When I got into the Nissan LEAFfor a true extended test drive here in southern California, I had a pretty good sense of what to expect: A quiet ride, good acceleration, and overall an enjoyable drive.
I was wrong.
The LEAF delivered a far more spirited ride than I was expecting. It's not perfect, and I'll tell you what I didn't like in just a bit, but overall it's a car most people will enjoy driving.
I took the LEAF out for a two-hour drive north of Los Angeles on Monday morning.
Like all electric cars, the instant torque and acceleration immediately stand out. The LEAF zips in and out of traffic easily and actually makes maneuvering in congested areas less of a chore. On the highway, you can pass other cars with ease. The handling was better than I expected for a compact car. Is it the equivalent of a refined sports car? No. That said the handling and acceleration of the LEAF will more than please the first wave of buyers.
The LEAF interior is spacious, but not spectacular.
The seats, dashboard, and trim are pleasant, but will not blow you away.
What I did like with the LEAF is the instrument panel and navigation screen in the center stack.
It is easy to work and makes it quick to find the information you want. Especially, the number of miles you have left until running out of juice and where the nearest charging stations are located.
So what did I not like about the LEAF?
There is definitely a "tinny" whirring sound from the electric motor. It's not loud, it's not obnoxious, but you definitely notice it. It's the same situation with wind noise. It's noticeable, especially at higher speeds. Now, if you are talking with someone else in the car, or the radio is on, the wind noise and electric motor sound are not as prevalent. In fact, you don't really notice them. Still, they are two issues Nissan needs to address.
There are already 16,000 people who have paid $99.00 to reserve a LEAF.
Will all of them wind up paying $32,780 (before Federal tax credit) for a LEAF? No. But Nissan is confident a large percentage of these "hand raisers" will follow through and buy the LEAF as it goes into showrooms late this year.
So will the LEAF be a hit for Nissan?
I think it will do well. It's too hard to say the LEAF will be a "game changer" like the Toyota Priuswas with hybrids a few years back. Keep in mind, the LEAF will have competition from the Chevy Voltand there are other electric models on the way that will give the LEAF plenty of competition.
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