PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) — If you're spending a whole lot of time and money commuting in a car, shouldn't it at least be comfortable?
The latest recession brought it to drivers' attention that their boring commute was getting costly. When researchers at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute released the results of their 2012 Urban Mobility Report, they found that the average American commuter wasted $818 in time and gas sitting in traffic in 2011. That's $121 billion total, which is up $1 billion from 2010 but still shy of the $128 billion wasted in pre-recession 2005.
Even then, they're spending less time in their car than ever. The Department of Transportation notes that U.S. drivers, who had been racking up a steadily increasing number of miles since the 1970s, started cutting back in 2008 and never returned. Meanwhile, traffic information service Infix notes that as average gas prices started spiking in 2010, average commute times during peak hours dropped from more than four hours to less than two.
A study this spring by the Frontier Group and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund found that the average U.S. driver actually started cutting back well before the recession, peaking around 2004 but dropping 6% by 2011. While the total miles driven in the U.S. rose 3.8% from 1948 to 2004, they've been flat since.
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Automakers are starting to get the hint and are making valiant attempts at building cars that are both comfortable and cost-effective. Getting some legroom, decent seating and climate control into vehicles doesn't sound like much to ask, but even relatively simple conveniences were relegated to luxury vehicles until shortly after the recession. As auto pricing site Kelley Blue Book points out, even seemingly minor features such as audio controls on the steering wheel and dual-zone climate control are just now trickling down to lower-priced vehicles.
The folks at Kelley Blue Book looked at the current host of auto offerings and found 10 vehicles bringing a more comfortable ride to U.S. roads. Kelley Blue Book capped the sale price at $30,000 and ranked vehicles based on their features and value. The following is its fleet of the most comfortable vehicles in the U.S., as priced with its Fair Purchase Price, falling above MSRP but well short of exorbitance:
10. 2015 Volkswagen Golf
Kelly Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: N/A (MSRP: $17,995)
This compact hatchback has been on U.S. roads for 40 years, but never with this much interior room.
The redesigned Golf features cushy interior materials with sporty red stitching, buttons and switches within close proximity to the drive and 5.8-inch entertainment and information system. Air-conditioning, a front-seat center armrest, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 60/40-split-folding rear seats with a center pass-through, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, satellite radio and iPod connectivity all come standard, while a leather-wrapped steering wheel power reclining front seats and sunroof are all available as upgrades.
The front seats are great for tall passengers without biting into the rear seats, which have 23 cubic feet of cargo space behind them. Kick in a combined 31 miles per gallon worth of efficiency and a buyer also gets the comfort of knowing he or she won't have to spend large portions of a trip stopping for gas.