One of the biggest priorities for the government following the economic crash was the focus on getting Britons back to work again. However, that begs the question: how exactly do you get them there in the first place?
There are currently over 30 million people working in the UK, and according to a study by the RAC late last year, 16.7 million of those travel to work via car or van.
Reliance on cars is highest in rural areas, where over 70 per cent of workers travel to work by car. Figures in urban areas are slightly smaller, but a 62.7 per cent majority of employed people still use cars to commute, and even in central London just under a third of people still travel to work with their motors.
It’s clearly pretty important therefore that the driver needs to select the right car for the job. Just as not all cars are created equal, the needs and wants of commuters are many and varied.
As a result, we’ve put together a handy list of the common situations that commuters might encounter, and the cars that we think are best for the job:
Best car for long-distance driving: Ford Mondeo EcoBoost
Ford’s immensely popular five-door family hatchback, the Ford Mondeo, has been in constant production for over 20 years now, after having made its debut in 1992.
The longevity of the model is no doubt testament to the fact that it’s not only a great car to drive, but also practical, reliable and cost-effective.
For optimum fuel-efficiency, the Mondeo 1.6 EcoBoost is an ideal choice. Equipped with the 1.6-litre version of Ford’s award-winning turbocharged EcoBoost engine, the Mondeo offers both performance and practicality in spades.
The engine produces a fine 160bhp, which will take the car from 0-62mph in just over nine seconds. Acceleration is smooth and powerful, and there’s plenty of punch in the lower rev bands, meaning that the Mondeo will overtake with precision, authority and ease.
What’s more, the Mondeo is perfect for motorway driving, where the nippy acceleration will handle overtaking with expert ease, and the 1.6 EcoBoost Ford Mondeo is also fitted with stop-start technology as standard, saving fuel should you find yourself stuck in a traffic jam.
Fuel efficiency is cost-effective as well; the Mondeo will do just over 44 miles per gallon of fuel, giving an average range of 679 miles on a full tank. Carbon emissions are also reasonable with 149g/km emitted, and road tax is also low.
Additionally, the model comes with electric door mirrors as standard, along with digital radio with MP3 and Bluetooth connectivity, alloy wheels and SatNav.
The interior’s high quality and has loads of passenger room, while the boot space is more than generous at 540 litres, ten more than the Vauxhall Insignia, which can be expanded to as much as 1,448 by folding the rear seats down.
The Mondeo’s performance, comfort and practicality, as well as its cost-effectiveness and the addition of cruise control as standard means it’s a more than appealing option if you commute long distances to work. After all, if you’re going to have to come so far, why not have a bit of fun while you’re at it?
Best car for the school run: Mazda CX-5
Need to drop off the kids on your way to work? Then this one’s for you. If you want something that’s more fun to drive than your average MPV, but not as fuel-thirsty as a large 4×4 while also having plenty of space for the bambinos, then look no further than Mazda’s CX-5.
As of February, all CX-5 models now come fitted with revised suspension and a new restart system that’ll bring the engine back to life if you ever happen to stall it.
There’s also a range of new colours on offer, as well as the option of a full-leather interior trim if you fancy a classier touch.
Compared with its major competitor, the Nissan Qashqai, the Mazda is roomier on the inside, with plenty of space for all manner of families and a 503-litre boot that’ll take schoolbags, lunchboxes and prams with room to spare.
When the kids are dropped off at school, you can then fold the back seats down, increasing boot capacity to an impressive 1,620 litres, which will fit a family’s worth of grocery shopping and then some.
The CX-5 is also more fun to drive than its competitors, with a choice of 148bhp or 172bhp engines in both diesel and petrol variants, and can offer a surprisingly spry performance for a small SUV.
It was also the first Mazda model to benefit from the company’s fuel-saving Skyactiv technology, which combines lightweight engineering with super-efficient engines. The 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel variant can do a noteworthy 60.1 miles for every gallon.
CO2 emissions from the more frugal diesel are just 119g/km and will therefore cost a measly £30 a year in tax, while the more powerful variant will still return over 54 miles to the gallon, but will produce 136g/km of CO2.
Prices for the MX-5 start from £21,895 for the most basic model, proving that premium function doesn’t always command premium price.
Best car for the urban commute: Nissan Leaf
For the urban commuter who only has to travel short distances, Nissan’s all-electric Leaf offers an easy, comfortable and quite affordable drive.
Despite the advanced electric motor, the Leaf still drives just like your average car; there’s none of the techno-gubbins present in many other electric cars and instead offers the same familiar feel and driving experience you’d get from any of Citroen’s other cars.
Four adults can fit quite comfortably inside the Leaf, so it’s great for passengers and an excellent option for anybody who carpools to work in order to split the costs.
Not that there are many costs at all, of course. The Leaf has a starting price of £26,490, but government subsidies mean you’ll get £5,000 off the list price from the get-go. Additionally, tailpipe emissions are zero, so there’s no road tax and the Leaf is also exempt from the London Congestion Charge.
Its small dimensions make it nimble and extremely able in tight city streets, and the 107bhp electric motor offers a surprising amount of go. The Leaf boasts a 0-62mph time of just over 11 seconds, which isn’t to be sniffed at, and there’s an admirable amount of pull from the motor, meaning it’s strong on the move and can zip through city traffic with the best of them.
Standard equipment is quite comprehensive as well, with keyless entry, all-electric windows and Bluetooth connectivity as standard, as well as an advanced SatNav system.
Being an electric car, the Leaf costs peanuts to run and will do an average 124 miles per charge, which can be achieved in eight hours.
It is, of course, best suited to shorter journeys, but for travellers looking for a quick jaunt around town with a suitably, er, electric performance that won’t tug too hard on the purse-strings, the Leaf is a must.
Best car for those who travel in style: Jaguar XF 2.2d
If you’re going to regularly travel to work, why not do it in the most stylish way that you can? Jaguar’s products, previously reserved for the more affluent driver, have recently become more accessible and more affordable than ever.
The improved fuel economy and reduced CO2 emissions of Jaguar’s XF series saw the model become the standard-bearer of the new face of Jaguar since its debut in 2008, and continues to be so today.
The success of the XF is due not only to its newfound cost-effectiveness, but also the fact that Jaguar haven’t scrimped on the features of their cars in accordance; you still get the same old Jaguar quality, just with vastly improved dynamics.
Case in point: Jaguar’s XF 2.2d diesel model is the most fuel efficient Jag yet, but it’s also a thing of tremendous beauty.
The 2.2-litre engine, slightly dinkier than the typical 3.0-litre engines present on a lot of Jags, still offers lots of punch but with the benefit of being infinitely more cost effective.
It’s available in 161 and 197bhp variants with eight-speed automatic transmission and a new stop-start system to further increase fuel efficiency.
The XF 2.2d is good for 57.7mpg and has CO2 emissions of only 129g/km, returning impressive real-world economy.
It’s still classic Jaguar both inside and out, however, with a handsome sculpted bonnet and sleek styling. LEDs are now present in the rear lights and 17-inch alloy wheels, DAB digital radio, electric seat adjustment, rain-sensing wipers, Bluetooth connectivity and a rear-parking aid all come as standard equipment.
The XF’s cabin is a highlight of the car, with an elegant and suave design and new leather seat designs, as well as revised fascia trims.
On the road, the Jaguar XF 2.2d will put in an impressive turn, with a 0-62mph time of ten and a half seconds and a top speed of 130mph, while precise steering and a soft but responsive ride courtesy of the XF’s adaptive dampers keep it smooth and deft in all driving situations.
There are certainly cars that will offer more performance for less money; the XF 2.2d starts from £32,945, which is less than a lot of the carmaker’s models but still a substantial amount of cash, but the Jaguar isn’t all about sheer power.
To paraphrase an old adage, with the XF, it’s not about the destination (or how quickly you can reach it), it’s about the journey. And if you have a taste for luxury and refinement, as well as a nose for fuel-efficiency and cost-effectiveness, then surely there’s no better way to spend your daily journey than with the Jaguar XF.