When you’re considering changing your car, what affects your buying decision? The power? The features? The badge? Whatever you take into account when browsing the forecourt for your next car, it’s likely that very few people base their buying decision on where they live — despite the obvious benefits of doing so.
While 4x4s were traditionally reserved for people living in the countryside, and smaller cars were a staple of towns and cities, this is no longer true. You’re now just as likely to see a Range Rover squeezing down narrow city streets as you are a Citroen C1. But while restricting yourself to a certain type of car might seem unexciting, there are benefits to buying a car based on where you do most of your driving.
Here, we look at why some cars are better suited to different places than others.
Live in a city and chances are you do a lot of stop-start driving, as well as a lot of nipping in and out of queues. So, with this in mind, the best car for this type of environment is one that’s small, economical and practical for manoeuvring in and out of tight parking spaces.
Here are some of the cars we’d recommend for driving in town.
While some motorists might turn their nose up at the size of the modern city car, mini runabouts like the Hyundai i10 or Toyota Aygo are absolutely perfect for those living in towns and cities. With great all-round visibility thanks to an upright driving position, and small proportions that make it a doddle to park and nip through gaps in traffic — city cars are a joy to drive on even the most hectic, narrow and stressful of urban streets.
Easily the biggest advantage of city cars, however, is their economy. Thanks to low carbon emissions, most city cars are free to tax, and mean you won’t have to worry about the congestion charge when driving in the capital. They’re also incredibly fuel efficient, with most running on small petrol engines that produce minimal CO2 emissions — so you can expect fewer trips to the fuel station.
Alternatives for City Driving
If the small size of the city car feels like too much of a sacrifice, there are other options which are just as good in town, and offer greater practicality.
Superminis like the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and Kia Rio are slightly larger than city cars, but are still small enough to fit through gaps in traffic and park on narrow city streets. They’re also cheap and economical to run, and some even benefit from a small turbo system that offers increased performance when you venture out on to the open road.
Some hatchbacks and compact saloons are also ideal for city driving, and offer more space for passengers and luggage. The drawback to these larger cars, however, is that they’re not as economical as city cars and superminis, and will use more fuel in stop-start traffic — so you’ll spend more when topping up the tank.
City car or supermini, whichever you choose, we’d always recommend a petrol car if you do most of your driving in town. Petrol engines are ‘free revving’, making them instantly more fun to drive. And if you aren’t covering that many miles, they’re also much cheaper to buy and run.
Countryside and Motorways
If you spend a lot of time driving on country roads and the motorway, you’ll need a car that offers the best combination of economy and performance. Not only that, but comfort is key when driving for long periods of time, so space, comfort and refinement have to play a part in your buying decision.
Here is our selection of the best cars for driving in the countryside.
4x4s may have been adopted for life in the city, but their story began out in the countryside — herding sheep and helping farmers reach their fields. And while we can see why so many people now drive a 4×4 in town (safety, space, practicality), they still make the most sense out in the countryside, where their added power and off-road capabilities make them perfect for negotiating winding A-roads, motorways and muddy country lanes.
If you live in a rural area, and often find yourself ploughing through puddles, mud and cattle grids on the way to work, a 4×4 is a justifiable option. With power going to each wheel, 4x4s such as the highly rated Volvo XC90 or Land Rover Discovery offer better grip and stability than any other type of car — perfect for rainy days and muddy stretches of tarmac. Their added space also makes them perfect for large families, or those with a few Great Danes in tow.
What’s more, most 4x4s are powered by diesel, giving them great low-speed power output and meaning they’re ideal for towing things like trailers, horseboxes and caravans. And, while diesel is more expensive per litre than petrol, diesel cars are more economical, so you’ll get more MPG — ideal for those who spend a lot of time commuting on country A-roads or on the motorway.
Alternatives for Country Driving
If 4x4s are too big and expensive for your needs, there are other cars out there that can handle the demands of country and motorway driving just as well, whilst offering the same if not better economy. A small crossover SUV such as a Citroen C4 Cactus or Dacia Duster SUV in the four wheel drive option gives you that high seating position and sense of security without breaking the bank.
Long Commutes and Motorways
If you do a lot of driving each day, including motorways and some city driving, you want to a) be comfortable and b) have a car which is suited to long journeys and doesn’t burn through fuel too quickly. The seating position of 4x4s will probably be kind to your back and legs, but a saloon will also be a good whilst being better suited to the demands of occasional city driving. Look to models such as the BMW 3 Series or Mercedes C200 for great driving and comfort.
Whichever type of car you choose, we’d recommend a diesel engine for those that commute long distances to work every day. Though diesel cars are generally more expensive to buy and refuel, the cost may be offset if you cover a high mileage and most of your driving is done on motorways.
Remember, however, that there’s also the issue of Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs) should you decide to buy a diesel car. The problem with DPFs is that they can get clogged up easily, resulting in potential breakdowns and expensive repair bills. DPFs suffer most when making frequent short journeys, meaning that in general diesel cars are better for those who do long commutes on faster roads and motorways rather than the stop/start of city driving.
To find out more about DPFs, check out our handy guide.
Remember, choosing the right car based on where you live can save you money on fuel. Generally, if you cover a low mileage in town, petrol engines are cheaper to run and refuel. Travel miles back and forth on the motorway, however, and a more fuel efficient diesel engine is a good option.
Whether you’re driving in the city or the country, you can get more from every tank of fuel thanks to Redex system cleaners. Our innovative fuel additives help diesel and petrol engines run more cleanly, maximising your MPG and saving you fuel.
For more information, visit the Redex homepage.