2011 Nissan LEAF

2011 Nissan LEAF

Episode 3010 , Episode 3027
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

2010 is clearly the year of the electric car. So far this season we’ve driven the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, MINI E, Tesla Roadster, the Chevrolet Volt, and even this Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid. But this week we turn our road test eyes to the first modern, pure-electric, five-passenger family car to enter mass production, the Nissan LEAF. Now, the compact LEAF could forever change the way we think about everyday cars. So, come along, and you be the judge, as we turn over the new leaf!

Loosely based on the Nissan Versa, the zero-tailpipe emissions 2011 Nissan LEAF is powered by an air-cooled, 24-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack mounted under the floor pan and rear seats of the car.  Its 192 cells are tied to an 80-kilowatt synchronous AC electric motor. With 107 horsepower and 206 pound-feet of torque, it pulls the LEAF to a top speed of 90 miles per hour. 

Fully charged, the LEAF has a range of 60 to 120 miles, depending on weather conditions. That’s enough to cover most roundtrip commutes without too much range anxiety.  But, since it has no backup power source like the Chevrolet Volt, for long distances, the LEAF is a non-starter.

A full recharge using 110 household current takes an impractical 20 hours. Installing an optional 220-volt home charging station drops it to about 8 hours. Nissan also plans to install commercial quick-charge stations in parking lots that will provide 80 percent recharge in just 30 minutes. 

On the road, the LEAF drives with the spirit of a peppy, front drive compact car, albeit an extremely quiet one.  As with most electric motored cars, the LEAF delivers peak torque right off the line. A non-instrumented 0 to 60 run of 8 seconds confirmed LEAF to be fairly brisk. And, with no transmission, everything is smooth and machine like.

The LEAF’s suspension is basic economy car; MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam in the rear.  Stability and traction control are standard.

And, when the road turns, the LEAF holds its own very well.  With the 600-pound battery pack down low, the LEAF feels planted and stable.  The car is quite nimble, and sportier than expected, with the electric power steering being reasonably precise.

There is regenerative braking, of course, and it is relatively mild in Normal Mode. Switch to Economy mode and the throttle grows softer and the regenerative braking grows harsher. Otherwise, the all-disc ABS system with Brake Assist reacts well to panic stops.

Ride is comfortable too, absorbing broken city pavement without great drama.  All in all, the LEAF drives normally, like a traditional, well-built compact family car. And it looks pretty normal, too. The LEAF has unique styling without going for an eco-freakmobile look. It’s more consistent with current Nissan products like Rogue, Juke, and Versa.

The bug-eyed, bulbous compact five-door hatchback is longer than the Versa hatchback, and a little shorter than the Chevrolet Volt.  It’s all very aerodynamic, with the large LED headlamps carefully shaped to keep wind noise low. On profile the LEAF is seamless and sprawling, with an almost mid-size stance. The standard 16-inch alloy wheels help that impression as well. The back-end is also quite normal, with a large hatch flanked by tall, thin taillights, and topped by a roof spoiler. 

For a more futuristic look, you have to dive inside the LEAF. It’s clean, inviting, and loaded with soft touch controls and animated displays. There’s lots of plastic, but it has a good quality look and feel to it. Seats are all-day comfortable, with coverings made from recycled materials.

The center dash houses the standard navigation system, and a mouse like shifter that took about a nanosecond to get use to.

Other techie standard equipment on the base LEAF SV includes push button start, cruise, Bluetooth, automatic temperature control, and CARWINGS, a Smartphone feature that allows for remote monitoring of the charging status. The uplevel SL adds backup camera, HomeLink, and a solar panel to keep a small battery charged for the audio system.

The rear seat offers normally-tight compact car leg room, and while there are three seatbelts, only two adults will fit comfortably. There is, however, some compromise in the cargo bay. Part of the onboard charging mechanism creates a hump at the forward end.  But when the rear seats are folded, they line up perfectly and eliminate this objection.

Obviously, the traditional miles per gallon measure doesn’t apply to the LEAF.  But the cost to fully recharge it is about $3.  That’s nearly twice that of the Chevrolet Volt, but then, the LEAF offers about twice the all-electric driving range, too. Nissan expects an official government miles per gallon energy equivalent rating in the triple digits.

There are some notable digits in LEAF’s price as well. Base sticker is $33,600, before federal and state tax credits. Most buyers will be able to drop that price to $26,100. However, we think leasing the LEAF is the way to go, at $1999 down and $349 per month.  That’s on par with a lease for the Chevy Volt. The 220-volt charging station will cost you about $2,200 installed, but that too is eligible for tax credits.

Beyond being a pure-electric vehicle, the 2011 Nissan LEAF is a well-equipped and capable compact car. It’s hard to see how it can be your only car, unless your radius of travel is very limited. But, then, there are always rentals. So, we find that LEAF does indeed keep its promises, and along with Volt, is a promising start to a new electric family car age. And, we can’t wait to see what comes next.



  • Engine: 80-kilowatt Synchronous Ac Electric Motor
  • Horsepower: 107
  • Torque: 206 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 8.0 Seconds

Long Term Updates

When we took delivery of our long term Nissan Leaf electric car, we weren’t sure how we would use it. After all, the anxiety of running out of power seemed very real.

But, we adapted. We found the Nissan Leaf makes a great second car; perfect for reasonable commutes, around town errands, and just about anything short of long distance vacations.

But, while we often saw driving range indicated at over 100 miles, using heat or a/c, 65-70 was more reality.

With mostly short haul use, we had no trouble keeping it fully charged using household 110 Volts. Still, if we owned one, installing a 220 Volt charger would be best.

After 9 months, we can say the light, eco-friendly upholstery has taken quite a beating. It’s not very stain resistant. But,  driving enjoyment has only grown. The Leaf is quiet, quick, and agile.

So as we bid goodbye to our Leaf, we conclude that EVs are indeed viable, and we sure will miss this one.

Mileage: 1,300

After two months and with 1,300 commuter miles on the digital odometer, our staff is very pleased with the practicality of this pioneering EV. The Leaf is comfortable, able to haul plenty of household goods, while still bordering on fun-to-drive. The range indicator always drops faster than expected when you’re first starting out, and so far we’ve used heat and a/c sparingly to extend range. But, we’ve never come close to running out of power. With the hottest months of summer ahead, we’ll see if we can keep our cool in the Nissan Leaf.

2023 Mazda3

2023 Mazda3

Still The Same Mazda3, Just A Bit Better

Episode 4304
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

When the fourth-gen Mazda3 arrived for 2019, it grew a little more stylish, a lot more upscale; and loads more practical too, adding all-wheel drive into the mix for the first time. How does it get better than that? Well, for ’23 the 3 adds an engine update that promises to deliver more power and better efficiency. Time to speak truth to this power.

The Mazda3 has always been a great compact car, big on both fun and value, and has earned numerous MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Awards over the years. This current-gen has been on the road for 4-years now, and it gets even better for 2023.

Starting with the powertrain, the base 2.0-liter I4 has been eliminated leaving just 2 versions of the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, turbo and non-turbo. Base versions get a 5-horsepower bump to 191-horsepower, along with updates for its cylinder deactivation system. The 2.5 Turbo fits standard all-wheel drive and outputs the same 250-horsepower and 320 lb-ft. of torque as last year; provided you use Premium gas. Max ratings drop to 227-horsepower and 310 lb-ft. with Regular.

2023 Mazda3 6
2023 Mazda3 2
2023 Mazda3 5
2023 Mazda3 3
2023 Mazda3 4
2023 Mazda3 62023 Mazda3 22023 Mazda3 52023 Mazda3 32023 Mazda3 4

A 6-speed manual transmission remains available in front-wheel drive 3s, but AWDs come exclusively with a sport-tuned 6-speed automatic. We found it well-sorted and seemingly always on the same page as us whether we were shuffling through back roads or sitting in traffic. There is a softer overall feel compared to Mazda3s of old, which you’ll appreciate when encountering harsh pavement, but it still feels plenty agile when called upon.

That softer feel certainly carries over inside, where it has gotten much quieter, and quite nicely finished, consistent with Mazda’s Audi-like premium intentions. All 3s get an 8.8-inch center display, and all of the fingerprints on our test car’s screen signifies most people assume it’s a touchscreen. It’s not, however, as inputs are made with a rotary controller on the console. It’s not the most intuitive system, but once you’re past the learning curve, it’s tolerable.

The rear seat room doesn’t have the roomy feel of the Subaru Impreza, but space is certainly more than adequate compared to the rest of the compact set. Rear cargo space for this hatchback rates a good 20.1 cubic-ft. with trunk space in the sedan coming in at 13.2 cubic-ft. So yes, the Mazda3 remains available in both sedan and hatchback, but we still prefer the 5-door hatch both for its practicality and for its sporty looks. Top Turbo Premium Plus gets gloss black aero treatments including a roof spoiler and front air dam.

At the test track, power from the 2.5-turbo felt more than adequate off the line, using all-wheel-drive grip to bite into the pavement and get up and go to 60 in 6.0-seconds flat. There was virtually no turbo lag, and the engine felt nicely refined with its power delivery. Transmission operation was equally as smooth and kept the power flowing quite effectively throughout the ¼-mile, which ended in 14.5-seconds at 95 miles-per-hour. We really appreciate a well-tuned 6-speed in this world of overactive 8 and 10 speed automatics.

2023 Mazda3 1

While there was definitely some understeer to manage in our handling course, the 3 turned in quickly and provided real, sporting feedback through our cone course. I-Activ AWD features G-Vectoring Control Plus, which uses both engine torque vectoring as well as selective braking to minimize body roll, and preserve the lively feel we’ve come to expect from Mazda. In panic braking runs, the pedal was soft, but that kept ABS pulsing to a minimum; and the results were great, as we averaged a very short 106-feet from 60, with minimal nose dive and stable, straight stops.

Government Fuel Economy Ratings for an all-wheel drive Turbo are 23-City, 31-Highway, and 26-Combined; we averaged a good 28.4 miles-per-gallon of Regular.

Obviously by eliminating the previous base engine, prices have taken a jump for ’23, but so has everything else. Still they remain more than reasonable. The base S now starts at $26,855, with the top Turbo Premium Plus at $37,815, with many options in between. And sedan prices are even more sensible, starting at $23,715.

Like most brands, Mazda seems to be going all-in on SUVs; as the 3 is the last family sedan and hatchback in their lineup. And it would be a real shame if that were to change. As the 2023 Mazda3, the hatchback in particular, is just about the perfect car, offering utility vehicles levels of practicality along with better than average luxury, plus handling performance that few crossovers can match. So, long live the Mazda3!


As Tested

  • Engine: 2.5-liter Turbo-4
  • Horsepower: 227 | 250
  • 0-60 mph: 6.0 seconds
  • 60-0 Braking: 106 feet (avg)
  • MW Fuel Economy: 28.4 MPG (Regular)
  • Transmission: 6-speed auto
  • Torque: 310 lb-ft. | 320 lb-ft
  • 1/4 Mile: 14.5-seconds at 95 mph
  • EPA: 23-City / 31-Highway / 26-Combined