The "gear shift" only has 4 options. Park, Forward, Reverse and Neutral. It also has an "Eco" mode that tries to maximize your range. The car has a lot of pick up and it is always available instantly. Acceleration is smooth and constant with no jerky interuptions from a transmision to interfere with it. It makes for a very fun ride.
I really like the way it handles. The weight distribution with the very heavy batteries sitting in the center of the car makes the steering very reliable and predictable. I have not noticed any under or oversteer.
Reliability & durability
One of the advantages I was looking forward to, owning a Leaf, was the fact that the power train is so much simpler than a gas powered car. These are some of the parts in a gas powered car that can't go wrong with my all electric Leaf:
1) No gears/transmission to ever slip or go out, just a gearshift knob that is really just an electric switch, with no moving parts other than the switch itself.
2) No fuel pump/filter to need maintenance on.
3) No fuel injection or carborator to go out or have problems.
4) No air filters for the motor to replace.
5) No oil to change or oil filter to replace.
6) No radiator to repair. No coolant level to check.
7) No spark plugs, cap, rotor or points to replace or maintain
8) No belts, pullies or chains to break, wear or replace.
9) No engine overheating possible.
10) No catalytic converter to replace.
11) No muffler or exhaust system to replace/maintain.
12) The electric motor acts as a generator that slows the car down when I take my foot off the accelerator and it charges the battery as I coast to a stop. Also, the regenerative breaking means that the Leaf has a generator attached to one of the rear wheels that also slows the car down as I apply the breaks and that also charges the battery as I break to a stop. This regenerative breaking and electric motor generation means that I use less of the actual breaks on the car and this improves the lifespan of my break pads. I will change the break pads and rotors a lot less often than a normal gas powered car or even a hybrid.
Being all electric means that the car has the quietest ride you could possibly imagine, even at full acceleration. The engine makes no noticable sound other than a slight whirring as you accellerate.
Obviously, Fuel economy is one of the Leaf's strongest features. The car gets amazing milage. The Battery is 24Kw and I pay 10 cents per kilowatt where I live in Texas. This means that it costs about $2.40 to charge it up completely from empty. From empty I can get about 75 miles of normal highway/city mixed driving. My previous car, a Chrysler Sebring Limited convertible got 23 miles per gallon. So it would take me about 3.2 gallons of gas to go 75 miles in my Sebring. At $3.50 per gallon it would cost me $11.41 to go that same 75 miles in my Sebring that only costs me $2.40 in my Leaf.
The price of gas would have to be 75 cents per gallon for my sebring just to match cost of the feul to drive the same distance as my Leaf. I doubt we'll ever see that price again.
I would like to see more color choices available. I would like my next leaf to be a forest green. They did not have green available as a color choice when I got my blue one.
I think every Nissan dealership should have to install a "quick charger" so that people could more easily make longer trips if they wanted to in their Leafs. Quick chargers allow the leaf to completely recharge in 15-20 minutes. Tesla has already gotten ahead with their quick chargers accross the US today.
Price or payments
I would suggest to anyone buying a Leaf that you consider leasing it instead of buying it outright. I have never leased a car before until I bought my Leaf. But since it was the first year that it was available I took this into consideration: 1) I don't know what the resale value of a used Leaf should/would be like. Would I only be able to sell it back to the dealership? Would it be hard trying to find someone to buy a used Leaf that has less range left on it than when it was new? Do I have to explain to a potential buy how they should install a charger at their home in order to use the Leaf?
2) What would the next generation of Leafs be like? Would they have 500+ mile range and be cheaper? If they were a lot better, then I probably would want to get a new one as soon as I was done paying for mine. I can't know what the range in the future will be, but the battery technology obviously will get a lot better very quickly so why get stuck with one fo the originals that may get a lot less range?
3) What kind of problems will an electric car have in the long run? Doesn't seem to be a lot that can go wrong with it other than the battery, but what would it cost to replace the battery in 5 years? I have no idea since electric cars like this have only been around for 3 years. What other types of issues will this kind of car have in the future as they get older? I expect that one of these cars should last 20+ years on the electric motor pretty easily if all you do is replace the battery. What other non normal wear parts may go out? I don't know for sure.
These things made me decide to only lease it for now, eventually I will definitley buy one, but it will need to have a better range so that I could live with the possibility of the batter slowly getting less and less range over time. I won't mind replacing it every 5-10 years if its not overly pricey since the cost should be a lot less than buying a new car and the rest of the car is so reliable. (see my comments on the reliability)
Audio & nav systems
I find it anoying that the nav system won't let you put in an address while the car is moving over 5mph. I understand that it wouldn't be safe for the driver to put in addresses while driving, but the passenger should be able to do this while you are driving. I have not found a way to disable this "feature". I think the audio system should have more support for internet streaming radio stations through your cell phone connected with blue tooth. It is kind of supported, but it could be much better integrated.
I think that Nissan should offer at least one additional option for the engine. At least give one other slightly more powerful motor option to their customers. I'm not saying that the 110 HP motor that it comes with isn't powerful enough, but it would be nice to have a more powerful option for those of us that enjoy a bit more pick up.