The average Canadian spends a whopping 54 minutes commuting daily. That’s a ton of time to sit in a car, not to mention the fuel you’ll go through doing that. This is precisely why many Canadians are seeking the perfect commuter car. Below, we outline what makes a great commuter car and list the 12 best commuter cars in Canada from four segments: traditional cars, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles.
Commuter cars in Canada must strike a nice middle ground for potential buyers. Let’s review the key commuter car deciding factors for the typical commuter.
Fuel economy is likely the highest deciding factor for commuter car buyers in Canada. This is where battery electric vehicles (BEVs), hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) reign supreme. They deliver superior fuel consumption numbers, and in the case of BEVs and PHEVs, they also provide an all-electric range so you can avoid the fuel pump altogether.
A good fuel consumption rating for the typical hybrid passenger car is 4.4 to 6 L/100 km combined. If you opt for a hybrid SUV, the acceptable consumption rating will rise slightly to the 6 to 7 L/100 km range combined.
A PHEV walks a slightly different line because it has several ratings to consider. One of the most important specs is typically its all-electric range (AER). A good range for a PHEV will be in the 50- to 60-km range, but some stretch into the 60- to over-70-km range, making them excellent options for those with longer daily commutes.
If your workplace has a place to charge, this driving range becomes less of a concern. As long as you have enough range to make it to work, you can just charge there. Otherwise, finding one with enough — or nearly enough — range to cover a roundtrip would be ideal.
PHEVs also have fuel economy ratings, and one you want to look at closely along with its electric driving range is the fuel consumption equivalent when in electric mode. This shows how efficient the battery system is. If it’s not overly efficient, you may spend significantly more than expected recharging it. The most efficient PHEVs sit in the 2.5 to 3.5 Le/100 km range, but some go as low as 1.8 to 2.3 Le/100 km.
Finally, you’ll want to consider hybrid fuel economy when you deplete the battery and have to use gasoline. PHEVs generally deliver similar fuel economy as HEVs when in hybrid mode, but watch out for the larger SUVs that get into the 8 to 10 L/100 km — unless you carpool with people and need the extra space.
If an electric car is more your style, you’ll want to consider two ratings: AER and combined fuel consumption equivalent. AER has changed greatly over the years as EV technology has improved and become more affordable.
A good AER in an electric car is the 400- to 600-km range, though some reach over 700 km these days. However, if you’re looking for a commuter car, AER shouldn’t be your focus unless you plan to also use this vehicle for road trips and other long-distance trips. If you don’t need it for long-distance driving, keeping on the lower end of the AER spectrum typically will save you cash due to the smaller battery.
The key factor for most commuters when considering an EV should be fuel consumption equivalent. This is where you see just how much this car will cost you to keep it charged up. An EV that falls below the 2.5 Le/100 km rating is a solid pick for a commuter car. This means the cost to charge the vehicle will be about the same as fueling a traditional vehicle with a 2.5 L/100 km rating. Anything above 2.5 Le/100 km is getting into large SUVs, luxury cars, and performance-oriented BEVs.
On a long commute you need entertainment, so having the latest features is key for many commuters. Look for modern tech like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto — preferably the wireless variety so you’re not fumbling with cables — and at minimum six-speaker audio systems. This will allow you to entertain yourself with all the music you enjoy on your smartphone.
Driver-assist and safety features are also great on a commute because they can help reduce driver fatigue and keep you safe if you make a mistake on the road. Adaptive cruise control is a great feature that works like traditional cruise control, but it automatically adjusts your speed with the traffic ahead. Other good features to consider are lane-keeping assist, automatic high-beam headlights, automatic emergency braking, and blind-spot monitoring.
Finally, on any long commute, comfort is king. So finding a vehicle with a nice driving position is great, as is one with plenty of seat and steering wheel adjustments. Some other great comfort features to consider are heated and ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel, remote ignition, and automatic climate control.
So, what are the best commuter cars in Canada for 2023? Let’s look at the four main types of vehicles — traditional, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric — and choose the three of the best options from each.
If you’re on a tighter budget, an HEV, PHEV, or BEV may be out of the question. Fortunately, you have a handful of traditional vehicles — those with only an internal-combustion engine — that offer good fuel economy and hit some of the other needs mentioned above. Let’s dive in.
The Kia Rio is an oft-forgotten subcompact hatchback sitting at the bottom of the Korean automaker’s lineup. But it's a winner if you’re looking for a balance of value, features, and fuel economy. A new Rio starts at just $19,916 and includes a surprising number of features, such as an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, heated front seats, a tilt steering wheel, a six-speaker audio system, and more.
It lacks the advanced standard safety and driver-assist features, but you get them standard in the range-topping EX Premium trim for $25,466. These standard features include blind-spot collision warning, lane-keeping assist, lane-follow assist, and automatic emergency braking. This trim also tosses in Kia Connect, automatic climate control, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, a heated steering wheel, and more.
There’s not much rear legroom in the Rio — just 850 mm — so it's best if you commute alone or with just one passenger. However, it is among Canada's most fuel-efficient non-electrified cars at 6.7 L/100 km.
The Kia Rio has been around for a long time and has a huge used marketplace. You can find a used Rio in the 2021 model year starting at around $16,400. If you want all the bells and whistles, a used EX Premium trim will start around $20,600.
Another traditional vehicle to consider for a commuter car is the 2023 Nissan Versa. It starts at just $18,928 and delivers the same 6.7 L/100 km combined as the Kia Rio. For this cash, you get a smattering of standard goodies, including a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Bluetooth streaming audio, and more. Unfortunately, it lacks standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and has only a four-speaker audio system, but the midrange SV trim adds smartphone integration, and the range-topping SV adds a six-speaker audio system for $21,498 and $22,798, respectively.
Where the Versa outshines the Rio is its standard driver-assist and safety features. These include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking, lane-departure warning, automatic high beams, and more. Moving to the SV trim adds blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic monitoring, driver awareness monitoring, and more.
The Versa’s interior is even more cramped than the Rio, offering only 787.4 mm of rear legroom, but its trunk is surprisingly spacious at 416.3 litres of cargo space.
The Versa is another model that’s been around for a long time and has a robust used marketplace. You can find a used Versa in the 2021 model year starting at around $15,748. A used SR trim will start around $19,818 if you want all the premium features.
If you’re looking for affordability and fuel economy and aren’t overly concerned about a dated look, the Mitsubishi Mirage is a great option as a commuter car. It leads all traditional cars in fuel consumption at 6.2 L/199 km combined and has a base MSRP of just $14,298. But you are sacrificing style, as the Mirage is about as basic as they come.
Its base trim level has some decent standard features, including a display audio system, automatic climate control, hill-start assist, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a USB port, Bluetooth connectivity, and more. However, it lacks standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and only has a four-speaker audio system. You can get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in the midrange $17,598 SE trim.
The mirage has no standard driver-assist or advanced safety features — just the basics the law requires. However, moving into the range-topping $20,748 GT trim gets you everything in the SE plus lane-departure warning and automatic emergency braking.
Inside, the Mirage offers limited rear seat room, offering only 869 mm of legroom. However, its cargo room is decent for its size at 484 litres with the seats upright and 1,331 litres with the rear seats folded.
While not overly popular, the Mirage has been around a while, so it has a decent used-car market. You can snag a used Mirage in the 2021 model year with a starting price range around $12,619 to $18,199.
Hybrid cars may stretch your budget slightly but provide far better fuel economy than a traditional vehicle. Plus, you can get a larger vehicle with more features and still enjoy great fuel economy. Let’s check out the three best hybrid commuter cars in Canada for 2023.
The Kia Niro has three powertrain options — HEV, PHEV, and BEV — and we suspect it’ll land on our list a few times. For now, it’s the Niro Hybrid’s time to shine. This hybrid wagon — though some may call it a crossover SUV — leads all hybrids with a consumption rate of 4.4 L/100 km in its FE trim, plus its starting MSRP of $32,566 makes it fairly easy on the wallet.
For this starting price, you get a sharply styled body that’s sure to attract a few stares. Plus it features tons of great standard equipment, including heated front seats, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, a six-speaker audio system, and more.
Plus, its standard safety features are on-point too. These include automatic emergency braking, blind-spot collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance, lane-keep assist, lane-follow assist, rear occupant alert, and more. It has even more advanced features in the $34,566 EX trim. These upgraded safety features include automatic emergency braking with junction detection, adaptive cruise control, highway drive assist, rear parking sensors, and more.
The Niro Hybrid is also quite spacey, with plenty of room for all sizes in the rear seats, thanks to its 1,011 mm of rear legroom. It also has ample cargo space, offering 645.6 to 1,803.7 litres of room.
The Niro is all-new for 2023, so finding a used model could prove difficult. However, if you can find a used Niro in this year, you may save some cash. If you drop back to a 2021 model year, which is the previous generation but still well-equipped, the starting price drops closer to $32,000.
If you want an inexpensive hybrid vehicle, the go-to route is the Corolla Hybrid. It has all the great features and history of the Corolla but with an electrified powertrain that’s near the top in fuel consumption at 4.7 L/100 km combined. And it all starts from $29,104.
You get a nice collection of features in the base Corolla Hybrid LE. These features include an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a six-speaker audio system, heated front seats, automatic climate control, a 7-inch colour multi-information display (MID), and more.
As for driver-assist and safety features, the Corolla Hybrid doesn’t disappoint. It comes standard with road-sign recognition, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, automatic emergency braking, automatic high-beam headlights, blind-spot monitoring, and more. You can even upgrade and get all-wheel drive (AWD) for those slippery Canadian winters.
Being a subcompact sedan, the Corolla’s back seats are a little tight with just 883.9 mm of legroom. Its cargo space is also a little light at 371 litres.
The Corolla Hybrid has been around for a few years and has a growing used marketplace. However, it has been through some changes as Toyota has since expanded the Corolla Hybrid lineup to include more trim levels and features. But if you can find a used Corolla Hybrid from 2021, you’ll still get many great features and save a few thousand dollars.
If you’re looking for something a little larger and with more comfort — and you have a larger budget — the 2023 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is a great commuter car. Despite being a midsize sedan, the Sonata Hybrid delivers a thrifty 5 L/100 km combined fuel consumption rate and is rather comfortable on long hauls. Its starting price is a little higher at $41,349, but you get a lot of value for that cash.
Standard features on the 2023 Sonata include premium cloth seats, heated and ventilated front seats, leather seating, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system, SiriusXM, a rear USB charge port, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, tilt and telescoping steering, a heated steering wheel, and more.
As for driver-assist and safety features, the Soanata is loaded. It comes standard with adaptive cruise control, an electronic parking brake with auto hold, blind-spot collision avoidance assist, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist, lane-keeping assist, lane-following assist, automatic high beams, rear occupant alert, blind-view camera, highway driving assist, remote smart parking, and more.
The one downside to the Sonata Hybrid is that despite being a midsize sedan, its rear seats are tight, with just 885 mm of legroom. Its trunk is about average, offering 453 litres of cargo space.
The Sonata Hybrid has been on the market for many years, so it’s built a good used market. You may be able to pick up a used Hyundai Sonata Hybrid from 2021 with all the premium features you want starting at $32,709.
A PHEV commuter vehicle bridges between a hybrid and a full-electric vehicle. Let’s look at some of the best PHEV commuter cars in today’s automotive space.
The Toyota Prius Prime is all-new for the 2023 model year, ushering in a sharp new body, improved performance, and even more greenness. It features a 2.0-litre four-cylinder plug-in hybrid powertrain that delivers 220 hp to the front wheels for zippy performance. Plus, its 13.6-kWh battery pack gives it up to 72 km of all-electric driving range in its base SE trim level. This model also delivers 1.8 Le/100 km when in electric mode and 4.5 L/100 km combined in hybrid mode.
Standard features are plentiful in the Toyota Prius Prime. They include a six-speaker audio system Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, heated front seats, a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, a heated synthetic leather steering wheel, and more.
It’s also got tons of safety equipment, including standard Toyota Safety Sense 3.0, which includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, road-sign recognition, automatic high-beam headlights, and more. You can further upgrade it with traffic-jam assist, advanced park, and more.
The Prius Prime has room for five passengers, but its rear seats are tight, offering just 884 mm of legroom. However, it makes up for that with up to 575 litres of cargo space.
The 2023 Toyota Prius Prime is up there in pricing, with a starting MSRP ranging from $41,364.50 to $50,204.50. It’s all-new for 2023, so the used market is limited, but you may find a used Prius Prime from the 2021 model year starting as low as $32,500. Granted, this will be the previous generation, which has a lower all-electric driving range and horsepower, but it has similar features.
Here comes the Kia Niro again, but this time in its plug-in hybrid form. The 2023 Kia Niro PHEV has all the same looks, features, and specs of the Niro Hybrid, save for one big difference: its powertrain. The Kiro PHEV includes a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor and that combine for 180 hp. Add in its larger lithium-ion, and the Niro PHEV can travel up to 55 km on electricity alone.
In hybrid mode, the Niro PHEV delivers a respectable 4.8 L/100 km combined, and in EV mode it checks in at 2.1 Le/100 km.
The Niro PHEV starts from $40,566, so it is cheaper than the Prius Prime, and you may save a few thousand dollars by opting for a used Niro PHEV — especially if you go for one from the previous generation.
Need a little more roominess in your commuter car? the Ford Escape PHEV may be a great balance. It starts with an incredible 2.3 Le/100 km fuel consumption rate in electric mode, but it’s a little thirsty in hybrid mode at 5.9 L/100 km. Fortunately, you may rarely use hybrid mode, thanks to its 60-km all-electric range.
Under its hood, the 2023 Escape Plug-In Hybrid features a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and an electric motor that combine to ship 210 hp to the front wheels.
Inside, the Escape PHEV has plenty of room, with up to 989 mm of rear legroom. If you haul cargo, the Escape PHEV has lots of room for it, offering up to 974 litres of cargo space behind the rear seats and 1,721.6 litres with the rear seats folded.
The Escape PHEV doesn’t skimp on the standard features either. It includes dual-zone climate control, an 8-inch digital instrument cluster, a heated steering wheel, four USB charging ports, automatic headlights, a six-speaker audio system, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Wi-Fi, heated front seats, an eight-way power driver’s seat, and more.
As for driver-assist and safety features, the Escape includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, evasive-steering assist, and more.
This all comes at a starting MSRP of $48,944. The current-generation Escape PHEV has been around for a few years, so you can likely find a used Escape PHEV in the 2021 model year for a few thousand dollars less.
Electric cars offer the utmost in fuel efficiency, but their downside is a limited range before needing to be charged and pricing. However, they can still make great commuter cars in the right situation. Let’s look at the best BEV commuter cars in Canada.
Hyundai launched full force into the electric car market with the IONIQ 5 and has now followed that up with the IONIC 6 sedan. Its starting price is relatively steep at $54,999, but you get a lot for the price, including a 225-hp standard RWD powertrain and a 386- to 581-km driving range. Buyers can upgrade to a 320-hp AWD powertrain with a sports-car-like 5.1-second 0-to-100 km/h sprint time.
This all adds up to a 1.7 Le/100 km combined fuel consumption equivalent rating, leading all EVs in Canada. Charging on a level 2 charger takes 6 hours and 55 minutes, while a 350-kW DC fast charger can get the battery to 80% in just 18 minutes.
The IONIQ 6 has loads of standard features to, including stain-resistant cloth seating, an eight-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, wireless phone charger, a hands-free smart trunk, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel, a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, and much more.
As for standard safety features and driver-assist tech, the IONIQ 6 includes rear parking sensors, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian, cyclist, and oncoming traffic detection, blind-spot warning, lane-keeping assist, lane-following assist, safe-exit warning, driver-attention warning, highway driving assist, rear occupant alert, and more.
The IONIQ 6 is a relatively pricey option and the used IONIQ 6 market is still small. However, you may find a few used examples on the market for slightly less than new.
The Tesla Model 3 is another leader in efficiency, checking in at 1.8 to 2.1 Le/100 km combined, depending on the trim level. Plus, the Model 3 adds in amazing numbers in its Performance trim, as its dual-motor AWD powertrain delivers a 3.3-second 0-to-100-km/h sprint time. Plus, depending on the trim, you can get 438 to 576 km of driving range.
The Model 3 comes standard with plenty of features, including a massive tablet-style infotainment touchscreen, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and more. It does, however, lack Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Buyers looking for the latest tech can also upgrade to Enhanced Autopilot or full self-driving.
With Tesla’s wall connector, you can get 70 km of range per hour of charging, while a standard 240-volt pug nets you 4.8 km per hour of charging. On the Supercharger network, you can get a whopping 282 km of range in just 15 minutes.
The downside to the Model 3 is it’s a very pricey option, with its starting MSRP ranging from $54,990 to $72,990. However, a used Model 3 from the 2021 model year will have similar specs and features and typically starts around $39,000.
If your budget is tight, but you still want an electric car with good driving range, the Chevrolet Bolt EV is a good option. It starts from $41,542 and offers up to 417 km of driving range, making it one of the better values in the EV segment. It is also quite efficient, checking in at 2 Le/100 km combined.
The Bolt EV’s electric motor delivers 200 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque, zipping it to 100 km/h in under seven seconds. And when it needs a charge on the road, DC fast charging capabilities can get you 160 km in just 30 minutes of charging. On a 240-volt outlet, you’ll get about 62 km per hour of charging.
The Bolt EV is also well-equipped. It comes standard with a six-speaker audio system, automatic climate control, a 10.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a heated steering wheel, remote start, SiriusXM, Wi-Fi, an eight-way power driver’s seat, and more.
As for safety features and driver-assist technology, the 2023 Bolt EV includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, automatic high-beam headlights, and more.
The Bolt EV has been around for a while and has a decent pre-owned market. If you find a used Chevy Bolt EV in the 2021 model year, expect to pay around $40,000.
You have plenty of options when searching for the best commuter car in Canada. No need to buy a new car either, as you can save thousands by opting for a used commuter car instead of a new one? Clutch, Canada’s premier online automotive retailer, has many commuter-friendly cars in stock and ready to roll.
Are you unsure about buying a pre-owned vehicle online? You can ease your mind knowing that Clutch’s high-quality pre-owned vehicles have been through a 210-point inspection and reconditioning process so we know they’re good to go. Plus, each used car we sell includes a 90-day or 6,000-km warranty.
When you order your pre-owned commuter car online with Clutch, you get the added benefit of skipping the dealership and all the haggling that goes along with it. At Clutch, you always get a great price, and no negotiation is necessary. Clutch also gives you a 10-day or 750-km test-own period. If you don't love your commuter car during that period, you can return it for a refund or exchange it for another vehicle.
Trading up into a newer vehicle with more features? Clutch takes trade-ins, and you can get your offer online. If you're satisfied with our offer, we'll pick up your trade-in vehicle and apply the trade-in value to your purchase.