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Consumer Reports has wrapped up its five-month road test of the 2011 Nissan Leaf and reports the electric hatch scored 78 points. That puts the EV into the middle of six recently tested fuel-efficient hatchbacks. The Leaf ranked two points shy of the Toyota Prius and 11 points above the Chevrolet Volt. Meanwhile, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid scored a disappointing 69, 20 points below the conventional Sonata GLS.

Of the Leaf, Consumer Reports states:
The Leaf is a civilized vehicle with very low running costs. It's quick, very quiet, rides comfortably and is easy to get in and out of. The Leaf's main drawbacks are a limited driving range of only about 75 miles per charge. The Leaf rides well but handling, though secure, lacks agility. Braking is Very Good. The interior is nicely finished but not posh.
As we all know and CR proved once again, the Leaf's range varies dramatically depending on driving style and weather conditions. For example, CR discovered that, under gentle driving conditions, the Leaf averaged 90 miles on a full charge. But in cold weather, CR's testers report the range dropped to approximately 60 miles. It's for this reason that CR refers to the Leaf as an urban runabout.

In terms of efficiency, the tested Leaf returned 3.16 miles per kWh, or the equivalent of 106 miles per gallon in mixed driving. The operating costs for CR's Leaf rang in at approximately 3.5 cents per mile, as figured at average national electricity rates of 11 cents per kWh. With reliability of the Nissan Leaf still unknown, CR has decided it can't put its Recommended tag on the electric hatch.
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Consumer Reports: Redesigned Chrysler 300 now Ranks Among the Better Upscale Sedans

Hyundai Genesis tops competitive test group in November issue; Nissan Leaf & Hyundai Sonata Hybrid also tested


YONKERS, N.Y., Sept. 29, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Revamped for 2011, the Chrysler 300C scored an "Excellent" overall road test score of 80 in Consumer Reports' latest tests of four upscale sedans, up from 64 for the previous model. The 300C now ranks midpack among the 10 upscale sedans that have been tested by CR. Previously, it had been near the bottom of the pack.

It's unusual to see a redesigned model rise so far in Consumer Reports' ratings. CR's engineers and editors called the new 300 "the best Chrysler sedan we've seen in decades."

"The 300C's quick, muscular 5.7-liter V8 engine is now complemented by responsive handling and a more comfortable ride," said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center in East Haddam, CT. "And, thanks to a major upgrade, its roomy interior is now quieter, more luxurious, and has improved visibility."

Consumer Reports' latest test group included four upscale sedans-the Chrysler 300C, Hyundai Genesis, Toyota Avalon, and Acura TL. The Hyundai Genesis has topped CR's ratings of upscale sedans since 2009 and received an Excellent road test score of 92. The Genesis received a mild freshening for 2012, giving it a softer, more comfortable ride; a stronger direct injected V6; and a more fuel-efficient eight-speed automatic transmission, which helped to improve overall gas mileage by 1 mpg. Also receiving Excellent overall scores were the freshened Toyota Avalon and Acura TL.

Separately, the organization also tested the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, a fuel-efficient family sedan, and the all-electric Nissan Leaf. The Sonata Hybrid scored a disappointing 69, a full 20 points below the previously-tested and more popular conventional Sonata GLS. The Leaf scored a 78, which places it midpack among the six fuel-efficient hatchbacks that have recently been tested by CR.

The Sonata GLS is among Consumer Reports' highest-rated family sedans. Although the Sonata Hybrid gets better fuel economy than its non-hybrid doppelganger, the trade-offs in driveability, refinement, and braking performance are too high. The car stumbles and hesitates as it makes the transition from electric to gas power and both handling and braking are less capable.

The Leaf, which is the first widely available and affordable all-electric car, is a civilized vehicle with very low running costs. It's quick, very quiet, rides comfortably and is easy to get in and out of. The Leaf's main drawbacks are a limited driving range of only about 75 miles per charge, and it takes a long time to recharge, about 6 hours on 240V.

The full report on upscale sedans and fuel-efficient vehicles is available to subscribers of www.ConsumerReports.org on September 29th, and in the November issue of Consumer Reports on newsstands October 4. Updated daily, Consumer Reports.org is the go-to Website for the latest auto reviews, product news, blogs on breaking news and car buying information. Check out CR's ongoing Twitter feed at @CRCars.

All of the models tested in this month's issue are Recommended except for the Sonata Hybrid and Nissan Leaf. The Sonata Hybrid scored too low to be recommended. Reliability is still unknown for the Leaf. Consumer Reports only Recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR's Annual Auto Survey of its more than seven million print and Web subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.

Prices for the tested vehicles ranged from $26,695 for the Sonata Hybrid to $44,730 for the 300C.

The 300C is the top-level, V8-powered version of the 300 large sedan. The ride is steady and compliant, and the highway ride is composed. The cabin is very quiet overall. The Chrysler 300C ($44,730 MSRP as tested), is powered by a 363-hp, 5.7-liter V8 engine that delivers strong performance, but it gets just 18 mpg overall in CR's own fuel economy tests. Many buyers would be happy with the 300's base 3.6-liter V6 engine; it provides better fuel economy with still-strong acceleration. The 300C's five-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. Braking is Very Good. The interior is plush and well-finished with large and straightforward touch-screen controls. Driver visibility is much improved with the redesign, but it still isn't great. A shallow trunk expands by folding the 60/40-split rear seatbacks.

The V6 Genesis provides most of the benefits of a $50,000 luxury car for $10,000 less. The updated V6 powertrain is punchy, and fuel economy has improved slightly. Handling is responsive. The ride is now more settled, but it still falls short of a true luxury sedan. The Hyundai Genesis 3.8 ($39,850 MSRP as tested), is powered by a 333-hp, 3.8-liter V6 engine that is strong and smooth and gets 22 mpg overall. The eight-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. Braking is Very Good. The interior is well-finished and has simple controls. Cargo space is modest.

The Avalon could pass for a luxury sedan from Toyota's upscale Lexus brand. It has a relaxed and comfortable ride that deftly mutes road imperfections. On the highway it's remarkably serene. The Toyota Avalon Limited ($36,628 MSRP as tested), is powered by a 268-hp, 3.5-liter V6 engine that is strong and gets 23 mpg overall, impressive for such a large car. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts very smoothly and flawlessly. Braking is Very Good. The interior is well-finished with excellent seats, but the rear is rather cramped. The large trunk includes a small pass-through to accommodate long objects such as skis, but rear seatbacks don't fold down.

The TL is well-rounded, but it doesn't stand out in its class. Although some road and wind noise intrude, the cabin is quiet overall. The TL's taut ride is well controlled and firm, yet supple. The Acura TL ($36,465 MSRP as tested), is powered by a smooth, punchy 280-hp, 3.5-liter V6 engine that gets 24 mpg overall on premium fuel. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts quickly and smoothly. Braking is Very Good. The interior is well-finished. The trunk is a nice size but has a small opening. The center rear armrest folds down to allow long items like skis to pass through into the cabin, but the seatback doesn't fold.

The Sonata Hybrid's drivetrain lacks refinement. Throttle response is slow, making the car feel more underpowered than it is. The ride is controlled yet supple. The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid ($26,695 MSRP as tested), is powered by a 206-hp, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder hybrid engine that that is adequate and gets 33 mpg overall. The six-speed automatic transmission is not as smooth as the continuously variable transmissions found in most competing hybrids. The ride is controlled yet supple. Stopping distances are long and handling limits are reduced compared to other Sonata models. The interior is well finished. The Sonata's compact lithium-polymer battery consumers less trunk space than in competing hybrid sedans.

The Nissan Leaf's full road test culminates a five month period since CR bought the car in California. Driving range can vary dramatically depending on the conditions. Its battery was good for about 90 miles on good days with gentle driving. But in cold weather, CR's testers saw the range drop to as little as 60 miles because the heater puts an additional drain on the battery. The car's limited range makes it best as a commuter car or an urban runabout. The Nissan Leaf SL ($35,430 MSRP as tested), is powered by an 80-kw electric motor (equivalent to 107-hp) that accelerates effortlessly and power is supplied by a 24-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery that sits under the floor. On average, the Leaf delivered 3.16 miles per kWh, or the equivalent of 106 mpg in mixed driving. That gives the Leaf very low operating costs of about 3.5 cents per mile at average national electricity rates of 11 cents per kWh. The Leaf rides well but handling, though secure, lacks agility. Braking is Very Good. The interior is nicely finished but not posh. The hatchback has a deep well, but because of the battery's location, the floor isn't flat when the rear seats are folded.

Consumer Reports is the world's largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.


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  • 63 Comments
      Ziv
      • 3 Years Ago
      Not even my Mom is on board with Consumers Reports. CR has sold their reputation and it is rather sad to think about what they used to be.
      Marco Polo
      • 3 Years Ago
      What a brilliant idea! Let's take two cars, built to appeal to different markets, and judge them by criteria which is designed to favour one of the two vehicles. The idea of a contest between GM Volt and Nissan Leaf, would be obviously absurd if they were ICE vehicles, sort of like comparing a Corolla and a Chevy Cruse. The Volt, obviously has the limitations of being an EREV, and aimed at a more affluent market. It's also is the intended to be the forerunner of a 'family of vehicles. In contrast the Leaf is a very well made sub-compact hatch EV, designed to appeal to early adopters looking for an economical commuter vehicle. Both vehicles deliver very good value for their respective buyers.
        PeterScott
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Marco Polo
        Ok now I get why some people are denigrating CR. They are upset the Volt scored lower. It may not be obvious. But CR doesn't rate the cars compared to each other. It rates all cars compared to the same criteria. All cars get rated on dozens of categories. Handling, road noise, interior roomines, etc... In the end you get a score. You are free to ignore cars you don't consider in the same class if it makes you feel better.
          Jim McL
          • 3 Years Ago
          @PeterScott
          How can it possibly make any sense to compare a gas powered car to an electric powered car only on the terms that gas cars are compared to each other? To make any sense you would have to analyze the impact of the fuel source on geopolitical stability and health of the community around the cars. It is like comparing nuclear power plants to solar power plants, simply because they both produce electricity. People buy electric cars because they want to, for reasons that the propaganda puppeteers at Consumer Reports want to paper over. They are not unbiased.
        PeterScott
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Marco Polo
        Ok now I get why some people are denigrating CR. They are upset the Volt scored lower. It may not be obvious. But CR doesn't rate the cars compared to each other. It rates all cars compared to the same criteria. All cars get rated on dozens of categories. Handling, road noise, interior roomines, etc... In the end you get a score. You are free to ignore cars you don't consider in the same class if it makes you feel better.
          Jim Illo
          • 3 Years Ago
          @PeterScott
          I guess I question how CR even rates a car that can't even complete one of CR's standard tests (150 mile road trip), that EVERY OTHER CAR TESTED BY CR has completed with no problems. If anything, the Leaf should probably be compared to a really, really pumped-up NEV (Neighborhood Electric Vehicle).
          Chris M
          • 3 Years Ago
          @PeterScott
          Obviously, it DID pass the 150 mile test, and that test doesn't take into account how many times the car is "refueled" or how long it takes to refuel, just how much "fuel" is used in that standardized road test. All cars are rated by the same standards, it isn't a "one on one" comparision.
      • 3 Years Ago
      While $0.11/KWH may be a "national average", EVs are usually on different rate schedules. The one for CA is at http://www.pge.com/tariffs/tm2/pdf/ELEC_SCHEDS_E-9.pdf .
      Jim Illo
      • 3 Years Ago
      The reasons the "Leaf" scored so much higher than the Volt were things like front seat access, driving position, climate system and controls & displays. Interestingly, when I picked up my Volt (in March - last time I bought gas: May!), the dealer talked about how ugly the Leaf was compared to the Volt. I told him, "Yes, the Volt looks nice, but I would rather have a more practical car shaped like a Leaf." This is perhaps one thing that GM doesn't understand about the "ECO" consumer: Style doesn't really matter. It's all about efficiency and practicality. My family is small enough that the 3 of us are fine in a Volt, but there are times I wish we had the roominess of a Leaf (or for that matter of my previous car, a Vibe). One thing that makes NO sense is how CR even rated mpg for the Leaf on a their standard '150 mile trip' test. CR runs all tested cars through a 150 mile test of mixed driving. The Leaf rates 124 mpge, and the Volt 70 mpge. But how does a Leaf even pass this test? Even with a 'quick charge' According to CR's report: "[The Leaf's] battery was good for about 90 miles on good days with gentle driving. But in frigid weather, we saw the range drop to as little as 60 miles because the heater puts an additional drain on the battery. Highway driving also runs the battery down more quickly." If this is true, even with 80% quick chargers, a Leaf driver would have to stop at least twice, adding at least 40 minutes to a 150 mile trip. And that is assuming that the quick-chargers would be located at precisely the right spots along a planned 150 mile trip. With this huge limitation, I don't see how CR can even compare the Leaf to other cars.
        theflew
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Jim Illo
        The problem is most people buy cars based on looks and status. Otherwise, everyone would have a Prius.
        Chris M
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Jim Illo
        CRs 150 mile test takes into account fuel consumption over a standardized course, it doesn't take into account how frequently the vehicle needs refueling, nor how long it takes to refuel, it isn't a timed test. The CR fuel economy test gets results closer to "real world" values than the EPA fuel economy tests, but like the EPA tests, it is standardized to enable comparisons between vehicles.
        StevenG
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Jim Illo
        I have a Volt, and styling does matter to me, please don't encourage GM to build a car as ugly as the Leaf :)
        Rotation
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Jim Illo
        The Volt is the shape it is because of efficiency (like the Prius) not despite it. I guess I like the LEAF shape in concept, but the actual car itself is funny looking. I wouldn't call it nice looking.
      Ford Future
      • 3 Years Ago
      I terms of efficiency, that's 5 Times better then your average 20 mpg car. So the worst case range is 60 miles a day, or a charge if you can get one.
      Nick
      • 3 Years Ago
      Looking good in red... Why can't they make em faster? Work night and day and satisfy demand!
      Sasparilla Fizz
      • 3 Years Ago
      About what I'd expect from them and not bad for what the Leaf is. About the time of the next generation release of the Leaf they'll have the reliability information they need to give it recommended. And by 2nd generation Nissan should be able to make some significant improvements in the Leaf beyond just a big bump in battery capacity.
      Spec
      • 3 Years Ago
      Meh . . . sounds fair.
      • 3 Years Ago
      We are about to get some real-world numbers in urban traffic. Mexico City just rolled out the first 3 of an eventual 100 of these as taxis in the city core. Of course, severe cold is never an issue there, but they will get a workout.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Hello people, and hello especially all you gullible people. I read all the comments, and no one touched on the most important consideration as pertains to the subject at hand, which is: Are electric cars green? And of course, a cursory assessement of this question yeilds a resound "no". Now, rather than do your work for you, I will throw down the challenge of explaining why electric cars are the pet rock of the environmentalism that is based on good intentions, rather than the hard science that is indicated. Now feel the love.
      EZEE
      • 3 Years Ago
      Radical Right Wing Extremist Here A middle of the pack rating for this car is fantastic! Why attack Consumer Reports? If the car is for you, great. If the testing criteria is now what you want in the car, fine. The great thing about this rating is, the car is stacking up against ICE and hybrids - cars that have af far longer range, and are largely cheaper! This mean that there is something good about the Leaf that it accomplishes this. When Consumer Reports rated most American cars as bad, fans of American (big three, I mean) cars put the maganize down. Now that some of them are doing well (Ford), the same fans refer to Consumer Reports as a sage piece of wisdom. Take heart - this is a great rating. Who would have thought a few years ago that an electric would have done this well, in a head to head competition. Keep working - get the range further, the price lower, faster charging, more choices.
        PeterScott
        • 3 Years Ago
        @EZEE
        I wondered the same at first as well. This is actually a pretty good rating. But if you look at the comments. People attacking CR are not upset that the Leaf scored low. They are upset that the Leaf scored higher than the Volt.
          EZEE
          • 3 Years Ago
          @PeterScott
          Again, they have their criteria. If you plan on driving many highway miles, the volt is probably the better choice. CR didn't kill anyone's mother for goodness sake. This all goes back to the, 'I am open minded, but if you disagree with me, you are evil.'
      Eideard
      • 3 Years Ago
      I find little credibility in almost anything CR peddles.
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