Monday, December 23, 2013

My 2013 LEAF Review

I personally don't like car reviews. They are first impressions which can frequently change over time and are loaded with personal observations very much tailored to the reviewer which I often find to be misleading in the real world.  It is, in most cases personal preferences on review.

But this review is really critiquing my 2013 introductory S model against my top of the line (for the time) 2011 SL with QC.  I have only had the car 3 days and due to several holiday celebrations, none of which is more than 15 miles away, I will only get a few opportunities to even come close to testing the range or anything like that but that has been done by several very competent people who are very good at recording data, etc so not going to do that either. Instead I will list observations and how important they are to me. Its up to you to determine how important it is to you.

**** Range No surprises here.  This morning, I left with a near full charge (only a 3 hour layover from one job to another)  did a 48.2 mile round trip, mostly freeway between 55-62 mph. Ended the journey at 4.1 miles/kwh and 39 miles on a supposedly much improved GOM.  (LEAF Spy said 37.3 miles to a 5% reserve which seems to be as low as it goes, but I will double check that...) This is a significant improvement over my degraded 2011 but it also had less efficient tires on the front as well.  2013 wins this but will also reserve the right to change my mind.  Unlike the 2011, the 2013's degradation will be documented from day one and so far, its done well. My first ahr reading was 67.24 (typical is 66ish) and so far, that number has gone up slightly every day. I expect that to stop soon and many reports of 2013'ers losing a big chunk in the first 30 days or so.  The list is not in any particular order.

 Seats Black interior which is better than the light cream interior of the 2011. Much more of a "cloth" feel which is fine by me but at the same time, the 2011 seats were more comfortable. I am still playing with the seat adjustments but seems like the microfiber seats of the 2011 were more padded, softer, and a bit more cushy... 2011 with a slight edge but then again, maybe the 2013 just needs a break in period.

Eco Mode Gave it 5 stars because I consider it very important. The LEAF drives so smoothly that a slight bit of inattention can see me exceeding my target speed by 10+ mph.  Big plus for the 2013 remembering my preferences between D and ECO. But after nearly 3 years of double shifting, it is not an easy habit to break, but I hope to take advantage of the single shift to ECO at least 10 times within the next week or so.  # of times I found myself in drive; about 50. # of times, I remembered and shifted just once to get to ECO; one.  Big plus to the 2013 here.

Interior lighting 2013 LEAF has a wimpy rear lamp with a single LED lamp pointing to each of the front seats. WAAAY TOO DARK!! I track my stats daily and reset my MPK (miles per kwh) meter and ODO A daily then record it into my drive log.   The ability for my old eyes to see well is critical and the only reason I did not assign it 5 stars is that I hope to simply change the back seat light to something brighter. Also a clip on light would work as well, so there is a light at the end of this tunnel.

Options The S is the basic package so its not supposed to have as much and for the most part, I am ok with that. For those of you that do not recall; on the 2011, if you wanted a chademo port you had to pay for the top of the line SL, PERIOD. But that also required paying for a lot of stuff I did not really care about including NAV among others. Getting my S with the charge package which includes chademo and 6 KW AC charging without the frills is a huge money saver and not much of a compromise in features.  Not hard to see why it's a popular configuration choice.  Although my TCO on the 2011 was pretty good, I expect to be under 20 cents a mile on the 2013, a HUGE financial benefit. Now, to be fair, I really miss cruise control and without experiencing it, I really wont know how much I miss the much more efficient (and warmer!) heat exchanger on the SV and SL's and that leads me to

Cabin comforts I have not seen a real cold day since getting my LEAF although it did get into the upper 30's the day I picked it up but the seat heaters and steering wheel warmers make a huge difference in how comfortable I feel. Putting heated seats in the back was a great idea on Nissan's part.   To be fair; the sunglass storage on the 2013 is smaller and I can't fit all my charging network cards and sunglasses like in the 2011.  The defrost on the 2013 seems to work MUCH faster and even heavy condensation clears up very quickly. MUCH improved over the 2011.

Controls I guess I could have added Eco shifting to this but my LEAF is undering a retro makeover.  One thing I hated was turning down the radio on the 2011. I had to press and hold the volume button for what seemed like an inordinately long period of time. This borders on a safety issue. Well, whether its a money saving decision or not, it does not matter because all the dials and knobs are back. Now, I simply lean over and with a quick twist, I can turn it from way loud to way quiet. Nice!

Fit and Finish This I hesitate to say but my 2013 seems quieter. Now the 2011 was never loud by any means. It did not have even the beginnings of a rattle at any speed.  But the 2013's road noise seems much quieter than the 2011, but maybe after 40,000 miles my 2013 will catch up so will have to see on that but so far so good. Other than that, the only thing I have noticed is the rear hatch does not seem to swing closed as smoothly as the 2011 but could just need to be loosened up. The weatherstripping on the 2013 seems a bit bunched up right at the latch and this has caused the hatch not to latch a few times already. I think at this point, I was accustomed to gently tugging the 2011's hatch and having its weight and momentum gently clicking into place. Pulling a tad firmer should be enough to close it and this may also resolve itself as the weatherstripping gets worn in a bit.  Not a big deal by any means and no leakage or moisture I can detect.

So, in a nutshell, so far so good! The only thing I really miss is the cruise control and it remains to see how well I can adapt to it but my Corolla doesn't have it either so, at least I will get a lot of practice. I think just checking my speed a bit more often is what I will end up doing.  The heating issue I have to say is not that critical to me so I de-emphasized it but this is where the real tough decision will be. Because of year end deals on the S, a bump to an SV would have been more than $100 a month higher on the payments.  I have done well to battle the cold in the 2011 and with the seat heaters in the 2013, I should be much more comfortable but I do live in a mild climate.

The faster charging will help. I mentioned that last night I only charged a few hours due to tight work schedule and this required me to stop in at Bruce Titus Olympia Nissan to charge. This was convenient since a test of the fast charge access at night was in order anyway and that went well so grabbing an 18 minute boost allowed me to go home and plug in for a few hours at 12 amps. As it was, I got home with enough charge to turn around and go back to the office. So, I sent off my EVSE to Phil ( to get it modified for 240 volts with programmable amperage. Should receive it back in a week or so.

As far as this review? I think I mentioned everything but as always, I probably forgot a few things and hopefully not too important and remember, like all reviews, this is subject to change

**EDIT** Ok, remembered that I did not mention Carwings. The ability to start heat remotely was cool but it operated so slowly and sometimes in my garage (which has a metal door) it would not work at all. It also did not update status although it knew the status had changed.  I would start remote heat, get a text confirming its start. Then I would go out, unplug and leave. I would get a text advising preheat is off. But the next time I accessed Carwings, my first step would be to send message to car to stop preheat! This doubled the time it took to get the heat going.  My house is not a mansion. It literally takes 20 seconds to walk out and turn the car on and that is what I had to do about 30% of the time anyway.

The other thing about Carwings I liked is notifications when charge was interupted or complete. But since the 2013 has locking charger port, the thought of someone unplugging me and I not finding out has been eliminated. The only issue with this is the unreliability of  outlets at campgrounds. Been a few places where 2-4 resets were required before the car would charge... but then again, it only takes me to glance at the car every once in a while since we were always right there anyway

**EDIT** Knew there was stuff I forgot

Something that was brought to my attention was the fact that the S does not have headlight aiming like the 2011 did.  But then again, the 2013 headlights seem a lot brighter than the LED 2011's and that is really illustrated when the high beams are on! But was easy to forget because on my 2011, I set the headlights up as high as they would go and then other than showing off, that is where it stayed.

But one of the BIGGEST improvements was the ability to take control over the climate controls. Here in the Pacific NW, humidity is a problem which causes fogging on the windshield which meant using the 2nd largest (after the traction motor) power hog in the car; the dreaded "Defrost" a lot.   In previous versions there was no way to turn off the A/C or heat usage. This did not work well for my area. Olympia is the foggiest city in America! but chants of "We are #1" is not very popular here for some reason...

Notice the "Heat" and "A/C" buttons at the bottom? This allows "Air Only" mode directed at the windshield. Here in the mild Pacific NW (or Early Spring anywhere else) the Winters are frequently mild meaning no heat is ok. This means only the power for the fan is sucking up my available range. How important is this? Phil from EVSE Upgrade actually markets a mod to do the exact same thing.

No comments:

Post a Comment