2011 Nissan LEAF Review – vs. the Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius

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For Californians, this true EV will be the key to obtaining a single person Car Pool Lane (HOV) sticker early next year as this provision is going away for the hybrids. This will surely boost sales of this short commuter and local run around car. Unfortunately, with the 85-100 mile range and no back up gasoline engine, one has to plan their trips well in order to take advantage of the EV characteristics.

Outside of California, the owner is in for some annual operating cost savings. If you look at annual operating costs (gas vs. electricity) take your annual gasoline bill and cut it by 60%, that is what it would cost to run the LEAF. Even after tax credits, unless the HOV sticker is important to you, it would take a lot of years to make up for the premium paid for this EV over competing fuel efficient gas transportation from all the big OEM’s.

The same arguments were made when the Prius was gaining support, but people bought those for the fuel efficiency and the rights to enter the green club. It’s that time all over again with the LEAF, just replacing fuel with electricity. We applaud Nissan for bringing this great technology to a passenger car at a fairly reasonable price point along with those federal tax credits.

EV motor and battery technology will continue to get better and we will one day see 300 mile ranges on a single charge with faster charge times and when this occurs, the EV and EV-gas vehicles will be on the road in droves. The LEAF is miles and miles ahead of the on/off acceleration of toys and golf carts; progress has been made.

RATING 4.25 4.25 3.75 3.5 3.75 4.25 3.95/B




2011 Nissan LEAF
By Jessika Lora


  • Roomy and flexible interior space
  • 100 mile range on a single charge
  • Solar panel converts sunlight into power to charge essentials without draining the battery
  • Turning heads and changing the minds of even the old-timers


  • Limited number of places to plug-in and recharge
  • Only a 100 mile range on a single charge
  • Using 110V household current, you can fly to Hong Kong in as much time it takes to charge a drained battery
  • Blind spot caused by rear hatch pillar

Driving up the 101 my dad saw the Nissan LEAF billboard next to the 4th street Bay Bridge on-ramp, “That car doesn’t use ANY gas?” At $4.25 a gallon and with no indication of a price ceiling he encouraged me to look into this car, “You know, you’re driving up and down the bay 120 miles each day, this could pay for itself in gas savings.”

Nissan LEAF electronic shifter

A few weeks later I found myself up in Portland for my sister’s graduation. My dad again asked if I had looked into the specs and price for a LEAF , “Heck Jessy, I might even get one for myself. I’ve been thinking it’s just the right size for driving to and from work and going to the gym afterward.” I pictured my father in Nissan’s new EV: my dad whose hobby is rebuilding classic Mustangs and who drives his 1970 Mach 1 to the gym and back 3 times each week for the last 10 years. Way to go Nissan, you’ve engaged a muscle car enthusiast and by doing so have piqued my interest as well! As luck would have it, I would soon have the opportunity to test drive this car and report back to my dad.

Having only seen the car in a billboard, I was eager to walk up and see it in person. Your first impression of this car will really depend on how you approach it, and I mean that literally: from the side this is reminiscent of a Subaru Outback which makes you think, “Hmmm, off road and sporty”. However, if you walk up to this car head-on your first thought might instead be “how cute!” From the back, the car looks a bit like a SMART car with regard to the body height and body to window ratio.

Nissan LEAF rear cargo area

Eager to start exploring the car I opened the trunk. How much junk could fit in this trunk? A lot, as it turns out. Nissan let’s you customize your LEAF and one of customizations is a trunk organizer. I like this add on as it allows you to open a flat clean trunk and become surprised when you realize there are compartments where you might otherwise find a spare tire. The car is also designed so that using this bucket compartment you can fold down the back seats to have a flush surface, which is great for hauling things around. I’ve actually managed to fit a door and three rolls of house insulation into a Prius and I can therefore see many advantages to having a flat trunk/back seat surface – another of which is camping in your car! The LEAF is a little bit longer and taller than the Prius, though both cars have roughly the same wheelbase.

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  • A Williams says:

    Just curious.. Your car today drive 500 mile on a tank of gas? Your expectations are extreme!!

  • Peter Anastopulos says:

    This a toy not a real car .Test drove the Leaf at Boardwalk Nissan and it stopped working in our drive through an office park in redwood City.They have not made this car feel real it feels like a GEM golf cart.I prefer the Volt but wish the nice design cues of the Leaf were in the Volt.Either way I will not own either till the price comes down into the 20k’s.I don’t feel the tech is mature enough yet but it’s close and I can see owning this type a vehicle reach’s 500 Miles on a charge and it mirrors the average American vehicles prices. Right now it’s a toy but will mature and be useful in the next 5 years.

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