Strengths and weaknesses:
- quiet cruising
- status feedback
- like normal compact hatchback
- investment for faster charging
Nissan Leaf blows through life ordinarily
"Many are drawn more by what they call “Nissan styling” than the Leaf configuration itself."
Despite what you might hear from others concerning the Nissan Leaf, I’m here to tell you it is quite ordinary. Ordinary in the way it looks; ordinary in the way it acts; ordinary in the way it makes you feel.
I was expecting people to pull me over for information on Leaf but it didn’t happen. With very few exceptions, it’s a car that goes through life virtually unnoticed. The odd person will stare, primarily due to the “zero emissions” badge on the doors and hatch, and some might even notice the sorta-different hatchback shape, but many are drawn more by what they call “Nissan styling” than the Leaf configuration itself. They have to be told what it is.
Maybe, despite the marketing blitz, Nissan didn’t really do a good job selling Leaf.
Even the inside, although fancy enough to let you know it’s different than your average car, is really not that different. Seats are padded for long-distance comfort; there’s plenty of shoulder-to-shoulder room for two and maybe a small third in the rear on short trips; and the rear seat goes down to expand reasonable cargo space for this size of car.
Beyond the mostly generic looks, Leaf is a technological wonder, as expected. It knows how far it can go, probably better than any other electrified car we’ve driven, and projects what you have to do to get it back up to full range. It displays countless gauges and instrument readouts to show you how power is being used and what’s drawing how much, and it shows you at the push of a button where you can get a top-up. Our SL trim even has a small solar panel in the rear spoiler to supply power to accessories such as radio, air-conditioning, etc.
It’s all meant to alleviate the driver’s range-anxiety, which I admit I experience when I first get into the car, facing a 60 km commute (even though I am assured the car will travel at least 130 km and the readout says I can go 161). After that first experience, though, I don’t even think about whether I can go where I need.
That said, it does take some discipline to get Leaf to work the same way as your conventional car. You have to be able to plug it in as much as possible, and you have to drive (slightly) differently. But if you don’t, and you use your car as much as I use mine, it isn’t going to leave you stranded by the side of the road with your thumb out, waiting for a Good Samaritan with a Honda diesel generator.
I’m able to plug in at home (standard outlet) for the better part of 10 hours and get a full charge to get me to the office in the morning. I’m able to plug in at the office for the better part of eight hours to get me home. And, I’m able to use mobile applications (as well as my laptop) to get telemetry on the charging process (as with most rechargeable batteries, the run up to 80% charge is relatively quick, with the remaining 20% taking almost as much time) or to get the cabin cooled off (or warmed up) when it’s been sitting for a prolonged time.
However, I find in most instances, the projected recharge time is pessimistic by as much as 25% (so my projected 16 hour overnight charge time is actually completed in 12 and my 10 hour charge at work is done in just over eight).
My commute route is a mix of country roads, highway and city streets, so it is nicely suited to Leaf, but even on that occasion when I have to get home in a hurry and take highway 85% of the way, I still have plenty in the tank (um … battery). Yes, my range decreases dramatically (by 109 km over 68 km, compared to the standard route’s decrease of 53 km over 59), but I easily cruise at highway speeds (and accelerate pretty close to a normal car).
Having said all that, I am driving in warm weather with the ability to roll down windows and keep the a/c off. It would be interesting to see how well Leaf handles the commute in cold weather months.