2011 Nissan Leaf Long-Term Road Test

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2011 Nissan Leaf SL: High Tech, Low Tech

July 13, 2011

leaf display.jpg Finally drove the Leaf and was quite impressed, like others staffers, mostly by the car's natural driving demeanor. Even in Eco mode, the Leaf's regenerative braking is not overt, unlike the Mini E we had. In that electric Mini you could drive the car at great lengths without ever touching the brake pedal (except of course for quicker stops), so strong was its re-gen braking when you lifted your foot off the umm, "gas" pedal.

Nor does the Leaf's instrument panel hit you over the head with flamboyant, distracting displays. Yes it does have the "Make a small forest" game/function to show how efficiently you're driving, but that's actually kind of cool. But I was surprised to see this cutting edge car lacking synchronized clocks. I noticed an eight minute discrepancy between the instrument panel and center stack monitor displays. My OCD wouldn't allow this so I grabbed the manual and reset the instrument clock (which was fast by my cell phone and PC clocks).

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor

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2011 Nissan Leaf: Reverse Chime

July 12, 2011

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Our Nissan Leaf has a special little shifter that screams "I'm an Electric Car."

I don't agree with the push-forward-for-reverse, pull-back-for-drive action of the shifter. Wouldn't it make more sense to pull backward when you want to go backward and push forward when you want to move forward?

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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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2011 Nissan Leaf SL: Does This Bother You?

May 31, 2011

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This is the screen that greets you as you start up the 2011 Nissan Leaf. It reads, "Your vehicle wirelessly transmits recorded vehicle data to Nissan per subscription agreement for various purposes, including CARWINGS services, product evaluation, research and development. By touching OK, you consent to the transmission and use of your vehicle data. See Owner's Manual or Nissan website for terms and details."

Here's the EV project agreement and here's the Leaf's owner's manual, specific information is on page 339, section 9 - 16.

So, the question, do you care that your car is sending information about you wirelessly to the manufacturer?

Mike Magrath, Associate Editor

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2011 Nissan Leaf: Simplified Green Tech

May 26, 2011

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It seems obvious now, but I didn't really know what this button did when I pressed it. I mean, it's already producing zero emissions right? It's not like you can turn it off and make it belch smoke, although I would love it if you could.

So what does the "zero emission" button do?

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2011 Nissan Leaf: Could Use Some Flippers

May 05, 2011

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The more time I spend with our Leaf, the more I like it. There are only a few things I could complain about, and those items are admittedly negligible. Case in point: the rear headrests.

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2011 Nissan Leaf: Prius-Like Upholstery?

April 20, 2011

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The upholstery in our Leaf kinda reminds of that seen in our departed Prius. The fabric in both vehicles is light-colored and very soft -- almost velour-like -- to the touch.

So that means it feels great -- way to go, Leaf -- but it could also mean that, like the Prius, the Leaf's upholstery may not exactly be a champ when it comes to keeping dirt and grime at bay.

Nothing yucky to report just yet. We'll see how it holds up.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 1,860 miles

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2011 Nissan Leaf: Potential Start Button Failure

April 11, 2011

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(Photo by Mark Takahashi)

Nissan is investigating complaints in the U.S. and Japan that the Leaf fails to start on occasion. "Nissan has recently become aware of an issue on a small number of Nissan Leafs with a sensor in the air conditioning system," said Nissan Americas statement on Monday.

"If the sensor is activated, it will illuminate a warning light on the instrument panel and may cause the vehicle to not restart once it has been turned off. We are actively investigating to determine the root cause and what action is necessary to address the issue. This is not a safety issue as the vehicle will not stop running while being driven, but may not restart after being turned off."

At this time we have not experienced any such problem with our Leaf.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager

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2011 Nissan Leaf: A Simple Interface for a Complex Car

March 22, 2011

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The first time I drove the Leaf I was pleased to find this fairly simple center stack layout. For a car with so many possibilities for gadgets and buttons, the designers clearly showed some restraint here.

It's not exactly a perfect layout -- there are no tuning and volume knobs for instance -- but for the most part you can pretty much take a quick glance over and find what you need instantly. This is becoming increasingly difficult these days even in normal cars, so the fact that Nissan kept it simple in its bleeding edge electric is a positive sign in my book.

Ed Hellwig, Editor

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2011 Nissan Leaf: Clock Confusion

March 17, 2011

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I learned something new that our 2011 Nissan Leaf and Infiniti M56 have in common. They both have two clocks that don't communicate with each other. You can't just change the time on the center stack. You have to do it on the IP display also. Nissan, this is unnecessary. Please, stop.

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2011 Nissan Leaf: Shifter or Mouse?

March 11, 2011

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I'm guessing a mouse is what Nissan was going for when it came time to design the shifter in the Leaf. Problem is, no matter how much computing power is buried within the Leaf's dashboard, it's still a car.

Reaching down to put into gear is not a pleasant process with this little nub thing. There's not much to grab and it doesn't feel natural moving from one gear to other. Of all the things Nissan could have done to get creative, messing with something as simple as the shifter was not the best move. Should've conserved all that energy for the exterior, definitely needs some help there.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com

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