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Best and Worst Cars for Your Commute

Commuting is tough. Gas prices are high, and thanks to increasing sprawl, the average American commute is now 30 minutes each way. If you're going to spend that much time and effort getting to work, you'd better being doing it in a nice ride.

The Best and Worst Cars for Commuting were chosen based on their gas mileage, comfort, safety and overall quality. At the top of the list are cars that'll get you to work in a good mood. At the bottom are cars that may make you decide the bus isn't so bad after all. With the exception of the Hummer H2, we generally applied our criteria to cars that you can buy new for under $30K. We also included an estimate, based on a 15-mile commute, current gas prices and each car's EPA-estimated combined gas mileage, of how you'll spend on gas to get to work each week. Here are some of the best and worst picks for your commute:

Top Picks:

#1 Honda Accord
MSRP: $20,360
Estimated Weekly Commute Cost: $27.31

The 2008 Honda Accord features a stretched wheelbase that provides ample leg room while on the road. It also has an optional voice-operated satellite-linked navigation system that can find gas stations, ATMs and restaurants -- using Zagat survey ratings. The Accord's optional Bluetooth is linked to the system, so once drivers find a restaurant, they can make reservations from the road.

#2 Mazda3
MSRP: $13,895
Estimated Weekly Commute Cost: $24.27

The sporty 2008 Mazda3 zips you to and from work while sipping gas. It averages 27 miles per gallon and is a blast to drive. Its bold styling sets it apart from the usual ho-hum commuter cars.

#3 Hyundai Elantra
MSRP: $13,625
Estimated Weekly Commute Cost: $23.40

With an MSRP of $13,625, the spacious Elantra is a steal for commuters on a budget. Although the interior styling is a bit on the conservative side, the car boasts generous front-seat room and receives high marks for safety.

#4 Honda CR-V
MSRP: $20,700
Estimated Weekly Commute Cost: $28.50

The 2008 Honda CR-V can conquer whatever your commute hands out, and then some. Road noise in the compact SUV is minimal and the SUV combines nimble handling with a comfortable ride.

#5 Chevy Malibu
MSRP: $19,900
Estimated Weekly Commute Cost: $26.22

The Chevrolet Malibu, the 2008 North American Car of the Year, has a large cabin and driver-oriented cockpit. The Malibu also features a one-year subscription to OnStar, which can give turn-by-turn directions, find nearby restaurants and attractions, run remote diagnostics on the car and even contact help in an emergency.

#6 Subaru Legacy
MSRP: $20,495
Estimated Weekly Commute Cost: $29.79

Getting you to work in one piece is no problem for the 2008 Subaru Legacy Sedan, which is an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety "Top Safety Pick" for this year. The Legacy features Subaru's renowned all-wheel drive system, making it easy for you to get to work no matter what the weather.

Maybe Not For Every Day:

Pontiac G5
MSRP: $15,675
Estimated Weekly Commute Cost: $24.27

Reviewers say the interior of the 2008 Pontiac G5 is cheap and uncomfortable, which won't help you decompress after work. Add in poor handling, and it's clear the G5 would give any commuter a permanent case of the Mondays.

Hummer H2
MSRP: $57,425
Estimated Weekly Commute Cost: $65.55

Although the interior of the H2 is appealing and interior space is abundant, its enormous 6.2-liter V8 engine guzzles gas. In fact, many reviewers report gas mileage as low as 10 mpg. With a 32-gallon tank to fill and gas prices rising, the H2 makes taking the bus look very good.

Chevy TrailBlazer
MSRP: $27,745
Estimated Weekly Commute Cost: $38.55

Thanks to its poor reliability scores, the 2008 TrailBlazer is a great choice for commuters who enjoy being late, or not making it into work at all. With an estimated 14 miles per gallon city fuel economy, it's also a good choice for commuters who like to set fire to money.

Ford Ranger
MSRP: $14,490
Estimated Weekly Commute Cost: $28.50

The 2008 Ford Ranger is not a car you want to spend a lot of time in. Reviewers say its cabin is comfortable -- provided you're a Munchkinland native. Storage in the cabin is minimal and many complain the truck has a rough ride. All that plus the truck's lack of safety features make it a commuter that will get you to work cramped, grumpy and maybe in one piece.

Suzuki Forenza
MSRP: $14,489
Estimated Weekly Commute Cost: $28.50

Although the Forenza has a spacious interior for its size, reviewers say the seats are cheap and uncomfortable. All that interior space may be taxing on the car's 2.0-liter engine, which reviewers say is underpowered, even for a compact car. Poor safety scores are the final nail in the coffin.

You can learn more about the best and worst commuting cars by checking out our Best and Worst Cars for Your Commute Slide Show.

Full List of the Best Commuters:

Car Class Highs Lows MSRP MPG
Honda CR-V Affordable Compact SUVs Comfortable ride, nimble, easy to control No V-6 engine available $20,700 20/27
Subaru Outback Affordable Fullsize Wagons Safe, roomy interior, reliable Disappointing transmission $22,995 20/26
Honda Accord Affordable Midsize Cars Comfortable interior, reliable, strong performance with V-6 Automatic transmission can shift roughly $20,360 22/31
Chevrolet Malibu Affordable Midsize Cars Comfortable seating, sharp exterior Outdated four-speed transmission $19,345 22/30
Hyundai Sonata Affordable Midsize Cars Great safety features, low price Bland performance $17,670 21/31
Subaru Legacy Sedan Affordable Midsize Cars All-wheel drive standard, excellent safety scores Boring exterior styling, a little pricey for the class $20,495 20/27
Honda Civic Affordable Small Cars Quiet ride, low price, good fuel economy Strange instrument panel $15,010 26/34
Hyundai Elantra Affordable Small Cars Fun to drive, great price Some testers found maunal transmission tricky $13,525 24/33
Honda Fit Affordable Small Cars Great gas mileage, practical interior Some think seats are uncomfortable $14,750 27/34
Ford Focus Affordable Small Cars Fun to drive, useful new optional SYNC technology Interior comfort could be better, exterior styling is disliked $14,375 24/35

 

Save it for the Weekends:

Car Class Highs Lows MSRP MPG
Ford Ranger Compact Pickup Trucks Affordable Cramped cab, lacks modern safety features, underpowered, bumpy ride $14,220 21/26
Chevrolet TrailBlazer Affordable Midsize SUVs Roomy interior, powerful engine Expensive gas guzzler, questionable reliability record $27,405 14/20
Pontiac G5
Affordable Small Cars Sporty exterior, good acceleration Uncomfortable interior, cheap interior construction, bad handling $15,175 24/33
Suzuki Forenza Affordable Small Cars Spacious interior Interior is cheap and uncomfortable, engine is underpowered $14,249 19/28
Hummer H2 Luxury Large SUVs Roomy interior Gas guzzler, expensive $56,690 EPA does not report