2011 Nissan Leaf Long-Term Road Test


2011 Nissan Leaf: First Time

June 30, 2011

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This was my first time driving the Nissan Leaf. I'm not sure what took me so long to try it. I liked our electric Mini E very much but for some reason I've been avoiding the Leaf and the Chevy Volt.

Driving the Leaf is very similar to driving the Mini E. Full torque as you put your foot down. The same whirring noise. The range per charge is similar at 100 miles. The regenerative braking is less aggressive in feel but it recoups a lot of power on the fly.

At first I was a little concerned. When I got into the Leaf the range stated 100 miles. Before I even pulled out of our lot it was at 98. And by the time I exited our parking garage and stopped at the red light on our corner, I was down to 93. But as soon as I got on the freeway and was coasting along at around 45 mph in mild traffic, I started to gain back estimated range. At one point I was almost near my exit and the range meter read 101 miles. I thought I might make it home with more than I started. But as soon as I got into stop-and-go traffic, the range started dropping. By the time I got home (total trip 20.5 miles) the range meter read 83.

The Leaf had plenty of juice enough for me to drive home, drive to dinner last night, run some errands this morning, and get me back to the office with about half its charge left.

I'm not crazy about the Leaf's interior. It's pleasant enough but I wish Nissan had designed it to be more normal looking. The Mini E looked just like a regular Mini Cooper except for the lack of a back seat. But it had pretty much the same gauges. Nissan seemed to go the Toyota Prius route with the Leaf. It has a special little shifter and a layered dash that feels miles away. I'd rather it look and feel like a normal car.

I had to consult the manual to figure out some of the cryptic icons. Some of them seem repetitive. I was concerned about a red triangle warning light. But it was just telling me that the parking brake was set. There is also a parking brake light. Plus, there's the range meter, the power meter, and in the top section of the dash another meter that calculates your usage on the fly. Seems like overkill.

All in all, I liked driving the Nissan Leaf. I would have signed it out for the weekend but it's a holiday and who knows how far I might want to go.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 2,714 miles

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