Have you found yourself shying away from public transit? That’s a sentiment popular since the novel coronavirus appeared in early 2020. But when employers start beckoning their employees back to the office, are you ready to brave buses and trains again? Maybe you're thinking about other methods of transportation?
Commuter vehicles are surprisingly affordable in Canada. Not only are there plenty of fuel-efficient options, but cars today are also more reliable than ever, keeping the overall cost of ownership lower than you might think.
Our writers have rated their 10 favourite daily commuter vehicles (under $15,000) based on fuel efficiency, reliability, and comfort & convenience to help you choose the best vehicle for your needs. To include all of the best deals out there, there are new and pre-owned models on this list.
TOTAL SCORE: 22 / 30
A relatively well-known name with a small market share in Canada, the Mitsubishi RVR tends to get forgotten. But it’s fun to drive, economical, and quite stylish. Furthermore, their warranty protection is exceptional. New cars come with a 100,000km bumper-to-bumper warranty and 160,000km of powertrain coverage.
For under $15k, you could reasonably get into a 2015 Mitsubishi RVR GT with an all-wheel drive. At this trim level, you’ll get heated front seats, a sunroof, Bluetooth, and a decent-sounding infotainment system, albeit one that seems a little archaic. The 2.4L engine with CVT transmission is rated to achieve 8.5L/100km on the highway and 10.4L/100km in the city.
TOTAL SCORE: 22.5 / 30
If you’re craving that new car smell, you can still get a brand new car for well under $15,000. The Nissan Micra is designed as a low-cost city car that fits into the tightest parking spots. The Micra takes up less real estate than most other vehicles on this list. It’s powered by a 1.6L 4-cylinder engine with a modest-but-sufficient 109hp, and the entry S trim level comes with a 5-speed manual transmission. Fuel economy is rated at 6.8L/100km highway and 8.7L/100km city, so the benefit for this model is in fuel savings.
Notoriously reliable and with very few things to actually go wrong, the Micra deserves to be on your commuter shortlist. With a basic trim, expect a spartan interior without A/C, power door locks, or power windows, but Bluetooth and a rear-view camera are included.
TOTAL SCORE: 23 / 30
Another new car you can pick up for under $15,000 is the subcompact Chevrolet Spark. Forget the manual transmission this time though. Instead, the CVT automatic is in the running. This version gives you a little extra in the way of equipment including A/C, rear-view camera, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as a 7” touchscreen infotainment system. Even a 4G Wi-Fi Hotspot is available.
If you’re hoping to go fast, the Spark isn’t winning any races; the 1.4L four-cylinder offers just 98hp. But with combined city and highway fuel efficiency coming in at 7.1L/100km, it’s a worthy daily driver for any commuter.
TOTAL SCORE: 23.5 / 30
If an all-wheel-drive CUV is important to you, the Ford Escape is an extremely popular option for a reason. At better value than the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, you can get a five-year-old Escape SE with SYNC infotainment, Bluetooth, rear-view camera, A/C, power windows, heated seats, and more.
You might need to renew the warranty on this 2015 vehicle, but the Ford Escape is well worth your consideration at the very least. Fuel efficiency isn’t amazing–9.4L/100km combined–but not so bad that you should shy away.
TOTAL SCORE: 24 / 30
Sometimes a commuter needs space for kids and other gear too. A good buy for under $15k would be the 2016 Hyundai Sonata. A sleek-looking model that potentially still has some factory comprehensive warranty and powertrain coverage in effect, the Sonata GL is well-equipped with features like alloy wheels, Bluetooth, heated front seats, backup camera, sunroof, cruise control, and a crisp-sounding audio system with colour infotainment screen.
Powering the Sonata is a 185-hp four-cylinder that has passing power yet maintains a surprising highway fuel economy of 6.5L/100km and 9.4L/100km in the city.
TOTAL SCORE: 25 / 30
One of the newer used cars you can get at around the $15k mark is a two-year-old Kia Forte LX+. Since the factory warranty is for 5 years/100,000km from new, you’re likely still covered a couple more years. And the LX+ trim has goodies you’ll appreciate like available navigation, alloy wheels, heated seats, Apple CarPlay, backup camera, and of course, A/C.
The Kia Forte sedan is larger than the subcompact segment but gets similar fuel economy, even if it feels a little underpowered with a 147-hp 2.0L engine. 6.5L/100km highway and 8.8L/100km city make the 2018 Forte LX a good find if you can snag it.
TOTAL SCORE: 26 / 30
If you’re looking for something with powerful zip, then the superb fuel economy of VW’s diesel engine is right up your alley. The 2015 Jetta TDi could fall into the $15,000 range with some quirky German-engineered equipment thrown in. The Highline trim would include a power moonroof, heated power front seats, rear-view camera, and potentially a built-in navigation system.
The Jetta’s body will rot long before the TDi engine gives up on you. And this is the best fuel economy you’ll find in the bunch at 5.2L/100km highway and 7.6L/100km city.
TOTAL SCORE: 26.5 / 30
For decades, the Honda Civic has had a reputation for being among the best cars on the road—and for good reason. The 2017 Civic Sedan LX sneaks in under the $15,000 mark with some nice features in tow. You’ll get Bluetooth, heated seats, A/C, and a backup cam. However, the infotainment system leaves something to be desired.
Renowned Honda reliability means you won’t be in the shop much, and the 2.0L engine and CVT tranny give you ratings of 6.0L/100km highway and 7.8L/100km in the city—among the best you’ll find on this list.
TOTAL SCORE: 27 / 30
Fun to drive, great-looking, and efficient, the Mazda3 sedan ticks all the right boxes. The GS model is a value-packed trim level that should be high on any list of well-rounded commuter cars. Alloy rims, heated front seats, backup cam, push-button start, all the power options, and a fancy dash-top screen give it exceptional bang for your buck.
It’s not the most powerful car with a 2.0L 155-hp four-cylinder, but that’s enough to bring a smile to your face. What might catch you by surprise in a good way is the fuel efficiency – combined city/highway efficiency of 6.9L/100km.
TOTAL SCORE: 28 / 30
Our top spot might be no surprise: the Corolla sedan. It offers incredible options, fuel savings, and Toyota dependability for a price you’ll like. For under $15,000 you could find a Corolla SE trim with leather heated front seats, adaptive cruise control, a brilliant Entune infotainment system, LED running lights, and alloy wheels. It even comes with Toyota Safety Sense technologies like Lane Departure Alert and Forward Collision Warning.
Since you’re looking for a commuter, the fuel economy is the big question, right? 6.5L/100km on the highway and 8.3L/100km in the city means the Corolla may not be perfect, but who is?
If you're interested in any of the cars on this list, Canada Drives can quickly help you locate the right car for the right price. Begin the journey and get preapproved for a new car today! Even if you have bad credit, we'll match you with a local dealership that knows how to help!
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