Nissan Leaf Test Drive

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Nissan Leaf Test Drive
By Noel Adams
November 18, 2010

At the 2010 LA Auto Show I got to test drive the 2011 Nissan Leaf.

The Leaf is a five seat four door sedan with ample leg room for the rear passengers.  The front seats, which are made from recyclable material, are fairly comfortable, more comfortable than my Prius.  The trunk space isn't huge and part of it was taken up with the 110V charging cable, but it big enough to fit in a weeks worth of groceries or a couple of golf bags.


The Leaf comes with a keyless system so to start the car you just step on the brake pedal and push the power button.  Boot up takes a couple of seconds and you are ready to roll.

The steering wheel is adjustable but for me moving the wheel almost anywhere partially obscured the instrument panel so I finished up pushing it all the way up. The instrument panel itself is full of useful information.  On top in the center is a speedometer and to the right is a clock and outside temperature gage.  To the left is an eco-meter that shows you how economically you are driving.  The more economically you drive the more leaves you grow on the eco meter


Below this is the main instrument cluster.  On the left is the battery temperature gage while on the right is the battery state of charge gage.  Both of these gages are in the form of bar graphs.  Inset into the state of charge gage is a digital readout that shows miles to empty.  This is actually calculated based on how you have been driving over the last five minutes or so and can vary greatly depending on driving style, terrain etc  Over the top of these is an arc of bubbles that makes up the power use gage.  As you accelerate bobbles to the right are filled, the more bubbles the more power you are taking from the batteries.  Filling bubbles to the left shows how much power you are putting back into the batteries from regenerative braking.  There is also an area in the center of the instrument panel that can be customized to show a variety of information such as how long it will take to recharge the car.

The shift lever is a knob sitting on the center console marked with a "P".  To engage drive I moved the knob towards me then back.  I pressed on the accelerator and the car moved forward noiselessly.  I liked the power steering which felt firm and precise.

Once I got out of the parking lot and onto the street I hit the accelerator.  Acceleration is about what you would expect from a compact car.  Not spectacular but easily able to handle the rigors of LA traffic.  When I take my foot of the accelerator as I approach the first light regen kicks in.  Regen is mild at this point, not much more noticeable than the slowing you would expect in an ICE car when you back off the accelerator.  Some people prefer a more aggressive regen but personally I like the setup on the Leaf.

Once out on a straight level street I once again moved the shift knob toward me then back putting the car into eco mode.  Eco mode cuts power on acceleration and increases the strength of regenerative braking.

Once in eco mode acceleration felt sluggish to me.  It would be fine for most traffic situations but I would want to switch back to normal mode to do thing like merging from a side street into fast moving traffic on Santa Monica Boulevard.

I got back to the Convention Center and had to negotiate a slalom like course around several columns to get back to the test drive parking.  The car handled this well.

When I got back the the parking area I moved the shift knob toward me the forward to put the car in reverse.  This also activates the backup camera.

The backup camera seems to give a narrower view behind than some I have seen but a nice red square shows where you are headed making reversing relatively easy.


Once in the parking spot I pressed down on the "P" on the shift knob to place the car in park.

The Navigation system has a feature that lets you find public charging stations.  I was quite surprised how many there are around LA given that the leaf uses the new J1772 standard.  The public charging locations can be selected and the Navigation system will take you directly to the charging station of your choice.


The Nissan Leaf is a nice well built EV that is perfectly suited to the commuter car role especially in city traffic.  I didn't get a chance to take the Leaf onto the freeway but I am sure it would handle a freeway run quite nicely.  Personally I would tend to leave the car in normal mode most of the time since I didn't like the feel of the eco mode.  

Now for the fine print - remember always read the fine print


The information contained in this web site is based on information I have received about the availability of vehicles both new and used.  I   attempt to keep the information here as current as possible but I would appreciate being notified of any inaccuracies you may find.  The appearance of a vehicle on this site does not imply any endorsement of that vehicle, or any implication that the vehicle will be suitable for your needs.  As always you should investigate the vehicle and the seller before shelling out your hard earned money.