Best motorway cars in 2021

Last updated July 29, 2021

Many of us have to drive many motorway miles every week for work or leisure. If you do, you will want a car equipped for motorway driving that offers good fuel economy and has a comfortable cabin. We have looked at all of the cars available in 2021 and picked our favourite motorway cars below.

 

Volkswagen Golf

Whilst many may see hatchbacks as excellent options for driving around cities and A-roads rather than motorway driving, the Volkswagen Golf may be an excellent option if you’re looking for a compact, economical car. The latest MK8 Volkswagen Golf is available as a petrol, hybrid or diesel, with the latter being the best for long motorway journeys due to their impressive fuel economy statistics.

The cheapest 2.0-litre TDI manual Golf Life is available from £25,110, whilst it will cost £26,610 if you opt for a 7-speed automatic DSG transmission. This engine will achieve just over 63 mpg whilst generating 300NM of torque and 115bhp. For this, you will get a cloth interior, 16” alloy wheels, LED headlights, digital cockpit, USB & USB-C charging sockets, keyless-go and 10-colour ambient lighting.

If you want a more powerful diesel engine with good economy figures for regular motorway driving, the range-topping GTD model produces 200bhp and 400NM of torque, yet still achieves a combined 53 mpg. However, the list price is much higher than the base level ‘Life’, with prices starting from £32,995. The GTD comes with 18” alloy wheels, LED matrix headlights, sports bumpers, ‘Jacara’ cloth seats, heated leather steering wheel, 30-colour ambient lighting, sports suspension, adaptive cruise control, lane assist, parking sensors and more.

Click here to see the full Volkswagen Golf range and their specifications

 

Ford Mondeo

The Ford Mondeo was hugely popular when it was first unveiled in the 90’s and it remains a great car for motorway driving to this day. The comfortable cabin combined with the excellent suspension, spacious boot and responsive handling on all roads makes it a great option if you clock up the motorway miles. The powerful engines are available with a 6-speed-manual or 8-speed automatic gearbox, and you can choose from a hybrid, petrol or diesel engine.

For motorway driving, the 2.0 EcoBlue 190ps engine is likely the best choice as it generates enough power to accelerate quickly and effortlessly maintain high speeds. This engine generates 400NM of torque, 190bhp and can get from 0-62 in 8.9 seconds. If you choose the 150PS 2.0-litre engine, it generates 50NM less torque and takes 9.7-10.3 seconds to reach 62mph, depending on the gearbox.

Spaciousness and driving comfort is complemented by an economical 53.3 mpg, which should help your wallet if you frequently clock up motorway miles.

Unfortunately, the 190PS engine isn’t available in the cheapest Zetec Edition, so you will need at least the Titanium Edition to choose the more powerful engine. This will come with all of the standard equipment you’d expect from a modern car, but also include leather power-adjustable heated leather seats, a 10” display, multi-colour ambient lighting, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and keyless entry.

If you’re after more premium features, consider the range-topping Vignale specification, which includes everything on the Titanium edition plus full leather seats in charcoal or cashmere, a heated steering wheel, a rearview camera, Sony DAB audio system and 12 speakers, velour floor mats, integrated active noise control, 19” alloys, Vignale grills, premium paint and more.

In terms of pricing, you can order a new 2.0 EcoBlue 190PS Hatchback Titanium Edition from £29,320 and the Vignale from £32,350. The latter is also available with an all-wheel-drive (AWD), with prices starting from £34,350. You can find a full breakdown of the prices here.

 

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

If you’re looking for a mid-sized executive saloon to drive along the motorway, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class could be an excellent option. The E-Class is available in almost every body style, including a traditional saloon, estate, coupé, cabriolet and CLS, which is effectively a large four-door coupé. The latest version of the E-Class is also available as a petrol, diesel, mild-hybrid and fully-hybrid, meaning there is an engine for every requirement.

Our pick of the engines is the 220D, a powerful diesel engine boasting excellent fuel economy and enough grunt to cruise at high motorway speeds. The engine produces 194bhp, a combined 53.3 mpg and reaches 0-62 mph in 7.4 seconds. When you reach the high rev ranges, the car pulls well due to it producing 295NM of torque.

If you’re looking for some more power and willing to compromise on the fuel economy, the E300DE engine produces 242bhp and can reach 0-62 mph in 6.5 seconds. The four-cylinder engine also produces 369NM of torque, which is evident in the higher rev ranges when travelling along the motorway at higher speeds. However, the more powerful engine output means that the car produces a combined 41.5 mpg, 11.8 mpg less than the 220D.

As well as boasting good performance and economy figures, the E-Class interior is also what you would expect from a luxury executive saloon. As standard, all trim levels come with a four-way electric driver's seat with lumbar support. The dashboard is also one of the best available, with a 12.3” display behind the wheel providing all of the information you expect and another 12.3” centre display where you can access Mercedes-Benz’s innovative infotainment system. All trims come complete with natural speech control, wireless phone charging, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto installed. You will also get a sat nav as standard but will only get the ‘augmented reality navigation’ on the Premium trim and above.

As standard, you get front and rear sensors, a rear-view camera and park assist, which will almost park the car for you. The AMG Line Premium and Premium Plus trim also add a 360-degree camera to make parking the medium-sized car even easier.

Whilst there is a lot of standard kit on the entry-level ‘Sport’ trim, including that mentioned above plus cruise control, 17-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, two-zone climate control and electric power folding mirrors, we would opt for the AMG Line Premium trim as the pick of the bunch. This trim features all of the previously mentioned features plus 19-inch alloys, keyless entry and an electrically operated boot lid.

The E-Class is the most expensive car on our list, with the E220D AMG Line Premium having an OTR price of £45,285. If you are willing to compromise on some of the extras available on the AMG Line spec, you could opt for the cheaper Sport trim, which has an OTR price of £40,285 and still comes with a generous amount of standard kit.

 

Skoda Octavia

The Skoda Octavia is perfect for a driver looking for space, comfort and an excellent range of standard equipment. Since becoming part of Volkswagen Group, all Skoda’s have been equipped with an excellent choice of engines too, with some tailored perfectly for cruising along the motorway. In addition, if you have a family, the Octavia has a class-leading 600-litre boot and an impressive amount of legroom in the rear for five passengers to travel comfortably.

The latest facelift has made the car look sleeker inside and out. Even the base-spec SE edition coming with a 10.25” digital cockpit, rear parking sensors, cruise control and an 8” centre console screen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink pre-installed. If you choose the SE L, you will get more extras such as keyless entry, heated ‘microsuede’ seats, adaptive cruise control and a 10” centre console screen.

When it comes to motorway driving, the diesel engine is likely to be the best choice, with the 2.0-litre TDI engine being available at 113bhp or 148bhp. The 113bhp version is available with a 6-speed manual or 7-speed DSG gearbox, with the manual achieving a combined 68.2 mpg and the DSG achieving a combined 64.6 mpg. The more powerful 148bhp version is only available as a manual and achieves a combined 67.6 mpg.

Despite the Octavia's relatively low power output (250NM of torque), the 113bhp version is adept at pulling in the higher rev ranges while cruising down the motorway. But if you feel you require a bit more power, the 148bhp option generates 340NM of torque.

If you’re considering the 116ps 2.0 TDI manual, you can get the SE trim from £23,790, SE Technology trim for £24,045 or SE L trim for £26,505. For the DSG- gearbox, you will pay £25,180 for the SE, £25,435 for the SE Technology, and £27,895 for the SE L. For those motorway drivers seeking more power, you can purchase the 150ps 2.0 TDI manual from £24,815 in SE trim, £25,070 in SE Technology trim and £27,530 in the SE L trim.

If none of these options meet your needs and you want a more powerful car, the best option would be the range-topping vRs, which comes with 19” alloy wheels, LED headlights with an adaptive front light system, red brake calipers and black vRs sports seats. The pick of the engines for motorway driving is the 2.0 TDI 200ps, which can achieve a combined 56.9MPG, whilst generating 400NM of torque and can reach 0-62 in 7.4 seconds. However, the price starts from £32,905 for the front-wheel-drive DSG version and £34,390 for the 4x4 DSG, so it is much pricier than the cheapest SE trim.

To see the full list of choices, you can configure your Skoda Octavia on their official website.

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Audi A4

Audi’s compact saloon has been a popular car amongst UK drivers for a long time, with the brand's market position making them a good option for those wanting a classy commuter car. The car is available as a saloon, estate (avant) and allroad.

There are five trim options to choose from: Technik, Sport Edition, S line, Black Edition and Vorsprung. The Technik has 17” alloys, LED headlights, parking sensors and rear-view camera, virtual cockpit and smartphone interface. The Sport spec adds 18” 10-spoke dynamic alloys, LED interior lighting, black styling, privacy glass and front leather sport seats. Choosing the S line trim gets you 19” 5-arm toriso’ design alloy wheels, LED rear lights and dynamic indicators, S line styling and front sport seats in Leather/Dinamica. In addition to the S line, the Black Edition includes 19” diamond cut alloys, the black styling pack, inlays in piano black and a flat-bottomed 3-spoke leather steering wheel. The top-spec Vorsprung includes all of the features mentioned above, plus an electric sunroof, driver assistance pack, Bang & Olufsen sound system, 19” 5-V-spoke-star alloy wheels and the extended LED interior lighting pack.

There are also many engine options to choose from on the Audi A4, with the 2.0 TFSI engines that output 150, 204 or 265ps and the 2.0 TDI engines that output 136, 163 and 204ps. Our pick of the engines for motorway driving is the 204ps 2.0 TDI, which is available in Sport, S line, Black Edition and Vorsprung trims. It’s also worth noting that this engine is only available on quattro versions of the car, with the cheapest Sport edition costing £39,195 and the most expensive Vorsprung option costing £48,900 before choosing any additional extras.

Our pick of the engines and trim would be the S line 40 TDI Quattro S tronic, which generates 400NM of torque, reaches 0-62 mph in 6.9 seconds and achieves a combined 49.6-51.4 mpg. This choice will give you a generous choice of standard equipment, be able to handle high speeds effortlessly and achieve good mpg figures.

 

BMW 3 Series

The latest version of the BMW 3 Series comes with a vastly improved, class-leading infotainment system, a more aggressive-looking grille and an array of trim and engine options. While prices have increased slightly compared to the previous generation 3 Series, this has come with more standard equipment and updated styling.

BMW has retained a wide range of engines, with 4 petrol and diesel options and a plug-in-hybrid variant. Again, diesel engines are probably the best choice for motorway driving due to their economy figures, pulling power and ability to offer a smooth ride at high speeds. You will also have a choice of two transmissions - a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic, although the manual is only available with the lower power engines. The car offers low noise levels when driving on the motorway due to the standard acoustic glazing and the ride is smooth due to the stroke-dependent dampers.

There are multiple trim levels available with diesel engines, which include the SE Pro, M Sport & M Sport Pro, and Sport Pro. Our pick of the trims and engines is the BMW 320d SE Pro Saloon which offers strong performance figures, impressive standard spec and good emission figures. With its mild-hybrid technology, the car can achieve a combined 60.1-61.4 mpg if you choose the rear-wheel-drive option, and 55.4-57.6 mpg if you opt for x-drive. However, unless you’re utilising the improved traction regularly, we don’t think this would be necessary for most motorway drivers. Without any additional extras, the car will cost £37,865, which includes 17” alloy wheels, cloth upholstery, a 10.25” touchscreen with voice control and a 12.3” digital dashboard.

 

Vauxhall Insignia

Updated in 2021, the Vauxhall Insignia epitomises the company car. The latest version offers a range of new engines, improved CO2 emissions and fuel consumption while retaining the Insignia’s renowned driving experience.

Vauxhall has worked hard to improve its engines for the latest iteration, with the diesel emitting as little as 121g/km and being RDE2 compliant, which is great for company car drivers who will have no diesel surcharge on their Benefit in Kind. With prices starting at just £24,330 for the 1.5 (122ps) Turbo D, it is also one of the cheapest cars in our list. However, for better economy figures, a smoother drive and more torque, we recommend the 174ps diesel engine, which is available in the SRI Nav trim, with an OTR price of £28,430. This version also retains the 17” alloy wheels, making the ride more comfortable when travelling at high speeds. If you upgrade to the SRI VX-Line Nav, you get 20” diamond-cut alloys, but you will feel more bumps in the road and see slightly reduced economy figures.

If you opt for our choice of the diesel engines with a 6-speed manual gearbox, the car will achieve a combined 61.4 mpg, 381NM of torque and reach 0-60mph in 8.2 seconds. The key features include a 7” touchscreen, front and rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, rear spoiler, ambient lighting, traffic sign recognition and electrically operated heated door mirrors.

 

Tesla Model 3

The Tesla Model 3 is the only electric car to make it on our list due to its impressive fully electric range, which can provide over 350 miles on a full charge and performance figures that put some sports cars to shame. The tech-filled, minimalist interior also makes it a great place to be for long motorway journeys. Furthermore, the worry of running out of charge on a long journey isn’t an issue with Tesla Superchargers now at most motorway service stations, with Tesla claiming you can get up to 172 miles of range from a 15-minute charge.

There are three versions of the Model 3 available in the UK, with the entry-level model being the Standard Range Plus that can travel up to 267 miles on a full charge and reach 0-60mph in 5.3 seconds. This is the most popular model and is sufficient for most people’s needs if the car is mainly being used for motorway driving.

If you would like better performance and range figures, you can choose from the Long Range AWD or Performance versions, which have an additional motor and benefit from four-wheel-drive, compared to the Standard Range Plus which is rear-wheel-drive. Tesla states the Long Range AWD has a range of 360 miles, whereas the Performance can travel 352 miles on a full charge. Impressively, despite being a 5-door saloon, the Performance model can get from 0-60mph in a mind-blowing 3.1 seconds.

Whereas most cars will have some buttons to control certain functions, the Tesla Model 3 is completely free of buttons, with everything besides the driving being controlled through the huge 15” touchscreen mounted to the dashboard. The infotainment is also one of the best in the class, with the navigation powered by Google Maps, on-demand internet radio, and integrated streaming platforms. All specs also come with a panoramic roof, heated front & rear seats and 15 speakers as standard.

One of the other reasons we had to include the Model 3 on our list is the optional Autopilot system that lets the car essentially drive itself on the motorway (although you will need to keep your hands on the steering wheel). The innovative technology means that your car can accelerate, brake and steer for you, whilst ensuring you remain a safe distance from other cars. However, this isn’t a standard feature and will cost you an additional £6,800.

Providing you don’t regularly travel over 250 miles, we recommend the Standard Range Plus, which offers an almost silent motorway driving experience due to the electric motor and has all of the standard equipment you need for a comfortable drive. Compared to the other cars on this list, the Tesla is quite expensive, with prices starting at £40,990, however, there could be potential running cost savings due to the car being powered by electricity.

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Jaguar XE

The facelift Jaguar XE is a sporty compact saloon with a premium interior and an updated infotainment system built to compete with its German rivals. The spacious, luxurious interior makes it an excellent choice for long motorway journeys – and the drive does not disappoint either.

The XE is available as a petrol or mild-hybrid diesel, with the latter being best suited to motorway driving. The four-cylinder engine boasts 201bhp, can get from 0-60mph in a respectable 6.9 seconds and pulls well from 1,500rpm due to producing 430NM of torque. Add to this that you can achieve a combined 52.3-58.5mpg, it had to be included on our list of the best motorway cars in 2021.

There are many options available when choosing a specification, with three models; XE, XE R-Dynamic and XE R-Dynamic Black, and three spec packs; S, SE and HSE. Our pick would be the R-Dynamic SE which is available from £32,815 and offers a good range of features for the price. This specification comes with 18” diamond cut alloys, heated electric door mirrors, keyless entry, 12-way heated electric front seats, sport seats, 10” touch screen, rear traffic monitor, cruise control, traffic sign recognition, blind spot assist and more.

If you wanted to upgrade to the XR R-Dynamic HSE, the price will increase to £35,705 which will get you 19” diamond cut alloys, an electrically adjustable steering column, 16-way heated electric front seats, an additional touchscreen, Meridian Sound System, adaptive cruise control, rear collision monitor, plus everything you get on the SE spec.

*All prices and specifications are correct as of the 6th July 2021.