Nissan Leaf Review:The Eco-Chiko Car

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Nissan is pulling up its socks and perfectly aligning itself for the Auto Expo 2012 for which the countdown has begun. Nissans story in India has been one with lots of ups and downs. The lovely SUV X-Trail and elegant luxury sedan Teana brought in India as imported cars did not fill the coffers for Nissan in India.  Although both the vehicles have a lot of potential in them, they are not able to capture customers as expected. Then Nissan’s small car-the Micra changed the situation and Nissan got into full flow with both the Petrol and Diesel selling well in market. The latest entrant Sedan from Nissan-the Sunny bettered the fortunes for Nissan with the recent inclusion of a Diesel version to the lineup.


Now as Nissan looks ahead for its Indian prospects it also wants to flex its muscles and the best way it can to this is by bringing two of its car models that have earned name for themselves across the globe. Yes Nissan is showcasing the iconic GT-R sports car and the Zero Emission Leaf (Electric Vehicle) at the Auto Expo 2012 and we were among the few lucky people who got to drive the Nissan Leaf in Delhi before it’s shown at the Auto Expo.


Read on to know how this all green car-the Leaf really drives and we also try to get under its skin to find out a lot more on the Leaf.


The Nissan LEAF stands for Leading, Environmentally friendly, Affordable, Family car. It is designed and developed by Nissan and the world first saw the Leaf in 2010. The Leaf is a Zero emission car which simply means there is no mechanical engine on the car and it is fully powered by an electric motor hence no smoke, combustion or waste gases are emitted out of Leaf. The Leaf is currently sold in Europe and America along with its home ground Japan.


The Leaf has a trendy futuristic design given to it. The exteriors are not only trendy and sleek but are also designed aerodynamically so that the Leaf can cut through the wind and get least drag. Small bits like even the wing mirrors are aerodynamically shaped. The Leaf has a large sharp shaped jetting out headlamps that give the Leaf’s face a certain amount of aggressive look and have a LED type glow on them. The headlamps have an aerodynamic shape that cuts the wind. The wing mirrors are in line with the headlamps to further reduce wind noise. 


The front bumpers are heighted and have a smooth round shape that is meant to increase the aerodynamics on the face. The front bumper gets integrated fog lamps and a horizontal running chrome strip across the air dam. The nose of the Leaf has an open-able charging bay from where the Leaf gets its vitals. The charging port is two in number with one being the regular charge port and the other being the Quick charge port.


As the Leaf is an electric vehicle noise levels are zero as there is no engine to make any noise. Hence everything on the Leaf has been designed to operate silently. The wiper motor is of special type that makes very low decibels of noise. The roof antenna is another example of aerodynamic design and helps reduce wind noise and turbulence. The side profile of the Leaf is significantly long with its tail having a stretched rounded curve to it.


Large doors and windows give the Leaf an airy look and feel. The Leaf drives on a five spoke light weight alloys that are specially designed for this electric vehicle and run on special 16 inches Bridgestone Ecopia tyres.  Large door handles in chrome enhances the looks and feels good to grip. The rear of the Leaf has a puffed out curved bulge that’s intentionally designed to increase boot space and aerodynamics. The tail lamps are very different looking and have a waterfall look on them in all white backlit with 12 red LED that work as stop lamps. The rear bumpers like the front ones are tall. The rear gets a reverse camera and a light weight rear wiper again with a noiseless motor like the front wiper.


A large slim spoiler with stop lamp is perfectly slopped to lower wind noise. The rear badging shouts out LEAF on the left and Zero Emissions on the right of the tail gate. As this is a fully Eco Friendly car the Nissan monograms are in all blue color. The lower end of the rear bumper also has slats underneath to cut through road wind turbulence along with two stop reflectors on them.


As mentioned the roof gets an aerodynamic radio antenna and also an optional Solar battery charger to charge the 12 Volts secondary battery that powers the accessories like the power windows, music system, power steering etc. You also get the rear window glass in a darker shade which is called as Privacy Windows as standard on the Leaf. 


As mentioned the Leaf looks like a futuristic car-very stylish and trendy. The fit and finish is very good and though parts and panels used on this are of light weight, they still don’t feel that way but looks like they are built to last long.


Hop inside the Leaf and you are instantly greeted by bright beige cabin. Comfortable front seats come with height adjustment and adjust for reach-all manually. The seats are made of some good comfortable material that offers a very supportive feel. You get a 3 spoke steering in beige with all the steering controls mounted including mp3, radio and Bluetooth telephony. 


This steering can be adjusted for height manually. The dash is divided in four sections, the motor temperature on the left, electric current usage graph in the top center, charge remain graph meter is on the right which also shows  the distance that Leaf would travel with the current charge level. You have the Multi function display in the center bottom of the dash that reads the drive mode, odometer reader and other vital parameters of the Leaf. The center console has a 7 inch color telematics display that works as display for the music system along with the GPS navigation and the other menu settings readouts. A special system called as CARWINGS runs on the Leaf that monitors battery state, state of charge and charging status and this system can also be used to preprogram the Leaf to charge itself at a certain time or to start the AC of the car at a certain time daily.


The Leaf gets and AM/FM/CD/MP3   system with AUX port and USB port with iPod connectivity which includes a Satellite Radio option. The Leaf gets a 6 speaker system. The intelligent GPS system on the Leaf can detect the nearest charging station on its own and you can even set the car’s AC temperature or start stop charging using a special App from your Smartphone. There is a center arm rest with storage area under it. The drive mode can be changed using the futuristic changer in round that’s placed just ahead of the centre armrest. There are three drive modes i.e. Drive, Eco Drive and Reverse apart from the Park mode.


The rear seats are again comfortable like the front ones and can seat three passengers. Three height adjustable headrests are standard on the Leaf’s rear seat. The Leaf unlike other electric vehicle is not short on boot space and supports a generous 33- liters that is good enough to store luggage for a family of 4. You also get the standard and rapid charge cable which comes with a neat carry case and is placed in one corner of the boot.

Engine – Drive Feel.

The Nissan Leaf is a 100% Electric vehicle and is powered by an EM61 Electric Motor. This AC synchronous motor makes 109PS of power which is more than enough for this 1.50 ton car. There is 280 Nm of torque at tap and as this is an electric car the torque comes at as low as 0 RPM and stays on till 2730RPM. The Max RPM is of 10390 on the Leaf.


The heart of the Leaf is its batteries. The Leaf gets all its power stored in 192 Laminated Lithium ion cells that are all placed under the floor of the vehicle. These cells have a capacity of 24 kWh and 360Volts of power. This electric motor is mated with a specially designed single speed automatic transmission.


The Nissan Leaf is a front wheel powered car. The Leaf gets a 4 wheel power assisted vented disc brakes on all wheels. These brakes are of regenerative types as in when the brakes are applied they help in recharging the batteries to some extent. Anti lock braking and electronic brake distribution system come as standard on the Leaf.  There also is Brake Assist along with a electro mechanical hand brake.


Push start the Leaf using the Engine Start button and you don’t hear or feel anything. Don’t be surprised but this is a super duper silent car. You don’t hear any noise at all or feel any vibration as there is no mechanical engine on the Leaf. Shift from the parking mode to the Drive mode by pulling the shift knob towards you and pushing it back once.


Now that you’re in the Drive mode, simply accelerate and the super silent car moves ahead in a perfect balanced manner. We did try going at fast speed on straight stretches on the test track and the Leaf never felt under powered or out of throttle. We did some sharp cornering and also a few merry go rounds and the cute car took all in its stride and performed handsomely like any other petrol driven car. If you still want to drive further and save some charge, shift to the Eco Drive mode by again pulling the Shift knob towards you and pushing it backwards. 


The Eco Drive mode lights up on the dash and in this mode, the Leaf can do about 25% of more running but at lower speeds. The Eco Drive mode is best suited when you are running out of charge.


The Leaf handles very well and the steering was light but crisp, we didn’t get to test its suspension to full limits but it did soak up the test track tarmac nicely. Max speed claimed by Nissan is 144kmph which is not bad for an Electric car this size. The 0 to 100Kmph is a claimed 12seconds which again is impressive. The Leaf can do roughly 160 kms in a single charge.


While using the regular charging port, the Leaf can be fully charged in about 7 to 8 hours. If you want an instant charge then using the rapid charge port would charge the Leafs batteries in just 30 minutes flat. The charging is done using the supplied cables and from any electric power outlet.


You get the Nissan advanced air bag system with 6 air bags in all, Vehicle dynamic control with Traction control system, 3 point seat belts with pretensioners, tire pressure monitoring system as standard on the Leaf. 


The Nissan Leaf also passes the NCAP Safety ratings with 5 stars.


The Nissan Leaf comes with a 5 year warranty which includes the Batteries, Motor, and the complete electric drive system.


With the sky rocketing fuel prices the need for Electric Vehicles is at its peak now. Nissan is closely studying the possibilities of getting the Leaf to India if it gets some tax rebate from the Indian Government which it will pass on to the buyer as it is a fully imported vehicle. The Leaf is stylish, trendy and never feels like an under powered or a compromise as compared to a regular Petrol car.


The Leaf is a perfect everyday family car and vey suitable for a family of four. Equipment level is high on the Leaf and so is the safety level on which Nissan has not compromised. We give thumbs up to the Nissan Leaf and also hope that it is introduced in India soon. We hope that the Indian Government reduces the taxes on import of electric vehicles and they become a familiar sight here. With the Leaf, Nissan has shown to the world what it is capable of and that it is a force to reckon with in the times to come.


Driving range 100 miles (160km)
Max speed 90mph (over 145km/h)
Battery Type laminated lithium-ion battery
Battery layout under seat & floor
Length 4445 mm
Width 1770 mm
Height 1550 mm
Seating capacity 5 adults
Max Engine Power 80kW
Max Engine Torque 280Nm
Charging times quick charger less than 30 min for 80% charge
Home-use 220V charger About 8 hrs

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