Coda Sedan Test Drive
Coda Test Drive
By Noel Adams
Sunday September 11, 2011
Over the labor day weekend Coda opened up a store in the Westfield's Century City Shopping Center and my wife and I stopped by to check it out. They were taking reservations for test drives of the Coda Sedan and so I was able to sign up for one. Sign-up is quite simple, you just talk to one of the Coda representatives and then enter an email address, phone number, and preferred time for a test drive on their computer system.
Later that day I got an email message from Coda saying that my test drive had been scheduled for 11am on Sunday September 11, and forty eight hours before the test drive I got a phone call from them to confirm the time.
I arrived at the Coda store at about 10:45 and the staff were just starting to show up for an 11am opening. They only started giving test drives yesterday so things obviously haven't been smoothed out yet. They seemed surprised that someone has a test drive set up so early and were having trouble locating the test drive schedule on their computer system. Undaunted, Jason grabbed a set of keys and led me down to a shiny new silver Coda sedan sitting in the Charging station down on the level 1 parking just below their store.
The car was connected to a GE charging station. This is the one intended for public charging and not the smaller version for installation at home. Jason gave me a quick tour of the car before setting out. The trunk is quite large with plenty of room for a whole weeks groceries with room to spare. The auxiliary battery is mounted back there but doesn't intrude into the trunk so there is no loss of space.
The body of the Coda is built in China and we all know that Chinese build quality can be pretty poor but the Code seemed to be well put together with tight fitting doors and no sign of the gaps in the seams that I have seen on other Chinese made vehicles. The back seat is large enough to accommodate three people although with the drivers seat pushed well back legroom seemed a little tight.
Sliding into the leather driver's seat I found it nice and comfortable giving me plenty of back support. Seat adjustment is manual but I found it quite easy to move the seat forward and quickly found a comfortable driving position. I had more trouble with the key. The car uses a standard key fitting into an ignition mounted on the steering column. When I went to insert the key I managed to press the button the unlocks the trunk. Jason told me that the car was still undergoing some tweaks and this is something that would be fixed before the launch in December. I found the placement of the ignition switch awkward to get to and it took me quite a bit of fumbling before I got the key in the switch and turned it a couple of clicks to get the system started.
Instrumentation is quite simple. There are three gages, on the left a gage shows the state of charge of the battery. Since the car had just been taken off the charger after charging overnight this gage read 100%. In the middle is the speedometer, and on the right is a gage that shows power flow. At rest the needle points straight up and will move to left into the red when you pull charge from the battery, and will move to the right, into the green when regenerative braking is feeding power back into the batteries. A green "Ready" light shows that the car is ready to go.
The drive selector is very interesting, it is a large round knob that sits on the console between the driver and front passenger. This sat on park but when I turned it to the left it put me in reverse, neutral, then drive. I placed the car in drive, took off the emergency brake, and gave the accelerator a gentle push. The car eased out of the parking space and I steered through the mall parking lot to the exit. When moving the car makes a very slight whine which reminded me a lot of the sound the EV1 used to make.
Once on the open road I pushed hard on the accelerator. The car started to accelerate immediately but wass a little bit sluggish up to about 3mph after which it took off in true electric fashion. After a couple of right turns I found myself on Avenue of the Stars which gave me a nice long straight road to see what the Coda could do. I found that if I didn't pay attention I was up at 50mph before I new it and the car hardly seemed to be moving at all. Avenue of the Stars is a little bit bumpy and I did feel the bumps a little. It's not unusual for the ride to be harsh because of the weight of the batteries but the Coda seems to have the suspension tuned pretty well.
The regenerative braking is also well integrated. In some EVs regenerative braking can be very harsh but the Coda's brakes felt a lot like the regen on my Prius and that says a lot for the way this car has been engineered.
After turning right onto Pico I drove down to Beverly Glen while Jason told me that the Coda sedan would get up to 150 miles on a charge but that it looked like the official EPA sticker would be somewhere around 111 miles per charge which is still quite a bit better than the 73 miles range the EPA assigned on the Nissan Leaf sticker.
Beverly Glen has some nice sweeping curves as it winds its way from Pico to Santa Monica boulevard which gave me a chance to see how the steering was set up. This is something else that Coda has done right, the power steering was configured just the way I like it. The steering felt firm and responsive but yet the wheel could be turned with very little effort even at low speed. On Beverly Glen I flew around the curves going 45 to 50mph without having to touch the brakes. The batteries on the Coda sit low down under the floor giving a corresponding low center of gravity which translates to great handling.
I arrived back at Century City Shopping Center and once again navigated my way through the parking lot back to the Coda parking area. After I parked the car Jason plugged the car back in. As we walked back up to the Coda Store Jason told me that he had already taken a reservation after a test drive and this was the first weekend they had been taking people out.
At about $44,000 before tax incentives the Coda Sedan is a little more expensive than the Nissan Leaf or Wheego Whip and will initially only be available in California, but it should appeal to those who want something a little bigger than the Leaf or who prefer a sedan over a hatchback. The additional range the Coda offers will also appeal to many people.
Coda has done an excellent job with their Sedan. Expect to see them begin shipping to Customers in December of this year or January 2012.