Thursday, October 25, 2012

First Drive: Nissan Leaf

In 2010, Nissan started production on an electric car, called the Nissan Leaf. In 2010, the Leaf went on sale. The Leaf is a front-engine, front-wheel drive, five-door hatchback that is powered by electricity. The Leaf is powered by a 80 kW synchronous motor that produces 107 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. The Leaf has a single speed transmission. The Leaf also has a 24 kWh lithium ion battery.It goes from 0 to 60 mph in 10 seconds and reaches a top speed of 92 mph. I test drove the Leaf SL, which includes a rear view camera that is not available for the Leaf SV. The Leaf SL also has a quick charge port that is not present in the Leaf SV. The price for the Leaf I drove is $37,250, but you also get a $7,500 instant tax credit when you buy or lease the Leaf.

The Leaf has a great interior, but it has a bad exterior. The Leaf looks weird. The headlights are not flushed with the front bumper and the hood. The Leaf looks like an egg on wheels. The interior is another story. I love how informative the navigation system is. I also like how the on board computer tells you the actual range you have and where you can go to charge up the Leaf. The emergency break is integrated flawlessly within the center console. The Leaf has a cool design when it comes to changing gears. There is a button that puts the car in park when pushed. To get the car in reverse, pull the transmission knob towards you and push up. To get the car in drive, pull the transmission knob towards you, then pull down on the knob. It works perfectly. Since the car is electric and hardly makes a sound, there is a beeping noise to alert that the car is in reverse. There is plenty head and leg room in the rear. The seats are very comfortable. I had no issues with the push start feature. The touch screen was easy to use.

While the car was comfortable to drive, it lacks in performance. Right away, if you have the air conditioner or heater on, you lose 22 miles in range. When I turned on the car, the range was 98 miles. When the air conditioner was turned on, the range dropped to 76 miles. The Leaf got up to 45 mph with little effort, but it took a lot more just to get the Leaf from 45 mph to 60 mph. That is not good. For driving in cities with crazy drivers, you need a car that can get from 0 to 60 mph in 8 seconds or less. One thing about electric cars, you get instantaneous torque. Still, it did not feel that quick accelerating to highway speeds.

To sum up the Leaf, great interior with bad exterior and bad performance. The Leaf has a great interior. Instruments, the emergency brake, and the gear change are integrated very well. I have never been in a car with an interior like the Leaf. Good job Nissan on the interior With that said, the car weighs 3,354 pounds and the motor produces only 107 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. That gives the Leaf a horrendous power-to-weight ratio of 63.9 hp/ton. To put that into perspective, the Ford Focus has a power-to-weight ratio of 114.3 hp/ton. The rival Chevrolet Volt has a power-to-weight ratio of 78.8 hp/ton. The Leaf needs more power and torque. 107 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque is not enough to get the Leaf up to speed. Also, the range on one charge drops by 22 miles when the air conditioner or heater is on. The Leaf is not a car to use for road trips. At best, the Leaf will do 98 miles on one charge. Also, the Leaf has an ugly exterior. Why would anyone want to design a hatchback that has the bottom extend far out. That is a very unnecessary design. Also, the headlights are not flush with the hood and front bumper. The headlights stick out like a sore thumb. Since this is a pure electric car, you need to make sure you are able to charge the car. The Leaf is not a buy since there are still flaws with electric car and the electric car is still evolving. If you want a Leaf, lease the car. The Leaf is for those who want an electric car with plenty of room, comfortable quite ride, have a place to charge the car, and wants a car with a great interior despite poor performance and exterior design. If you are not capable of charging the car either at work, shopping, or at home, pass on all plug-in cars. For those who was decent exterior styling and moderate performance, look elsewhere for a car. Still, I would take the Leaf over the Chevrolet Volt because the interior and the ride quality of the Volt does not match up to the interior and ride quality of the Leaf.

Photo was taken by a digital camera.
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1 comment:

  1. In terms of the exterior, I think it really depends on the individual and their taste. Sure it may appear quirky to some while others embrace a more unique look.