Best Cars for First-Job Commuters

Comfortable, efficient cars with the latest infotainment features

traffic commute iStock-952388436

Once you’ve landed a great new job, your car may now be the lifeline between you and your source of income. “Get something comfortable—you might be sitting in it for a long time,” says Steve Elek, senior data analyst at CR, who once had a 90-minute commute each way at his first job. You’ll need a way to get traffic updates and entertainment without getting distracted by messing with your phone on that trip.

We eliminated any cars without good fuel economy or easy-to-use controls. We also made sure all the cars had standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. They not only put podcasts and streaming apps on your dashboard but also include useful navigation apps that can route you around traffic in real time.

For safety, forward collision warning (FCW) and automatic emergency braking (AEB) are must-haves.

Key Criteria for the Commuters Life Stage Score:
Available under $30,000, standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, ride quality, easy-to-use controls, front-seat comfort.

Subaru Legacy

2019 Subaru Legacy

Subaru Subaru

Life Stage Score: 88

The roomy Legacy gets 26 mpg overall. With standard all-wheel drive, it’s a great choice for those in the snow belt who can’t stay home when the roads get bad. Just make sure to also invest in winter tires. FCW, AEB, and LDW are standard for 2019.
Price range: $22,545-$31,545

Read the complete Subaru Legacy road test.

Kia Optima

2019 Kia Optima

Kia / Bruce Benedict Kia / Bruce Benedict

Life Stage Score: 87

Pluses are the comfortable front seat, easy-to-use controls, 28 mpg overall fuel economy, and well-appointed cabin. FCW, AEB, and BSW are standard.
Price range: $22,900-$35,290

Read the complete Kia Optima road test.

Subaru Crosstrek

2019 Subaru Crosstrek

Subaru Subaru

Life Stage Score: 87

Its hatchback design and high ride height offer the versatility of an SUV without the bulk, but its 29 mpg overall is frugal for a vehicle that comes with standard AWD.
Price range: $21,895-$27,195

Read the complete Subaru Crosstrek road test.

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

2019 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

David Dewhurst Photography David Dewhurst Photography

Life Stage Score: 85

The Sonata is an easy car to live with, thanks to its easy-to-use controls and an upright stance that affords easy access and good visibility. It is great for stop-and-go commutes, with a well-appointed interior and 39 mpg.
Price range: $22,300-$31,900

Read the complete Hyundai Sonata road test.

Honda Accord

2019 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T

Honda Honda

Life Stage Score: 84

Base engine offers plenty of power, plus it features a pleasant ride and good fuel economy. The front seats are comfortable, helped by the four-way lumbar support that is standard on all but the base trim.
Price range: $23,570-$35,800

Read the complete Honda Accord road test.

Other Good Choices

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the March 2019 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.


Keith Barry

Despite my love for quirky, old European sedans like the Renault Medallion, it's my passion to help others find a safe, reliable car that still puts a smile on their face—even if they're stuck in traffic. When I'm not behind the wheel or the keyboard, you can find me exploring a new city on foot or planning my next trip.