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2011 Nissan LEAF: Flash Drive

This 2011 review is representative of model years 2011 to 2015.
By Staff of MSN Autos

View Pictures:  2011 Nissan Leaf

The Nissan Leaf is a real car. Sure, it's an all-electric car, but more than that it's spacious, comfortable and full-featured. There is seating for four and enough headroom for tall adults to sit in the back. It has adequate acceleration, and it is big enough to feel safe on the freeway. And the dashboard has all the information and gadgets you're used to. As I said, a real car. The biggest difference is that instead of the roaring exhaust note of a gas-powered engine, all you hear is the buzz of the electric motor. But most importantly, I drove 28 miles on the freeway and city roads, up hills and down, and barely made a dent in the vehicle's energy reserves. When I started the journey, the Leaf instruments claimed there were 75 miles worth of electricity in the car; when I was done, there were 61 miles worth of electricity left. I truly believe the 100-mile range that Nissan advertises. –Paul Hagger

Nissan's Leaf is the first all-electric vehicle from a major automaker, and for the most part it feels like a normal car — although a quiet one. All you have to do is get in, turn the key, put the lever in "D," step on the accelerator and it goes. The elongated bug-eye headlights are really the only clue that this is not your everyday 5-seat hatchback. The electric motor does give instant torque from a standstill, but there really is no serious learning curve with driving this car. While you feel some extra weight from the batteries, they are positioned low in the chassis for a very stable feel, and the ride and handling are equal to the standards expected from Nissan. What you do need to get used to are the car's available range and charging the batteries. While 100 miles is more than the average driver needs in a day, a full charge takes 15 hours using a standard 110-volt outlet. Since you're used to leaving home with more gas than you'll need for the day, driving the Leaf feels like the low-fuel light is on; you always have one eye on the gauge. –Mike Meredith

It may not be the fastest, the best-handling and certainly not the most beautiful vehicle, but the Leaf is one of the coolest cars on the road. With its purely electric powertrain, the novelty of driving silently never seems to wear off. The Leaf is much more than a glorified golf cart. It's a real car with all the amenities one would expect from a premium small car, including Bluetooth, navigation and a high-end audio system. Accelerating up to highway speed is quick and smooth, and the Leaf can cruise easily at 70 mph. But strong acceleration and high-speed cruising have a distinctly negative impact on range. I drove the Leaf until the batteries were practically exhausted — 11 miles to empty, according to the dashboard instruments — and after an overnight charge on a 110-volt outlet, range was back up to 78 miles. Operating cost is less than half of the Toyota Prius, the most fuel-efficient car in the U.S., making the 5-passenger Leaf an excellent commuter option, as long as your daily drive is less than 80 miles. –Perry Stern

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BB06 - 8/22/2014 1:17:36 PM