Awhile back I got a call from Hoselton Nissan (you’ll notice their ad on the right – cough, cough, shameless plug) saying, “Hey, we’ve got this new, zero emissions, 100% electric Nissan Leaf… Want to borrow it and give us your verdict?” Of course my answer was yes!
The real test here was whether or not this was a practical, everyday car for your average person. I’m a sucker for cutting edge technology – especially green technology – but I’ll admit that I had my reservations. Here are my observations after testing out the new Nissan Leaf…
LOOKS: Ok, let’s get this part out of the way. Low marks in this category. Sorry, but it makes a Prius look sexy, and a Prius is not sexy. Much of the design does have to do with aerodynamics – which greatly improves the efficiency of this vehicle… but it’s certainly no Tesla. But herein end the “cons” for the Leaf…
EASE OF USE: I’ll admit, one of my main concerns was how complicated this thing would be to operate. It wasn’t. At all. In fact, it was less complicated than your average car… basically as easy to operate as a golf cart. Yes, seriously! A really big golf cart that goes fast. The Leaf I tested was top-of-the-line with all the bells and whistles you’d expect from Nissan: nav system, satellite radio, etc., but it was all easy to use.
EFFICIENCY/COST: On a full charge, the Leaf has a 72-80 mile range. Which, for me with a busy family of 5, might get us through a slow day. But I’m not the target demographic. If you live in town and are looking for an easy-to-use car for around town than the Leaf is absolutely perfect! Charge it once/week and it will get you where you need to go. Based on the math I saw, at today’s gas prices, the cost of a charge will run you half the cost in electricity that it would comparably in gasoline. You just cut your gas bill in half. And – how cool is this – the system actually replenishes the charge when you coast – so in stop and go traffic, I actually watched the mileage range readout climb higher while driving… Pretty impressive!
INTERIOR SPACE: One of my chief concerns around the practicality of this vehicle was the inside spaciousness. I thought it would be cramped. It wasn’t – in fact, it was quite comfortable. One could easily accommodate their family of 4 in this vehicle (and all their gear thanks to a deceivingly roomy rear hatch) without batting an eye.
NOISE (OR LACK THEREOF): The lack of any noise whatsoever in operating this vehicle deserves a review category of its own. The engineering voodoo behind the Leaf is truly remarkable. The engineers had such a quiet “engine” on their hands that their chief concern was actually the reduction of body design noise. The finished package is quite remarkable. When you push the ignition button and turn the car on? It sounds just the same as when it was off.
SPEED: Betcha you didn’t expect this category.
Speed? Yes. I was blown away by how smoothly the Leaf drives. Without a traditional transmission or shifting, the engine truly accelerates like glass. That’s the only way I can describe it. And on the highway? I was amazed to punch the “gas” past the speed limit (don’t tell Hoselton) and experience a smooth glide of acceleration unlike anything I’ve experienced in a traditional automobile. If you like driving, the Leaf won’t disappoint. I know that sounds strange to say about an electric car, but the car has punch.
HANDLING: The Leaf handles as I expected – not a sports car, but very satisfactory and not lacking anything.
BOTTOM LINE: At $30k-$40k, depending on the model options you choose, the Leaf can run a chunk of change. But it’s easily comparable to other “green” cars on the market and a very generous tax incentive helps soften the blow. Is this car for everyone? No. It’s not for a busy minivan family with 3 kids doing 8 different activities 6 days a week. But, for the eco-conscious small family, single professional, or retired boomer, the Leaf is a very legitimate option worth considering!
I was very pleasantly surprised with this vehicle and am excited to see where this technology goes in the future. Personally, I’m thinking Nissan needs to come out with an electric Z…