As a Canadian living in Ontario, we do not see a lot of EV's running amuck here (not yet).....well to be honest, I have never seen seen one in the flesh....at least until now.
My company had a customer appreciation day at their headquarters in Michigan, and I was able to make the trip down and attend. One of the cool things they did, was some of our customers brought out cars for test drives and general display....They had a slew of nice automotive examples, incuding a new BOSS 302, Focus EV, LaCrosse eAssist....etc. On the test drive front, they had the Volt and the Leaf.
Imagine my suprise that not only did I get to see both of these cars for the first time for real, but got to drive them back-to-back.
First up was the Leaf. I went on the little spin(s) with one of my female co-oworkers. I kept my opinions to myself. She was not as silent. After about a minute of looking the vehicle over before we departed, the word "Frumpy" was used to describe it by her. I would agree, as the Leaf is not what I would call the hottest looking car out there. Based on pictures I saw I was never keen on the look, seeing one in person did not help that opinion. Now, the way it was put together, is another matter. Nissan clearly put some effort into the fit and finish. Excellent gaps, the interior had decent materials, and the layout was quite functional. The "selector" knob to choose drive, reverse and neutral was different and novel I thought. The readout screen was well layed out, easy to read and minimalistic in a good way. Seating felt like any other car, you could put your three buddies in the back, and there was enough room front and back to make your passengers feel human. Important fact considering you want the transition from ECI to EV to be as painless as possible for consumers. The tester still had about 73 miles on the counter, was dressed in a dark red tintcoat and had a light tan interior. The ride was tight, handling was respectable. The powertrain was devoid of any noise although the road and wind noise was fairly intrusive. Acceleration was suprisingly pleasent. The car really felt like it could get out of its own way. Overall the car drove very well, I was impressed. We burned off 10 miles before we brought the little buggy back to base and powered down.
After our brief tool-about, I asked myself...would I drive/buy this car? Answer NO. Although I walked away from the Leaf with a little more respect for this car, I still can't get over the fact that after the batteries are done, so is my day. I'm not one to get totally bent over the looks of a car. I owned an HHR and loved it...so I rest my case, but this thing is beyond ugly, it really is a stupid looking car, and I can't look past it. Nice work in some areas Nissan, hats off to you, but lets make this thing look a little more.......ummm....cool?
Next up the Volt. As was the go over with the Leaf, we approached the Volt the same way. Although, before we even got within 20 feet of it, my female co-worker looked over at me and said... "now thats hot". There was a chance she was talking about Jim from Accounting (he was standing near the car), but I'm sure she was talking about the Volt.. And as with the Leaf, I agree with her (about the Volt, not Jim). Looks great, but how does it really look? As the Leaf, the Volt is well put together, quality was not forgotten withthis little pretty either. Unlike the Leaf thou, the Volt seemed much more upscale, it felt it had much more in it....it felt more "rich". seating was more laid back and sporty than the Leaf (not as upright), but the readouts had a whole lot going on. Nothing you couldn't get used to over time, but maybe GM tried to put too much whiz-bang onto the readouts, and kind of ruin the experience a bit. What they didn't ruin was the way the car drives. Powertrain noise is non exisitant as you would expect, but road and wind noise are supressed very well also. The two only back seat is kind of crappy, but I guess the architecture of the car demands some comprimses. Much like the Fiesta for Ford, you give up some functionality for style (important to note the Leaf did not), but if you can live with 4 seats, it was a great trade off....because this car looks awesome....inside and out. The drive showed one thing about this car, aside from the silence, it drives just like any other car. It seems a bit more planted handling wise than your average run about (so did the leaf thou), and that I attribute to the battery providing a well balanced low center of gravity. We had 20 miles left on the clock so the engine never turned on for us, but the rep that was there assures us the transition is seemless....I'll take his word for it. Oddly before we powered down (and it makes a cool swooshy noice on power down), I noticed we only burned 5 miles off the ticker...... we drove it the same way (more or less) over the same distance so it certainly makes me wonder whats up with that
After our brief tool-about with the Volt, I asked myself...would I drive/buy this car? Answer MAYBE. It certianly looks hawt, it drives nice, and really feels like an upscale compact car. But....and there is a but. It only seats 4....and costs over $40K! It does however have unlimted range, which means I could live with this car.
So there you have it, my ultra simple and breif encounter with a Leaf and Volt. The way I see it, if I HAD to buy one of these cars with what I earn, I would pop extra for the Volt. The unlimted range means i could adapt to this car seamlessly, it would also be something I would be proud to drive. If I had to buy the Leaf, I would spend the money I saved between the two cars and get the windows tinted.....really dark