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Nissan Leaf opens door for electric cars

CNET Car Tech reviews the 2011 Nissan Leaf.

Nissan Leaf
Josh Miller/CNET

Taking a big risk, Nissan pushed ahead of the pack to release the first mass production electric car. Although some people might find the limited range of the Nissan Leaf makes it impractical for their needs, it will fit into the lifestyles of many suburban commuters. And clean air aside, it has the advantage of costing about 70 percent less to run than an equivalent gasoline-powered car.

We drove the Leaf through the urban and suburban landscape of the San Francisco Bay Area, and found its 100 mile range enough to cover quite a bit of ground. It felt comfortable running down the freeway, drove easy in city traffic, and even charged up steep hills accelerating continuously. But one drawback that will affect the car's usefulness in many areas of the country is the fact that using climate control shaves more than 10 percent off the range.

Nissan fitted the Leaf with its standard cabin tech, including navigation and a Bluetooth phone system, the only real news here is that navigation comes standard with the car. But in the Leaf, the navigation system serves the very important purpose of helping you find charging stations, adding any place you happen to recharge to the vehicle's database.

Check out our 2011 Nissan Leaf review.