For those who don’t know or have forgotten, the name for Nissan’s first mass-produced electric car is an acronym: Leading Environmentally-friendly Affordable Family car. But is the 2011 Nissan Leaf really a family-friendly car?
When examining a car for suitability for a family there are a fair few prerequisites. As our colleagues over at FamilyCarGuide will tell you, a good family car needs to have the right mix of practicality, flexibility, safety and affordability.
School Runs, Grocery Trips
Admittedly it only has an EPA rated range of 70 miles between charges, but the 2011 Nissan Leaf should provide an average family with enough range to tackle all but the most extreme of school runs, shopping trips and football practices.
Rear seats can be split 60/40, meaning those family with only two children can make use of extra storage space for luggage or shopping if the Leaf’s load bay just isn’t large enough.
Spills, Sick and Soccer Boots
To anyone with young children however, the Hobson’s choice of an off-white interior is enough to induce that reoccurring nightmare of finding ground in chocolate, mud or even sick all over the door pulls, seat base and back of the front seats.
Luckily, scotch-guard or similar should put those fears aside. Since interior and exterior treatments are de-facto recommendations for any car, the Leaf’s interior color is hardly a deal-breaker, although you may want to carry some wet-wipes to prevent stains from forming.
As the team over at Busy Mommy Media found out back in December, it is possible to fit three child seats in the back of the 2011 Nissan Leaf.
Three Radian XTSL seats, the first NCAP tested, LATCH system full-size car seats fit in the rear of the Leaf, with each seat using purpose-built safety hitches to ensure the very best safety for young passengers. Trying to get an adult passenger between two such seats isn’t going to be a fun experience unless they happen to be svelte, but it is also possible.
First 2011 Nissan Leaf delivered to buyer, San Francisco, Dec 2010, photo by Eugene Lee
Obviously, child car seats vary as much as the cars themselves do. We’d recommend going to the dealer with your own car seats to test them in an actual Leaf before ordering one to make sure your seats fit.
Buggies, Diaper Bags, Playpens
If you’ve a really young baby you’ll know how much baggage you end up toting around with you. It’s less of a problem if you have one child, but if you have a double buggy and associated baby paraphernalia you may find the Leaf too small for daily use.
Admittedly, the Leaf is far more practical than other options on the market, but you may find a 2011 Plug-in-Prius is more practical if you need that larger load space.
Here’s the biggie. For $25,000 you can buy a whole lot of car, including some larger family cars and even minivans like the 2.7 liter 2011 Toyota Sienna.
But, at the same time, the 2011 Toyota Sienna gets a paltry 19 mpg around town and only 24 mpg on the highway. Sure, it’ll be larger, but it won’t give you that same zero-emissions feeling. You’ll also have to fill it up at the gas station rather than just plug it in every night at home.
If you’ve a large family or young pre-school kids, the 2011 Nissan Leaf may not be the best choice as a practical car. But for older kids and smaller families, the 2011 Nissan Leaf does provide realistic family transport - provided you’re not transporting the school football team around, that is.