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10 used practical commuter cars

  • Ten cars that cover a high range of miles on a single fill-up
  • Practicality and frugality in one package
  • Choice of bodystyles for all budgets

If you need a car that can cover the work commute on a single tank of fuel and be practical enough at the weekend, these 10 diesel cars may just fit the bill.

They can all theoretically drive from Land’s End to John o’ Groats on just a single fill-up – that’s the equivalent of driving the entire M25 seven times.

Find out here how to get the most for your money with car finance and head over to Parkers' free valuation tool to work out just how much your old car is worth.


Hyundai i40 Tourer (2011-)

Pros: Low-emitting diesel engines, huge amount of space, remainder of warranty

Cons: Rear visibility a little awkward, busy interior

As Hyundai has continuously improved its cars and slowly crept up on its big European rivals, the i40 marks another step forward for the brand in performance and quality.

If you’re buying an estate then your priority is practicality and space – and this car has both in abundance. Not only is the boot impressive but there’s also a huge amount of room for all your passengers, who will be able to stretch out in comfort.

This higher-powered 141hp engine still claims a fuel range of just over 1,000 miles meaning you won’t have to sacrifice performance for parsimony.

One criticism though is that the array of materials used makes the interior look a bit too busy.

Parkers rating: 4 stars

Fuel range: 1,001 miles

Pick of the range: 1.7 CRDI Blue Drive SE Nav

Used price range: £5,090 - £19,260

Click here to view the latest Hyundai i40 Tourer cars for sale


Peugeot 308 Hatchback (2014-)

Pros: Refreshingly simple interior, large boot, generous equipment

Cons: Infotainment system and driving position may take getting used to

There isn’t one particular stand-out reason for buying a 308, but a host of smaller reasons that make up a compelling case.

There’s a modern, minimal interior with a refreshing lack of buttons, lots of standard equipment and a huge boot. The 1.6-litre engine can still cover 0-62mph in less than 10 seconds, which isn’t bad considering its claimed 88.3mpg and it covers the most miles on a single tank on our shortlist.

The touchscreen interface will either be a love or hate relationship, as will the steering wheel and instrument cluster positioning, so it’s worth trying before you buy. A 308 in popular Allure trim should prove easy to find and is equipped with sports-style seats and 16-inch alloy wheels.

Parkers rating: 4 stars

Fuel range: 1,026 miles

Pick of the range: 1.6 BlueHDI (120hp) Allure

Used price range: £5,545 - £16,570

Click here to view the latest Peugeot 308 hatchback cars for sale


Volkswagen Passat Saloon (2011-2014)

Pros: Refined, practical and solid interior, effcient engine

Cons: Only one trim available, bland styling

Thanks to a serenely quiet cabin and comfortable ride, the Volkswagen Passat is an easy choice for any long journey. Based on the basic S model, this BlueMotion may not be laden with gadgets, but it does have the basics needed to make motorway stints as effortless as possible.

There’s plenty of space for all passengers and their luggage and finding one with the optional sat-nav and cruise control will be a bonus in making a complete long-legged cruiser.

Performance from the 105hp engine certainly won’t raise your pulse, but once up to speed there’s little engine or wind noise, while the light steering and gearchange only encourage a relaxed driving style. That it won’t match a Ford Mondeo for sharp driving manners isn’t so relevant when sat on the motorway.

The estate version will still cover a theoretical 1,000 miles per tank too.

Parkers rating: 5 stars

Fuel range: 1,047 miles

Pick of the range: 1.6 TDI BlueMotion

Used price range: £11,990 - £26,750

Click here to view the latest VW Passat Saloon cars for sale


Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate (2015-)

Pros: Sharp looks, sleek cabin

Cons: Not the largest load-lugger, stiff suspension

Offering sleek looks and a luxurious interior, the C-Class Estate offers more room for passengers to stretch out thanks to a longer wheelbase and the absence of the saloon’s sloping roofline.

The bigger boot over the previous estate may not be class-leading but it’s well shaped, while an electrically-powered tailgate and back seats that fold at the touch of a button add a luxurious touch.

A 1.6-litre engine in a car of this size may sound sluggish, but producing 136hp can still propel this estate from 0-62mph in 10.1 seconds.

Parkers rating: 4.5 stars

Fuel range: 943 miles

Pick of the range: C200 BlueTEC S

Used price range: £14,695 - £39,200

Click here to view the latest Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate cars for sale


Skoda Rapid Spaceback (2014-)

Pros: Spacious, low running costs, diesel performs well

Cons: Engine and road noise, smaller boot than saloon

Sitting between the Fabia and Octavia, the Rapid Spaceback has a spacious cabin, beating the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra for passenger and boot space. This may be the lower-powered engine in the range but it performs well and eagerly builds momentum. It can get a bit raucous though when worked hard, adding to the high road-noise levels.

Parkers rating: 4 stars

Fuel range: 943 miles

Pick of the range: 1.4 TDI CR 90hp S

Used price range: £5,550 - £13,280

Click here to view the latest Skoda Rapid Spaceback cars for sale


BMW 4 Series (2013-)

Pros: Distinctive styling, effcient engines, driving experience

Cons: Four-seater only

If what you’ve seen so far has been a bit sedate, then how about a two-door coupe? There’s more than meets the eye with the 4 Series coupe.

This isn’t just a better-looking version of the 3 Series saloon but one with a wider track and longer wheelbase to bring a more exciting drive. This is the quickest car on our shortlist and while the manual gearbox will still achieve a theoretical 840 miles per tank, this automatic version will travel even further.

Find one with the Professional Media package which brings sat-nav, BMW Apps and real-time traffc info. The trade-off for that style and speed though is a lack of rear passenger space.

Parkers rating: 4.5 stars

Fuel range: 877 miles

Pick of the range: 420d (190hp) SE (Professional Media)

Used price range: £14,875 - £54,630

Click here to view the latest BMW 4 Series cars for sale

Kia Proceed (2013-)

Pros: Cheap to run, sleek looks, remainder of warranty

Cons: Future resale values

This three-door sportier-looking version of the Ceed should make for a more alluring hatchback than the standard version thanks to its lower roof and restyled bodywork.

The driving experience may not be as exciting as its looks — being safe, stable and rather uninvolving — but this does make for a comfortable cruiser.

The transferrable warranty will help bring peace of mind, while standard equipment includes air-con, cruise control and rear parking sensors.

Parkers rating: 4 stars

Fuel range: 862 miles

Pick of the range: 1.6 CRDI S EcoDynamics

Used price range: £6,325 - £16,835

Click here to view the latest Kia Proceed cars for sale


Honda Civic Hatchback (2012-)

Pros: Cavernous boot, comfortable ride, punchy engine

Cons: Poor rear visibility, uninspiring driving experience

Like the Kia Proceed, the Civic’s drive doesn’t quite live up to the bold looks, but even though this 1.6-litre diesel may not be as punchy as the larger 2.2-litre engine, it still delivers muscular performance and feels quicker than the figures suggest.

It’s practical too, with a large boot and flexible rear seats while mid-range ES spec means a rear parking camera, cruise control and climate control.

Parkers rating: 4 stars

Fuel range: 858 miles

Pick of the range: 1.6 i-DTEC ES

Used price range: £5,225 - £18,980

Click here to view the latest Honda Civic cars for sale

Volkswagen Golf Hatch (2013-)

Pros: More kit as standard, spacious, desirable

Cons: Not very exciting, similar design to old one

As one of the default suggestions for an economical hatch, it’s no surprise to see a VW Golf included in this shortlist.

The Golf may not be as dominant in the hatchback sector as it used to be but there’s still plenty to recommend. The interior feels well-built and the boot is larger than almost all rivals.

Its smart looks may not be exciting but it’s good to drive, comfortable and spacious. Just like the larger Passat, performance is leisurely but adequate. BlueMotion models come with alloy wheels, air-con and DAB radio.

Parkers rating: 4.5 stars

Fuel range: 913 miles

Pick of the range: 1.6 TDI Bluemotion

Used price range: £5,555 - £29,755

Click here to view the latest VW Golf hatchback cars for sale


BMW 5 Series Saloon (2010-)

Pros: Handling, generous interior space, refined and quiet

Cons: Steering not the best from BMW, plain dark interior

This popular long-range BMW has perfectly adequate performance thanks to 184hp and an agile drive. Some may say it’s lost a little driving involvement over the previous model due to its larger proportions, but since it’s based on the luxurious 7 Series, the trade-off is a huge amount of interior space.

The E-Class might have an even bigger focus on comfort but certain owners have been disappointed by higher insurance costs and lower mpg figures.

All models come with alloy wheels, leather seats and Bluetooth connectivity. Look for one fitted with BMW’s Media Package and this will bring sat-nav.

Parkers rating: 5 stars

Fuel range: 893 miles

Pick of the range: 520d BluePerformance SE 4dr Step Auto 

Used price range: £7,900 - £38,305

Click here to view the latest BMW 5 Series saloon cars for sale

Top buying tips on fast estates under £10k

Claimed mpg figures

Our long-distance cars didn’t just meet the criteria because of a higher claimed mpg figure, but because of a large-capacity tank too.

These cars claim to average at least 60mpg but acheiving this may be quite diffcult to replicate, so don’t be too critical of your driving style if you fail to see those big numbers on the trip computer.

Interior check

Checking the interior for signs of wear and tear can indicate how hard a life the car was subjected to with its previous owner. Check for scratches or scuff marks on the interior plastics and that all the stowage areas work.

Leather seats are easier to clean but a highly creased example may indicate heavy use.

Service schedules

Check when the service intervals were for the car and see if they were carried out on time. Ex-fleet cars should usually be well maintained but it’s a good way to check if the car was looked after mechanically.

Take a test drive

It sounds obvious, but if you find yourself driving the car harder than expected, then perhaps the car’s set-up might not suit your driving requirement. If you end up driving harder than normal, then your fuel benefits will quickly diminish.

Need more help? The articles below could help:

VW Golf: which version is best?

Top 10 low-cost estates for £6k

Mercedes-Benz C-Class – which version is best for you?

1,000 miles per tank – Top 5 long-range estate cars revealed

Peugeot 308: which one should you choose?