The Nissan Leaf: Our first electric test drive

After months of anticipation from customers, we’ve finally received the 2012 all-electric Nissan Leaf, and after the first test drive, we found it to have many great special features, eco-friendly and quiet ride. Some cons included lack of rear passenger leg room and a start up procedure that takes a little bit of getting use to.

When we sat behind the wheel for the first time, we weren’t 100 percent sure we had actually started the battery. If you haven’t driven an all-electric vehicle before, you’ll be surprised when you push the ignition button and don’t hear the “revving noise” that you’re accustomed to your entire life.

After you know you have it started up, putting it drive isn’t immediately obvious either. The automatic shift knob isn’t like anything you’ve driven before. As opposed to the traditional “stick” shifting device, this is more of a rotary style device that you have to move into the drive or reverse position. To put it back in park, you simply push the “P” parking button atop the shift knob.

Putting it in “eco” mode isn’t immediately self explanatory either, but once you realize it’s one the shift panel, you’ll never forget.

Once you realize how to make the car move, you’ll never have a problem again.

As we got the Leaf on the road, we were pleased at how extremely quiet this vehicle runs. You don’t realize you’re driving an electric car once you got on the open road driving around 45 mph.

One of the initial cons we found was the inability to get quickly accelerated again after you come to a fully stop.

The center console features a touch screen navigation and XM Satellite Radio. As far as options go, the center console is full of them. We liked that a you could circle a range on the navigation map which will tell you exactly where you reach on your electric battery’s life. Another navigation option shows you where all the nearest charging stations are located in case you are low on battery.

Another pro on that center console is the “Carwings” technology. In one option, a voice will tell you how many trees have been saved and how much carbon is out of the air thanks to electric vehicles. We think it will be a feel-good you’d like to show off to you non-electric owning friends.

There are a ton of other great accessories that come standard including Bluetooth connectivity, heated seats and a heated steering wheel.

The cloth seats are incredibly comfortably and provide a lot of leg room on the front seats. Your back seat passengers better be tiny though, because there is hardly any leg room for back seat passengers.

The trunk is deep, but it isn’t very wide. The seats do fold down through.

Styling has it pros and cons. We liked the side design which made the vehicle look a little larger, and we like the long, thin swooping taillights. However, we thought the headlights could have used a more reserved choice.

One of the coolest features of the model is the solar panel located on the rear hood. On a sunny day, it will absorb sunlight used to the power the accessories.

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A panel of worldwide journalists named the Leaf “2011 North American Car of the Year.” It also earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s “Top Safety Pick” for 2011. The NHTSA gives the Leaf a 5 star overall safety rating.

The battery has a 100 mile-per charge range, and with regenerative brakes, the Leaf is charging every time it stops.

Each Leaf comes with a standard charge port that can be plugged into any standard outlet. The SL model comes with a quick charge port which allows you to charge the Leaf to 80 percent battery life in less than 30 minutes.

The Leaf reaches a top speed of 90 mph.

Leaf customers will receive an income tax credit of zero to $7,500 for the purchase of new qualified plug-in electric drive motor vehicle.

All in all this car is leaps and bounds beyond its main competitors the Toyota Prius and the Chevrolet Volt. This is the obvious choice for any Eco minded buyer.  If you’re ready for an emissions-free lifestyle, call  1-877-331-4824 and schedule a test drive today.

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