Our picks for the daily slog
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Americans today have longer commutes than ever before. In fact, the average commuter spends 1.1 hours in the car each day—and the drive can be much longer in major cities. If you can't move closer to work, at least you can buy a car that's comfortable and gets good gas mileage.
Is a hybrid right for me?
While the Toyota Prius is a mileage champion no matter where you're driving, other hybrids may actually get better gas mileage in the city than at high speeds. And many larger hybrids get only marginally better gas mileage than their conventional counterparts. Still, depending on how much you drive, you may end up seeing some real savings after a few years.
What about diesel?
If you spend most of your time driving at highway speeds, a diesel car may be a good choice, since that's where they're most efficient. Volkswagen sells many affordable diesel cars; Chevrolet is coming out with a diesel version of its compact Cruze; and BMW, Audi, and Mercedes all sell upscale diesel vehicles.
The more time you spend behind the wheel, the more chances there are that something will go wrong. That's why you want the safest car possible. Luckily, most cars built today have been developed in an era when powerful computers are used to virtually crash test cars over and over and refine the results, rather than penning a car on educated guesses and hoping for the best. Still, some cars are inherently safer than others: Larger cars tend to offer more protection than smaller cars in an accident with a heavier vehicle.
Comfort and convenience
Let's face it: When you're in traffic, you want a car that's comfortable, not sporty. While that Mazda MX-5, Porsche Boxster, or Jeep Wrangler may be perfect for how you spend your weekends, chances are it'll be miserable over a long commute. Look for a car that's easy on your back.
Also, make sure there's enough connectivity to keep you entertained—not distracted. Ford Sync lets you download audiobooks from Audible, for instance, and GM's updated infotainment systems will feature on-demand podcasts from NPR.