2011 Nissan Leaf, Nashville, October 2010Enlarge Photo
A week ago I took charge of my very own 2011 Nissan Leaf. The U.K. equivalent of the 2011 Nissan Leaf SL ordered by our own Marty Padgett last year, it includes a level 3 fast charge port and 12v solar panel as standard.
But with over 560 miles now on the clock shared between two drivers and a variety of road experiences from fast-moving freeway to quiet country lanes under our belts, what things are bugging us about Nissan’s first electric five-door family hatchback?
Carwings Isn’t Ready for Primetime Yet
2011 Nissan Leaf CarwingsEnlarge Photo
Designed to act as a gateway between the Leaf and its owner’s computer and smartphone, the Carwings system allows the car to be accessed remotely to turn on charging, check charge status and even pre-cool or heat the car.
But with some owners losing the ability to even connect to Carwings and its clunky web interface, we have no love for the overly-complicated system.
White Seats Are Dirt Magnets
Sure, any car with light colored interior is an absolute dirt magnet, but even with a liberal application of scotch-guard our new ride has picked up stains all over its beige recycled plastic bottle interior.
While the seats are plush enough and the interior welcoming, we’d expect more stain resistance from a $35,000 car, especially one sold as a family car.
The Miles-to-Empty is Useless
2011 Nissan Leaf State of Charge and Miles remainingEnlarge Photo
Unlike the 2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2011 Tesla Roadster, the miles-till-empty gauge on the 2011 Nissan Leaf jumps around like a jack-rabbit on steroids. It’s almost as if the system is too sensitive, taking sudden overtaking maneuvers or short hill stretches as an excuse to drop the predicted range by as much as 10%. No wonder people suffer from range anxiety.
Instead, we’d prefer to see more attention given to the Leaf’s state-of-charge meter, with its slowly falling bar graph showing the car’s remaining charge. Sure, the miles-till-empty is a great idea, but the implementation just isn’t there yet.
The GPS is Built for a Gas Car
You’d think that such a revolutionary vehicle as the 2011 Nissan Leaf would have its own custom-built GPS.
Instead, it’s a modified version of a gas car GPS. As such, our car is happy to point out nearby gas stations, but can’t find any public level 2 or 3 charge points. We’re not alone, with users worldwide reporting similar issues.
Nissan claims the GPS and Carwings integration will improve over time, with charging stations being loaded into the GPS database over the coming months. Until then, you may be on your own.
Our second bugbear comes from the GPS’s lack of awareness of hills. In one case it directed us up a two mile long 10% hill, a route which was a few minutes faster than a flatter valley route. Sadly however, the hilly route wiped more than 15 miles of the predicted range from our car, giving us a little range anxiety in the process.
Route-planning based on the car’s state-of-charge and terrain is, we think, a must for future revisions of the Leaf.
The Charge Port Door Release Needs Relocation
2011 Nissan Leaf Charge Port ReleaseEnlarge Photo
Placing the release mechanism out of sight by the hood release doesn’t work. Firstly we’ve lost track of the times we’ve forgotten to open the charge port door only to grovel around in the dark and pulling the hood release instead.
Secondly, we think the charge port door needs a smart release similar to the door and hatch release buttons. Hiding the mechanism in the Nissan emblem would work, as would having an electronic release on the key fob. But hiding it away by the door? That’s a fail.
Do you have a 2011 Nissan Leaf? What things do you love or hate about the car? Let us know in the Comments Below.