2011 All Electric Nissan LeafThe new Leaf is a car worth waiting for. It is a bold step forward by Nissan. This vehicle steps up from the common all electrics which are often flimsy variants of golf carts, to a pure quality all electric vehicle.
I received a call from the local Nissan dealer when the first Leaf arrived and was anxious to try this leading edge car. With keys in hand we go for our new adventure. A special day for me. In viewing the Leaf, I was hoping for a design statement like the VW bug or even the now famous Toyota Prius which are bench mark designs.
The Leaf is nice looking but makes a puzzling statement. It looks a little like every other new econo car. Not bad but not unique.
However, the fit and finish is high quality. The interior design is superb. The excellent quality of workmanship by Nissan is evident in this vehicle. It's obvious a lot of good thought has gone into this design. This car is perfect for local shopping, appointments, meetings in and around town. You will need a second car for out of town junkets. I would estimate the range of this vehicle at about 80 miles without a recharge. One of the nice displays on the dash is how much range the battery has remaining .This range is fine for most of our US driving but as batteries age , we can expect some decline in performance. Batteries can be changed in small units in the Leaf so you dont need to buy the entire package at once. Batteries last longer now as more is learned about their charging and run down. The salesman indicated 14 years or longer could be expected from the battery pack.
So far so good so lets strap this on for a test spin. By pressing a large button, the dash comes alive and I note a large GPS display come active with red dots indicating recharge locations. A nice touch . There is of course, no motor sound so by placing the shifter into a forward position, the car smoothly moves out. The electric power steering is spot on and very smooth with nice feed back.
Give it some good points here. As we pick up speed I can hear the hum of the electric motor and a minimum of road noise. This is a very quiet vehicle. The ride is a pleasant surprise to me. Although the car is short coupled, it does not have a choppy ride. The shock and spring rates are beautifully matched making it ride a bit more like a luxury car. Just firm enough to please me as I dont like a mushy ride.
Now for some fun. I try the max acceleration sprint and am pleased that it is a good compromise between economy and dash. Perhaps just a little faster than the Prius, but not excessive.
Economy is still the most important factor in this electric vehicle . Fuel mileage is hard to calculate as electricity is its motive power . At Corvallis electric rates, I was told it takes about three dollars to charge the Leaf from a low battery condition. If you drove 80 miles on the charge, this would equate to excellent mileage. No pollution to boot.
The Leaf trunk is quite adequate for four peoples luggage for a week end retreat. With four wide opening doors, the Leaf is comfortable for four full sized adults, and plenty of knee room. The rear view vision is fine and is not blocked by a spoiler or other restriction.
When I sadly had to return the car to the dealer, I entered on the back side of the lot and pulled forward to the front display area. A salesman walking across the lot reading a clip board stepped right out in front of me quite unexpectedly. We were both very surprised. The car is perhaps too quiet.
So , what does the scorecard look like ?
Plusses: The Leaf has a beautiful fit and finish and interior. Nice room for four adults with good trunk space. Good handling and brakes with moderate acceleration. Good warranty.
Minuses: Possible long waiting period for delivery, however a new factory is being built in the USA. Even with a tax rebate, the Leaf will still start around $28k. Recharge time is painfully slow and almost no one has the 440 volt charge station suggested. 220 and 110 volt US stations are OK but still take as long as 11 hours to fully charge .
Conclusions: The Nissan Leaf is an excellent car and a wonderful first all electric model. For many folks who do short drives this vehicle makes perfect sense. This concept can help us reduce pollution and minimize dependence on foreign oil. How the electricity for charging is generated , coal, wind. solar etc is another story and a great subject of another feature article. Like the other new generation cars reviewed, this vehicle will be improved frequently. Battery and charging technology is rapidly improving. The new Leaf is a success at the market it is built for. I predict you will start seeing many more Leafs around town.
Happy driving !,
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