2012 Coda Sedan: First Drive

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2012 Coda Sedan

2012 Coda Sedan

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It's been a long time coming, but the 2012 Coda Sedan is now on sale at a handful of dealers in California.

Six months after the very first Coda compact electric cars were delivered to buyers, the company is gearing up a major publicity push to sell the electric sedan--which we've now driven.

Our bottom line is that the Coda Sedan is a practical electric car with 100 miles of real-world range in mixed use.

Its interior is attractive, if short on features, and the floorpan location of the battery pack gives it not only a sizable trunk but the ability to fold down its rear seats to carry large items.

On the other hand, the Coda still needs a lot of fine-tuning before it can come close to competing head-to-head with plug-in electric cars from global automakers like Nissan, Chevrolet, Toyota, and Ford.

And the company faces a long uphill climb to get name recognition for a plain-Jane sedan without the design flash or audacious claims of plug-in vehicles from the two other electric-car startups, Tesla Motors or Fisker Automotive.

95 miles of real-world range

To kick off its marketing effort, Coda Automotive held its first-ever traditional press launch this week in Santa Monica, California.

We drove a silver 2012 Coda Sedan 81 miles through urban stop-and-go traffic, up and down winding canyon roads, and in LA's fast-moving 70-mph-plus freeway traffic. At the end of our trip, we had an indicated 14 miles of range left, with 17 miles of "maximum range" indicated.

That means the Coda is the second electric car on the market--after the 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV crossover utility--to offer real-world range of around 100 miles and cost less than the Tesla Model S, which starts at $57,400.

Invisible electric car?

From the outside, the Coda Sedan could be the invisible electric car. Not a single person paid a whit of attention to it on the road, obviously seeing it as a generic compact four-door sedan.

The lines date back a decade, to a Mitsubishi-developed vehicle more recently built and sold in China as the Hafei Saibao. A heavily modified version of that car serves as the basis for the Coda.

2012 Coda Sedan

2012 Coda Sedan

Enlarge Photo

Rolling Coda Sedans minus their running gear are assembled by Hafei in China and shipped to the U.S., where electric-drive components are added at a facility in Benicia, California.

That makes the Coda a "U.S.-built car" even though both the "glider" rolling vehicle and the lithium-iron-phosphate cells for its battery pack are built in China.

The pack contains 31 kilowatt-hours of usable energy, and the EPA rates the 2012 Coda Sedan at 88 miles of range.

Eye of the beholder

We think Coda's basic shape is fine, if forgettable. Some will dislike it, just as others find the extreme lines of the Nissan Leaf to be unappealing.

It's somewhat slab-sided, and a few details don't really gel: the front blanking panel isn't particularly graceful, and the amazingly low-profile tires on 17-inch alloy wheels look lost in wheelwells obviously designed for much taller tires.

The chrome Coda symbol on the trunk lid is huge and out of place, resembling a chromed lug nut from a railroad locomotive.

Inside the car, Coda has made the most of simple materials: pale-grey and black hard dashboard plastics, separated by a semi-gloss horizontal band of silver trim.

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Comments (20)
  1. I think a very fair and thorough review. I hope Coda can sort out these seemingly minor bugs soon, and deliver a truly competitive vehicle.
    I'm impressed with the acceleration mentioned while driving (and the generous range), but what was the 0-60mph time? Anyone know?

  2. @Gavin: Coda quotes a 0-to-60-mph time of "9 to 9.5 seconds," though we didn't verify it during the test.

  3. Oh yeah! Whatever hapenned to Coda... and Mitsubishi? Soon Nissan maybe?

  4. Perhaps just one thing left out for people who might care about green issues.

    This is a very inefficient car.

    At 73 MPGe it takes 44% more KWHs to travel the same distance as the Ford Focus EV at 105 MPGe.

    Just think of what the range would be if the CODA had reasonable efficiency.

    Coda is by far and away the least efficient EV on the market, save one: the electron guzzling Fisker Karma at 54 MPGe.

  5. Good point. It's actually even worse than 44%, the Coda probably compares more to the Fit EV in terms of interior space which gets 118MPGe. That means travelling 100 miles takes 58% more KWHs in a Coda(46) than it would in the Fit(29).

    I wonder how these huge differences come about. What part(s) of the Coda waste so much energy?

  6. Didn't know that. I must have been asleep when the fit numbers came out at 118 MPGe and 82 miles. Well done Honda. Too bad it is only a compliance car.

  7. if every green person did ther thing we still can't make the diffrence up.

  8. All these Ecars are real nice, but no one posts prices, and are they priced for the 1% (one).

  9. @Raymond: The price is given on the third page of this 3-page review. It's $38,145 including delivery.

  10. Aside from reliable range, the Coda sedan sounds like a piece of crap. Drum brakes in the rear, it hasn't been safety tested, and a long to do list of items that need addressing. They should feel ashamed asking $39,900. for this thing.

  11. Frankly you should be ashamed for judging a well meaning start up like that. The tragedy of Coda is that it's too little too late. I think this initiative started at least 6 years ago when nobody else (except Tesla) seriously contemplated doing a serious EV. It was called the Miles 500 and it was supposed to hit the market in 2008. Many years of delay later things have changed drastically with the big guys beating it to the market with some much more professional offerings. Coda may not be competitive any more but they certainly deserve some respect for hanging in there and trying to do the best job they could.

  12. Yes I am well aware of Coda's original plans, but honestly the car doesn't have the build quality of a 15 to 20 thousand dollar car. Sure they we're we'll meaning, but you can't sell a car for nearly 40k that has a wish list of items that need fixing. I'm sure they did the best they could but in the extremely competitive car market you can't produce a car like this. I'm only judging them from a consumer's stand point, a high price and low quality just doesn't add up.

  13. Totally agree,from a consumer standpoint this car doesn't have a lot going for it in the current market. If they could offer it cheaper they no doubt would but I'm sure they just can't afford to. I think it's tragic, certainly not shameful.

  14. I guess it is tragic, they've backed themselves into a corner and it really doesn't look like theres anyway out.

  15. @CDspeed: Please note I have corrected the price, which is $38,145 including delivery, not $39,900.

  16. Either way we're talking about a 40 thousand dollar car.

  17. I will reserve my judgement until the crash test results come out...

  18. i hear it at least a half dozen times a day that LEAF owners would pay very good money to get a real 100 mile range and we have that and its the same price. too bad no QC though. no QC, no sale for me. when you get right down to it, its a question of how many trips have a distance between 85 (what i can get out of the LEAF) and 100ish (what the Coda can do although i am pretty sure i could get 110-115 easy)?

    not many which makes QC VITAL to my needs!!

  19. Me interested in this car purely for the market of the USa is intended or is it available in Europe/Germany? Unfortunately, the German automaker of is still of the view are that is better PS strong sell cars with Worde gas mileage can be and remain as alternative only the French (Renault) or just tesla, only for the latter I simply lack the money. We currently drive a Dacia Sandero 1.2 16V with 75PS, consumption 6 l / 100 km which German standards is very good for a literpreis of 1.70€ Dacia is part of renault and is being built in Romania. Nevertheless, the interest in an elektrofahrzeug is still there.

  20. This car is unproven and is too costly for the majority of Americans. I'd rather buy a Volt for a few thousand dollars more. Forgggetttaboutit.

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