Nissan is making a big marketing push for its new Leaf, taking the all-electric hatchback on a nationwide tour. It made a stop recently in Tampa, and about 1,500 signed up for the weekend test drive and presentation. The Leaf won't be available in this area until later this year, but the glimpse into the automotive future seems promising.
Appearance: Cute as a bug. Aerodynamic design with elongated headlights and low profile. The LED taillights, thin and vertical, border the rear hatch for a futuristic look.
Performance: With 600 pounds of batteries located under the floorboards, the center of gravity is low. Handling was snappy on turns. In Power mode, the acceleration is impressive with all the torque available on get-go, but it's much more conservative in the Eco mode. The regenerative brakes were a bit too sensitive. You only need a slight touch for full stopping power.
Charging: The charging panel is under the Nissan emblem on the nose. Plug into a 120-volt outlet and you can get 40 miles of charge in 8 hours. With the optional 240-volt connection, you can get a full charge in up to 7 hours. A commercial 480-volt station can fully charge in about 30 minutes.
Other costs: The 240-volt Home charging dock, averaging $1,500 to $2,000 including installation.
Interior: Simple yet modern. The split instrument gauges are digital, crisp and colorful. The electronic shifter is just an unintrusive knob.