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#3

in 2011 Upscale Small Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $13,412 - $13,797
Original MSRP: $32,780 - $33,720
MPG: N/A
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2011 Nissan Leaf Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

Reviewers are excited by the all-electric powertrain on the 2011 Nissan Leaf, which they call a game changer. The Nissan Leaf can go 100 miles on a single charge. It takes eight hours to charge on a standard outlet, though the charging time drops if you use Nissan's quick charging station. Reviewers who have driven test cars with Nissan's electric powertrain come away impressed.

  • "This level of refinement, which is such a struggle to achieve in conventional cars, is a birthright of electric cars. In the Leaf -- an all-electric, five-passenger car that will start hitting American streets in late 2010 -- you step on the accelerator and the car spools out velocity in one continuous, syrupy stream. It's nothing short of elegant." -- Los Angeles Times
  • “Quick in traffic. Electric motors are like that. They give you all they have the moment they start to turn. No need to 'rev up' as you must to get the most torque from a gasoline or diesel powerplant." -- USA Today

Acceleration and Power

Reviewers that have driven the 2011 Leaf come away very impressed, saying the car is plenty powerful and that it accelerates smoothly. The Nissan Leaf has a 107 horsepower electric motor that gets its power from a 90 kilowatt lithium ion battery pack.

Like the Honda CR-Z and the Nissan Juke, the Leaf has drive modes, but only two. Drivers can choose between Eco and Drive.

The Nissan Leaf can be charged at home, either from a typical 220-volt home outlet or a quick charging station. The quick charging station has to be installed by a professional. Why would you opt for the Nissan Leaf’s charging station? In a word, convenience. With a conventional outlet, it takes about eight hours to fully charge the Nissan Leaf. With the quick charge station, Nissan says it only takes 30 minutes to give the Leaf an 80 percent charge.

With the battery is fully charged, the EPA says the leaf will get 73 miles per charge when driving conditions and climate conditions are taken into account. The Leaf can, however, get 106/92 miles per charge city/highway under ideal conditions. That means no heat, no air conditioning and great weather.

  • "The Leaf is no sports car. It slides about if driven hard, and I wouldn't call it agile, but it's surprisingly well-controlled, especially considering it has a non-independent torsion-beam rear suspension." -- Cars.com
  • "Of course the electric motor that powers the Nissan Leaf is utterly silent, so there is a quietness to the driving experience that's somehow still surprising, even though the logical part of our brain fully expects it. But low engine noise (no engine noise in this case) can have the side effect of making wind and road noise more apparent." -- Edmunds
  • "The Leaf’s forte is short errands, where its linear power delivery and single-speed transmission take all the tedium out of stop-and-go traffic. It works so well that we started rationalizing our range concerns." -- Car and Driver

Handling and Braking

Auto writers aren’t impressed with the Nissan Leaf’s steering. It doesn’t offer much feedback and the Leaf’s low rolling resistance tires don’t grip the road in fast turns.

Braking is better. The Leaf has regenerative brakes which means the battery recharges when the brake is pressed or acceleration decreases. Reviews say Nissan did a good job of making this system smooth.

  • "The steering, however, offers so little feedback, the front wheels might as well be casters operated by remote control." -- Car and Driver
  • "It's by no means sporty, but Leaf handles competently. Ultra-low-rolling-resistance tires limit grip in fast turns, and the electric power-steering system doesn't have great road feel. Again, the low-mounted battery pack is helpful, preventing the car from feeling top heavy in turns." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The Leaf's low center of gravity keeps the cornering reasonably flat, and while the low-rolling-resistance tires give up their grip at modest cornering loads, at least they do so without much squealing. I was pleased not to notice any transition from regenerative to hydraulic braking. The faint whistling noise the car makes to warn blind pedestrians of its approach was inaudible until I lowered a window. I could just faintly hear the beeping in reverse with the radio off." -- Motor Trend
  • "Steering [is] [t]oo slow. Turn the wheel a lot for a little reaction. You'll run wide in corners unless you crank the steering wheel an unseemly amount." -- USA Today

Next Steps: 2011 Nissan Leaf

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