2012 Coda Sedan: First Drive Page 2

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2012 Coda Sedan

2012 Coda Sedan

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The optional dark-grey leather seats have contrasting white stitching, and the dash design is simple and straightforward, with four large eyeball vents, a hooded instrument cluster, and a simple center stack containing a small 7-inch touchscreen display.

The seats are comfortable, although because the battery pack is in the floor, all passengers sit in a more knees-up position than the Coda's upright lines would indicate. That's a trait shared with the Tesla Model S, by the way, which also has its battery in the floorpan.

Punchy in traffic

The front wheels of the 2012 Coda Sedan are powered by a 100-kilowatt (134-horsepower) electric motor, which delivers good acceleration away from stops and is tuned for speedy acceleration between 30 and 70 mph--8.4 seconds, Coda says.

Acceleration starts to fall off sharply above 65 or 70 mph, and top speed is limited to 85 mph.

The handling, while hardly light or crisp, is better than we expected, with good roadholding--due partly to the Coda's low center of gravity--and nicely direct electric rack-and-pinion steering. It's not a sport sedan, but its torque and handling kept us comfortably in the thick of traffic on LA's curving canyon roads.

The finer points of the driving experience, however, are one of the areas where the Coda Sedan betrays its much modified and adapted roots as a completely different vehicle.

Details need sorting

On liftoff, the car glides for a couple of seconds and then engages fairly strong regenerative braking--notably slowing the car. We learned to use this to our advantage, but it's a unique behavior not found in any other electrically powered car we've driven.

2012 Coda Sedan

2012 Coda Sedan

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There's some slight lurching on abrupt power transitions, and Coda hasn't yet gotten idle creep quite right, with discernible "cogging"--the fast on-off application of electric power--on brake liftoff without any acceleration.

The braking itself was the Coda's most perplexing element, with unpredictable pedal feel--sometimes firm, occasionally spongy--and seemingly non-linear rates of slowing down.

Modulating between regeneration and friction braking is tough for any automaker, and Coda needs to continue refining its control software to match the feel of Toyota, Nissan, and Ford hybrid or electric regenerative brakes, where transitions are utterly impossible to detect.

We did observe that the Coda's front discs and rear drums stopped the car handily under panic braking, though we don't have stopping distances to compare against other compact sedans.

Many, many details...

It's behind the wheel, using the Coda Sedan in everyday traffic and on freeways, that many of the car's little detail shortcomings and oddities are revealed:

  • There's a noticeable motor whine or squeal from roughly 50 to 70 mph
  • The door armrest height is 2 inches lower than the central console armrest, meaning the driver can't comfortably prop up both elbows
  • The blue LCD odometer display is unreadable to any driver wearing blue-blocker sunglasses
  • The interior doorhandles are flimsy, loose, and feel like they'll break off
  • The driver's window has neither auto-down nor auto-up, a major annoyance for anyone who pays tolls or uses a drive-through
  • The turn-signal clicker volume is so low that it's impossible to hear with a window open or if the stereo is on
  • The rear-view mirror stem is so short that adjusting the mirror traps the driver's fingers against the overhead sunglasses compartment
  • The pale-grey plastic outer edges of the console in our car were discolored after a day of contact from dark-blue jeans--and we saw this on several Codas
  • The opening cover of the console is held shut with glued-down Velcro
  • The touchscreen display doesn't save its state when the car shuts off, meaning the driver has to reset it every time
  • The clock on the display isn't present on all screens

2012 Coda Sedan

2012 Coda Sedan

Enlarge Photo

Outside the car, a few more items revealed themselves:

  • The rubber door-trim gaskets were uneven and didn't align properly
  • Under the hood, several components appeared to have been hand-wrapped in black electrician's tape
  • At least one plastic connector was simply suspended by the individual wire strands emerging from either end

On the other hand, the body-panel seams were consistent--if wider than best practice--and the cars mostly appeared to be screwed together fairly well.

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