By Ricardo Rodriguez
Los Angeles spreads across for miles and many of us have to commute to work. Unfortunately the population seems to go out and get into the FWY at the same time every day of the week. The official morning rush hour is from 7 to 9 AM, although at 6 is already in full swing.
There are over 300 different cars to choose from to make that daily drive. Some are powerful, some have a luxurious interior, and others and designed to be efficient in city traffic. The morning commute is mostly comprise of a single driver going to work or a mom taking the kids to school. For these reasons I am giving you a list of the top ten 2022 vehicles to handle LA traffic and minimize your cost of ownership, fuel consumption and environmental pollution. I also took into account that the average speed in our FWY system during that time is around 30 miles per hour. And if you have to take the 5 FWY south from Downtown to Downey that speed goes down to just 20 mph average. All the horse power, big tires, sleek aerodynamics’, etc, don’t come into play at those speeds. Big engines don’t even cool themselves running at idle for a long time either. So what you really need is:
For the family I strongly believe that the best 3 are, in no particular order, the Chrysler Pacifica, the Toyota Sienna, and the Kia Carnival. All three are hybrids and have more space and features than most private jets. The rear seats have facing flat screens to keep children (and adults) entertained while being monitored by cameras for the driver to quickly take a look. The Carnival even offers a massage seat in the second seat row. All three also feel like driving a car. Gone are the minivan dynamics of yesterday. And they all have luxurious interiors with great audio systems. This type of vehicle has changed so much that they have become a multipurpose cabin on wheels. I have driven all 3 and I confess that is not an easy choice to pick one between all of them. They are priced about the same, from mid $30’s to mid $40’s , depending on the options. The interior ambiance of each one is what will make the difference to you.
Keeping in mind that you may be driving alone and at speeds below 55 mph I did not see a reason to choose something that require to spend a lot of money and/or getting a large vehicle. Smaller cars are easier to maneuver in traffic and with today’s technology they have also become a lot safer. But just in case I also wanted to find cars that could take four people and have a decent trunk space. My picks for everyday drive are the Hyundai Tucson, Toyota Corolla, and the Honda Civic. These 3 are strong performers no matter how you measure them against the rest. And they also have a long history of low maintenance and minimal quality control issues. Any of these have excellent ride over asphalt and our cement surfaced FWY’s. They also have the best safety and driver assist systems. All the latest tech and bluetooth connectivity are available and the systems are not complicated or require lessons to learn them. These 3 also have hybrid versions that can get you over 40 mpg. Top of the line models are equipped with all of what we called luxury cars just a decade ago. From mid $20’s to $30’s you get a lot of content and better than average resale value at the time to replaced them. And you may delay that trade because any of these 3 are capable of doing 200,000 miles with only the regular maintenance as expense.
If you want to spend less on gasoline and still have decent space and performance I suggest the Ioniq Blue (Hyundai) or the Prius Eco (Toyota). I drove both and could get over 50 mpg without much effort. And thanks to their ability to drive on pure electric mode under 40 mph, pretty much your commute could be done without using a drop of gas. They are a bit nimbler than the ones above, but if you want to minimize pollution these are great choices. The prices have also been adjusted as their sales volume has increased and now you can get into them for under $30,000 for the base models. The Plug-in versions are good too provided that you have access to a fast charger at home or work.
For those that need a more upscale space without giving up on performance and quality I recommend the KIA Sorento Hybrid. An SUV with beautiful interior, great fit and finish, and is one of the best built cars in the world. Best part of it is that you are not paying “luxury” pricing to get what the so call premium brands have. Overall I could not find anything I didn’t like. From the design to how it drives. Price in the mid $30’s. This is a solid car for a family and the hybrid version can get you close to 40 mpg.
And if you need to add some style to your drive and have plenty of tech around you the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is “the” ticket to have. This is a beautifully executed design where the four door car looks right from every angle. And it even has a roof that doubles as a solar panel to gather extra energy. Premium Bose audio with 12 speakers, complete infotainment system on a 10 inch screen, and a smooth drive makes it one of the best sedan regardless of price. When I test drove this Hybrid I travelled to Arizona since I liked it so much and on the highway not only was fast and powerful but the ride was better than some German sedans. So at $29,900 is almost a bargain for what you get.
Are there more powerful cars out there? yes. Are there more luxurious cars available? yes. Bigger? yes Smaller? yes…but in selecting these top ten I used as metrics their overall performance, price, quality, longevity, and initial cost. And to drive in LA you really don’t need anything more.