Five Ideal Companion Cars To The 2012 Nissan Leaf

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Three Nissan Leafs

Three Nissan Leafs

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You’ve taken the plunge and shelled out anything from $33,000 upwards for an all-electric 2012 Nissan Leaf. 

Quiet, efficient and full of gadgets, you’ve discovered that it has quickly relegated your gas car to the garage, carrying out the weekend chores, work commutes and maybe even school runs. 

Unless you’re in the minority of Americans with just one car, the chances are you still have -- or need -- a second car to help share the burden of busy family life. 

But which cars make the ideal companion to the all-electric Leaf, either as a second car, or as commuter vehicle for that family member who isn’t lucky enough to get the Leaf every day? 

To help you, we’ve selected a range of second cars to use alongside your Leaf, covering everything from the occasional runabout to solutions for larger families using criteria as diverse as longevity, reliability, environmental impact and financial running costs.

For the purposes of our list, we’ve assumed you’ll want a reliable car less than ten years old that can be driven on long distance trips and that can be easily purchased and serviced at a local dealer.

All-rounder: Toyota Prius Hybrid

When the 2004-2009 Toyota Prius launched, many customers commented that it made their gasoline cars seem old fashioned, unrefined and a little noisy. 

Admittedly, Toyota’s erstwhile hybrid won’t feel quite as quick off the lights as a Leaf, but it does combine great gas mileage and hatchback practicality for those days when you really do need to go further than the 73-mile EPA range of the Leaf allows.

Better still, both cars give a similar enough driving experience that it’s relatively easy to switch from car-to-car without trouble, while a flat load-bay floor makes carrying large loads easy.

2003 Volkswagen Jetta Wagon GL

2003 Volkswagen Jetta Wagon GL

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Long, green legs: Volkswagen Jetta TDI Diesel Wagon

If your Nissan Leaf is used for everything except long-distance trips, you’ll want something with reasonably good gas-mileage on the freeway, and lots of space for your luggage. 

Cars like the Volkswagen Jetta TDI fit the bill perfectly. 

At 31 mpg city for the 2005 year model, the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Wagon isn’t all that impressive. But take it on the highway, and it’s possible to get the 1.9-liter, 4-cylinder diesel engine to give gas mileages that far exceed the EPA’s 39 mpg highway estimate

Later models, with six-speed manual gearboxes, are happy to sit on the highway all day in top gear without stressing the engine. 

Moreover, unlike the Leaf or the Prius recommended above, you can tow with the Jetta Wagon, making it ideal for those family camping trips. 

Finally, if the thought of burning oil just fills you with horror after driving an electric car, there are plenty of resources on the Internet to help you convert the Jetta’s diesel engine run on vegetable oil or biodiesel. 

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Comments (18)
  1. Well, our example is not quite "eco-friendly"...

    The car that we relegated to the garage is a Nissan Patrol GR, which is almost 13 years old...

    This was our family car until petrol went up the hill and we decided to cut costs and change our way of mobility, I guess, quite radically!

  2. We went from a "2 Prius, One NEV" household to "Leaf/Prius" household which i think is ideal. if i were to change, i would go with the now defunct Ford Escape Hybrid. (supposed to be available but as soon as Ford announced there would be no 2013, the remaining 2012's disappeared faster than cash at a gas station!) at 30+ mpg, the utility and space is a tough combo to beat. now why Ford has decided to do this? probably due to the plug ins they will be coming out with but had to understand why they got rid of a platform that seemed to be selling well up to its dying day

  3. An ideal "family" companion car is a van in America... I have three kids (quite normal around here) and the LEAF is a five seater. I wish I didn't use my Sienna as much but we need additional seating, even locally. That electric compliance T&C would be perfect but they'll never build it...

  4. I agree with Jan. I have two teens and two in-laws to haul around during the weekends with our Sienna. The Leaf now has 13,000+ miles, so I don't feel too guilty about the van. They both have their niches in our lives.

  5. I just checked into Hertz' On Demand service. It has a limit of 180 miles per day. That would be useless, if I wanted to drive somewhere, like from Memphis to Nashville, which is over 200 miles. I find Hertz' regular rental a good deal on weekends, but rent from a Nissan dealer during the week to save money. It certainly doesn't pay to own a second car to drive to Nashville a few times per year. Around Memphis, the Nissan Leaf has plenty of range.

  6. Of the choices listed, I'd take the Prius Plugin -- if the point is long distance efficiency, then the Prius is by far better than the Volt. For short hops, it still has the EV mode.

    Another good choice I think id the Honda Fit/Jazz -- much lower cost, decent long distance FE and it is a Tardis making it great as an enclosed truck.


  7. My second vehicle is a pick-up.

  8. My second car would be a Chevy Tahoe Hybrid. So I can tow a camper or go skiing...

  9. You would only choose the Prius as backup if you like slow grandma driving

  10. A Prius and a GTR will be just as fast on the highway, as long as you do not plan on getting a ticket. The Prius is also less than a second slower than the Volt, so why do you constantly attack it? Jealous of the much better milage..?

  11. Our first car is the Think City EV. A year later, we bought our second Think City, as did two of my coworkers. Now we sell both of our over-ten-year-old gas cars. Our third vehicle will be Amtrak or some other "rental".

    At least two more coworkers are considering buying Thinks. No Leafs at work yet.

  12. We have a Th!nk city as our second car in addition to our Leaf. If we need to go on a long trip and can't take the train-then we rent. For a great discussion on transportation and energy, I highly recommend the book "Cooler Smarter".

  13. My M-B R350 BlueTEC is a nice complement to my LEAF. The LEAF works really well for short trips while the R-Class is a comfortable highway cruiser for longer journeys. The LEAF is definitely the greener of the two, but the R's clean diesel engine returns respectable mileage for the vehicle's size.

  14. I would go with the renting program and two Leafs!

  15. Finally decided after lousy car rental experiences to get a Kia Rio 5-door hatch. Am delighted, getting over 42 mpg on the road and with up-to-date navigation, leather, sunroof, vocal interface this car has everything expensive cars have at a bargain price as well as being a great drive!

  16. Haven't driven it yet but the Mazda CX-5 is suppose to get 35mpg highway, which is pretty good for an SUV. Also the upcoming Escape hybrid should get good fuel economy and the current model is not to bad either.

  17. @Jason: There will be no more Escape Hybrids. Ford has killed off the hybrid crossover after the 2012 model year, and its hybrids will be limited to front-wheel drive models: the 2013 C-Max Hybrid and the 2013 Fusion Hybrid.

  18. Well, we already have a Volt and a BMW Active-E, so we have an all electric car and an extended range option for those times when I want to make longer trips. But if I needed to have a van or truck I would rent one in whatever way worked best. Likewise, if we had to make a longer trip and take more than the Volt would hold, I'd rent a bigger car or van. For us, it just doesn't make sense to own a vehicle that sits around a lot and costs insurance and registration fees all year. (I do however have a couple of collector cars that are not at all expensive in those departments.)

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