Ford Focus Electric and Nissan LEAF Test Drives

Today I went down to the car dealerships and test drove a couple of EVs. I’ll start with the LEAF…

 Nissan LEAF

The LEAF has been around for a while, but I had never driven one until today. I don’t have much to say. It’s exactly what I expected. The car is quicker than the Volt and Focus EV, but not nearly as zippy as the Honda Fit EV. Nissan did a great job on this car. They didn’t make it feel too much like a gas-powered car, by letting the driver take advantage of the torquey motor to accelerate quickly, especially at lower speeds. Nissan also did a great job at reducing road noise inside the car. With no engine noise (besides a slight whine when accelerating) and little road noise, the car is extremely quiet. ‘m not a huge fan of the LEAF’s body style, but I could live with it.

Ford Focus ElectricFord Focus Electric

Up until a couple weeks ago, I had my heart set on the Focus Electric. The car is really nice and has all the bells & whistles, plus it has a large 143 HP electric motor and looks great. The Ford dealership I visited had about five Focus Electrics and they said they had a lot of interest in the vehicle. There was one other customer checking the car out while I was there. After driving the Focus Electric, I can sum up the vehicle in one sentence: This car is an all-electric Volt.

The interior of the Focus is extremely nice. Nicer than the Fit and LEAF, and arguably nicer than the Volt. The interior space is about the same as the Volt, but the batteries in the Focus are placed in the trunk instead of down the center of the body. This gives the Focus Electric a fifth seat in the back, but reduces the storage space in the back. I had seen this in pictures, but I didn’t realize how constricted the back of the Focus Electric really is until I saw it in person. In my opinion, Ford has done the best job of any auto manufacturer on the charge status light. It’s simple and intuitive. There is a blue ring around the charge port that is cut into four sections. Each section represents one quarter of a charged battery. For instance, after I drove the car 3/4 of the ring was solid and the last 1/4 was flashing. This means that the battery is between 76-99% charged. This is far far better than Honda’s tiny green LED on the Fit EV, and much more intuitive than both GM and Nissan’s dashboard lights. I even think it’s better than the Tesla Roadster’s status lights, that looked great, but weren’t intuitive if it wasn’t explained.

Driving the Focus EV was extremely similar to the Volt. Ford followed GM and made the Focus Electric drive just like a gas car. To me, this is a bad thing. The first thing I noticed is that the Focus EV has a ton of creep (the force that pushes the car forward when you are not pressing on any pedals). I don’t like forward creep in my EVs, but I’ve come to accept that it is going to be in almost any EV I buy. The next thing I noticed was that the Focus Electric is eerily quiet. There is no noise maker like the Fit and LEAF and no pedestrian alert like in the Volt. During my entire drive, I don’t think I heard the electric motor whine once. The motor is barely audible in the LEAF, but it’s almost entirely absent in the Focus. I personally like the whine, which is definitely audible in the Fit EV (though not nearly as much as the MINI E).

Flooring the Focus Electric left something to be desired. I feel that the Volt doesn’t have the same torquey, fun feel as other EVs, but the Focus Electric takes this to the next level. I was flooring the car pretty regularly and my dad, who was riding along, was surprised to hear that I had been flooring it. Don’t get me wrong. The Focus EV is by no means slow. You can’t get rid of the torque of the electric motor, but I was really really surprised at just how un-torquey this EV is. The top speed is 80 mph, which is on the low end. But as the salesman put it, “these cars aren’t for that. They are for the environment.” It’s really too bad that we have salesmen that believe that. One of the many benefits of EVs is that they are super fun to drive!!! Aside from the acceleration, the Focus Electric drove really well. The car hugs the road and gives a nice balance between the MINI E’s go-kart feel and the Volt’s driving-on-tempurpedic feel. If the Focus Electric accelerated like the Honda Fit or MINI E, I would be all over this car. It is by far the most luxurious of the EVs that I’m considering and the price I was offered was almost exactly the same as the Nissan LEAF SL, but more on that next post!

If you have any questions on any of the vehicles I mentioned, let me know and I will do my best to answer them for you!

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