It was exactly a year ago when I saw this cute and silent vehicle driving by on Figueroa Street in Downtown LA. It really was a quiet car–no motorized sound whatsoever! I later found this mysterious creature in one of the parking lots near my office. There it was: the compact, hatchback, blue-colored Nissan Leaf. About ten days after my close encounter with an “auto-third-kind”, my friend Ahmanielle convinced me to write a Strategic Public Relations campaign for the Leaf as our final project for one of our classes.
The more we researched this vehicle, the more we felt in love with it. Thus, we decided to take the Nissan Leaf San Diego Tour test drive. The experience was amazing. Press a button to start your car? Visualize on your map all the charging stations near you and the miles left to the nearest one? Control your charging schedules and times from your phone? Zero emissions? The Leaf had the coolest features. But when the Nissan team told me I could also apply for federal benefits such as tax incentives of up to $7,500, free parking in Santa Monica and the use of HOV lanes, I thought: I want a Nissan Leaf. Or so I thought.
I live in Oxnard, California and work/study in downtown LA. My daily commute is 127 miles roundtrip. The Leaf is estimated to achieve up to 73-mile driving range with one charge. You would think that I could charge it twice to make it back home, but it is not as simple as that. First, you have to consider if there are charging stations throughout your commute. I checked the Nissan map and as it turns out there are several charging stations on my way to work. Good news? Not so fast! Most of these charging stations are 208/240 volts. It takes a minimum of 5 hours to charge at least 80% of the car’s battery. Stations that offer 400 volts and more can charge your electric vehicle in 30 minutes or less, but availability is scarce.
A year later, I found myself in the process of buying a new car and the thought of buying an electric vehicle (EV) was still implanted in my mind. I am in love with the new Toyota Rav4 EV, but there are many considerations to take into account before buying hybrids or gas-efficient cars. I decided to take a look at kelleybluebook.com and researched the top 20 cars that ranked higher on fuel efficiency. To me, this meant at least 40 mpg average, combining city and highway. I also defined my budget. I knew I wouldn’t spend more than $30,000 for a commuter car. This kicked out many of the EV options like the Leaf or Rav4 EV, which cost $40,000 or more. So, here are my picks:
Toyota Camry Hybrid LE. I love Toyota because my first three cars were made by Toyota and none of them disappointed me. I know I can rely on a Japanese car and that its replacement parts are not expensive. This car infuses personality. The mid-size sedan is perfect for me. As a young married woman I need a decent size vehicle that I can use to go to the beach with other couples and still squeeze in our camping gear without needing an SUV. My favorite thing about this car is the Toyota Entune. With this application on my dashboard screen I can sync the apps from my phone to my car and enjoy the use of popular apps such as Pandora, Bing Navigation and Movie Tickets. This vehicle costs about $25,990, base price and it gets about 42 miles per gallon combined. The cons of this car are that the exterior is not as edgy as I would like and that the lines have remained the same from previous models.
The Lexus CT. This car is a little outside my budget, starting at $31,850, but compared to the Toyota Camry this vehicle has a more refined exterior. This Lexus gets about 42 mpg. My favorite thing about this car is its Remote Touch Controller from which I can control my audio, lighting, climate, etc without lifting my hand off the console. It scores five stars on my safety-related concerns because it comes with 8 airbags. The Lexus CT also has an App Suite called Lexus Enform which has the same features and uses of the Toyota Entune, making this car an all-in-one navigation machine.
The Honda Civic Hybrid. This vehicle gets 44 mpg combined and it hits the jackpot with a base price of $24,200. What I love about this car is that it comes with front, front side and side curtain airbags to avoid the likelihood of injuries during a collision. This is important to me considering my heavy commute. This car comes with the Eco technology button that helps the driver control the gas efficiency in order to go further with one gas tank. Other interesting features are the Satellite Linked Navigation, Bluetooth and USB ports interface but my favorite one is the i-MID. With this technology I can control navigation, entertainment media and I can customize the background of my screen with my own pictures.
The Ford Fusion Hybrid. This car starts at $27,200 and it gets 41 combined mpg. Definitely, this car has a decent exterior design with a front line that I usually like to call phantom-style (not referring to any particular car, it just looks somehow mysterious). My favorite thing about this car is its SYNC audio communication system. With this multipurpose tool I can get 911 Assist capabilities, Traffic directions, Vehicle health report and others. Although this car is not Japanese and is assembled in Mexico, I know with a Ford I can get a good re-sale price and this important to me considering I am not planning on keeping it long term.
Toyota Prius 3rd Generation. This popular wagon-like car costs about $24,000 base price and gets 51 mpg. The exterior has not changed much over the past years and this surprises me considering that this was the first mass-marketed hybrid vehicle in the world. You would think Toyota would have had enough time to be more creative with it. I know that most of you are familiar with the Prius family, and like me, probably think the design isn’t that hot, but the benefits are found in the mileage, the use of HOV lanes and it also comes with Toyota’s Entune.
So there you have them. Which one would you recommend for me?