Three Nissan LeafsEnlarge Photo
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 GLEnlarge Photo
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.