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2011 Nissan LEAF

The Japanese automaker’s electric compact charges into driveways

By: Travis Persaud / 04.10.2011 / Comments | Print | Email

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Nissan's new electric compact charges into driveways

This isn't the first electric vehicle (EV) ever made, but it will probably be the first one you see driving around your neighbourhood.

There's so much that can be said about the all-new Nissan LEAF, but perhaps the most intriguing thing is its price. Instead of producing an EV that only few can afford, à la Tesla Motors, Nissan has built a zero-emission vehicle that fits the size of most car buyers' wallets.

Nissan's new electric compact is complete with heated seating and steering wheel

Nissan's new electric compact is complete with heated seating and steering wheel

The base SV model starts at $38,395 and comes well equipped with a host of amenities that even many premium cars don't include, such as LED headlights, front and rear heated seats and a heated steering wheel. The SL model starts at $39,995 and adds a rear-view monitor, fog lights and a rear spoiler with solar panel charger.

Thankfully, Nissan opted not to give the LEAF a futuristic look. The five-seat hatchback is quite distinctive and aggressive, but far from unsightly and otherworldly. The front end is streamlined for optimal aerodynamics; high sweeping headlights and a cute rounded nose help it stand out from the crowd, as do the long flowing lights down the back of the curvy hatch.

The LEAF's 24 kWh battery is creatively placed underneath the floorboard, ensuring there's actually cargo space in the trunk. On full power it has a range of about 160 km-however, depending on your driving habits it can be as low as 120 km or as high as 220 km. The 110-volt charging system (Level 1) will take 16 to 18 hours, the 240-volt charging system (Level 2) will fully charge it in seven hours and the Level 3 charger can have the battery to 80% in 26 minutes.

The real question that most have, though, is how does it drive? Well, it's not appreciably different from any other car. It produces a pedestrian 107 HP, but has 207 lb-ft of torque (available from zero) meaning it really shoots out of the gate in a hurry. Once it's up to speed its impressive driving qualities take over: steering is well weighted, with the LEAF sticking to the ground around turns with very little body roll. And, it's so silent that sound had to be added for safety reasons.

Nissan is quick to admit that the LEAF isn't for everyone, but it's definitely for more people than might be apparent at first glance. Need a new car for your daily commute or a second set of wheels for the family? Then this is a must-drive vehicle. You'll be pleasantly surprised with the results, especially knowing you'll never have to go to a gas station again.

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