If you really want a classy car and still care for the environment, you try to get a Tesla. But since most of us don’t have $100,000 lying around, we have three basic options: the Nissan Leaf, Toyota Prius, and Chevrolet Volt. But how do they compare with each other?
Let’s take a look at the most important factors we need to consider:
• How green is it? Here, the downright winner is the 2015 Nissan Leaf, as it is purely electric. You don’t use gasoline at all, and that means no nasty carbon emissions that can wreak havoc to the atmosphere. However, it has a range of about 80 miles on a full charge, and it takes about 4 hours of charging to get the battery back to full strength once it’s empty.
Second place goes to the 2015 Chevrolet Volt, which has a hybrid engine. You can use electricity as you drive around town, but if you need to go for longer distances you can always switch to gasoline. It has a range of about 380 miles all in all. Basically, it’s an electric car for the first 38 miles, and then the 1.4 liter engine powers up to give the battery a boost for another 340 miles. In the city, you can get as much as 101 miles per gallon, although on the highway you’ll be using more gasoline so your mpg drops to 93.
Finally there’s the Toyota Prius. This 2015 hybrid comes in several versions, but they all average around the 50 mpg mark. It only travels about 11 miles when you use pure electric power.
• How much does it cost? The winner here is the Toyota Prius. Its base model costs about $24,000 and the most expensive model goes for $30,000.
The Chevrolet Volt has an MSRP of $34,170 but fortunately you can get a tax credit of up to $7,500. That effectively transforms the base price to a more modest $26,170.
The Nissan Leaf trails here at $29,000. And you may want to get the more expensive models priced at more than $35,000 since those models can use the public DC Quick Chargers that are cropping up all over the country.
• How glamorous is it? Admit it, if you’re buying a car like this then you absolutely care about the coolness factor. And the clear winner is the Prius. It’s the brand name that defines the car category. And it’s the car used and driven by so many environmentally-aware Hollywood celebrities.
Next in coolness is the Chevy Volt, but that’s mostly because it’s American. Nowadays, such a thing matters since so many people hate things made abroad. I’m not saying xenophobia is cool. I’m just saying, for many folks “patriotism” when it comes to consumer behavior does get a lot of approval, especially in some fly-over states where they don’t think climate change is real.
Then we come to the Nissan Leaf. When people in the US see this thing, they forget that Nissan came up with the GT-R. It may be the most popular electric vehicle in the world, but for many people it’s just an impractical import.
• Practicality. This is a tossup between the Volt and the Prius, but for some the Prius comes out just a little bit ahead. That’s because the Prius can actually fit in 5 people, while the Volt can only seat 4. But in general, you don’t have to worry about running out of electricity, since they have a gasoline engine in reserve.
That’s the main problem with the Nissan Leaf. It’s more like a shuttle between work and home. When you try to go to other places, you really need to keep track of how far you’ve gone. With such a short range, you can get in trouble if you run out of juice in a place with no electricity.
• How does it look? Most people consider the Prius the winner in this category, simply because it looks so “iconic”. After all, it was the car that defined the genre just as the Mustang defined the pony car.
Meanwhile, the Nissan Leaf does have a decidedly funky aesthetic. Its look is quite polarizing, as most people don’t react to it with indifference. Either they absolutely adore the look, or they absolutely detest it. There’s no middle ground.
That’s the opposite problem with the Chevrolet Volt. Perhaps to differentiate itself with the other hybrid cars and to make it look “normal”, Chevy has only succeeded in creating a bland-looking car.
• How safe is it? All the cars here are safe but the safest is the Volt. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Volt its highest rating across 4 test parameters. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also gave it an overall 5-star rating.
The Leaf comes in second with high IIHS ratings and respectable NHTSA scores. The Prius is an averagely safe car.
So which one will you get?
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