Escape. The seats are comfortable and provide an elevated vantage to see dangers ahead in traffic. The continuously variable transmission offers seamless propulsion in heavy traffic.

Ford Edge

A totally new vehicle for 2007, the Edge is an excellent choice for commuters who need a large vehicle but want something that drives like a sedan. The Edge offers bold styling, a modern ergonomically designed interior, and is packed with convenient features. It has four 20-ounce cup holders, two juice box holders, and an audio jack to plug in your favorite MP3 player. To escape from the monotony of gridlock, the Edge also has an enormous panoramic Vista Roof for you to look out of and enjoy the sky above.

Porsche Carrera 4

Who says commuting can't be fun, especially if you have a bigger budget than most? The Carrera 4 is amazingly easy to drive and, with a Tiptronic automatic, it's smooth and comfortable in heavy traffic. It's also a leader in active safety features, with all-wheel drive, legendary braking performance, and the latest in electronic stability control. This is the ultimate commuter sports car and will keep you smiling throughout the drive to and from work.


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