On our Nissan LEAF buying experience and how we became a “3/4 EV” family

Our very first car that we bought (and the very first car I have ever owned, I might add) was a 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander XLS. It served us well over the 11+ years of ownership: a number of short- and long-distance road trips, driving around the town to make our then-baby daughter fall asleep, moving from an apartment to a permanent house, towing a trailer full of raw lumber for my woodworking projects or serving as my bicycle carrier.

When my wife passed her driving test (which she did on the Outlander, too) it became her primary vehicle for running errands. It is only natural that we wanted to keep the car until our girl is mature enough to drive by herself, too – she will be ready in just a few years after all. That WAS the plan.
Unfortunately, age has caught up with Andy (that’s what we called it!) and the last year or so of ownership brought a list of unexpected expenses and repairs. As Murphy’s law would have it, some of the incidents left my wife stranded when I was away on a business trip – a rather stressful experience when I cannot be around to help. Facing a prospect of yet another expensive repair in the near future we had to make a decision: should we keep prolonging its life while its value continues to diminish or would it be better to get something affordable, hopefully electric, that would come with a peace of mind and a new factory warranty? With mixed feelings we decided to search for an alternative.

Now, I am an early reservation holder for Tesla Model 3. Like many others, I put my deposit down right when the car was being revealed, thinking at that time that this will most likely be my entry way to the world of Tesla ownership. Amazing how things can turn out at the end!
Encouraged by our experience with already owning an electric car we promised ourselves that our next vehicle will be an EV as well. No more fussing with mechanical failures and repairs, rattling engine or gasoline. We really wanted our next car to be another Tesla, but it would be rather hard to justify the Model 3 at its currently available configuration and price – the promised affordable version won’t be out till sometime next year, provided Tesla can ramp up the production and clear the backlog of orders and reservations.

So what are the viable alternatives? Not many at the moment, unfortunately. Kia Niro and Hyundai Kona are expected in their EV version by end of this year or sometime in 2019. Given their low initial production volume and the fact that they won’t be immediately available outside of California, makes it difficult to consider at the moment. Chevrolet Bolt could be the contender, provided one could get hands on one and if it would be a tad cheaper. We were really looking for an affordable car, leaning towards lease vs purchase, so we can wait it out till other manufacturers catch up and there will be more models to choose from.
That leaves us with Nissan LEAF. The 2018 edition looked like a good choice though, especially with the new 40 kWh battery (~150 mile range) and updated design. I’ve read and heard good opinions about it, so we decided to give it a go. We wanted to keep it simple though (to keep the price down), so only S or SV variants would be considered.
I went to Nissan’s website and looked at S version first. I kept it pretty much default, adding only the Charging Package (so we can benefit from faster charge times using higher current/voltage). It looked promising:

Nissan_Leaf_S

Looks like we might be in luck, as there is an ongoing offer until end of July:

Nissan_Leaf_lease_offer

Looks even better! I am sure we can negotiate the down payment when we commit to lease it. Just to compare, I have also configured SV variant – adding a tech package and pearl white paint option (to match our current car, why not!):

Nissan_Leaf_SV

As expected, Technology Package and premium paint increased the base price a bit, but it should not have much impact on the monthly cost of leasing, right? Wrong:

Nissan_Leaf_SV_lease

That is a significant difference! I assume the special applies only to the basic (S) variant. So be it. Let’s schedule a test drive!

The test drive only assured us that LEAF is a viable choice. Quiet as you would expect from an electric vehicle, responsive, decent trunk space and roomy (in the front row at least). Unlike Tesla, it lacks a frunk cargo space (at first glance it looks like someone packed a V6 engine in it!) but it is not a deal-breaker. The one we tested had a ProPILOT Assist feature too – it had no problem keeping in the lane or distance to the car ahead of us during the short drive. Again, would be nice to have, but my wife is not going to drive any long distances, so we will be fine without it. Let’s go back to dealership and talk financing details!

This is where it all fell apart, unfortunately. As I was going back and forth between S and SV, I asked the financial adviser to provide the data on the latter one. It came to over 600 dollars a month with 4,000 dollars down. I could not help but to make a reference to a fully loaded long range Tesla Model 3 that can be had for similar amount (well, you can’t lease it at the moment, but it would come to $721/month for 72 months with $5,000 down payment and a rather hefty 3,7% APR if you place an order now). Surely, this cannot be right!
I then asked the adviser to show us the numbers for S version – still, the monthly payment was $350 a month (far from $249 deal on Nissan’s website). No go – he promised to contact me when they come across the deal that would match our expectations though. Sadly then, we shook hands and left. Not the outcome we were expecting.

I must say that all this while we were getting plenty of attention from the sales representative that greeted me when I first visited the dealership, as well as various other Nissan personnel, including general manager of that particular location. What beats me is that it doesn’t seem to be any interest on their part to make a deal. No negotiations, no room to wiggle. Almost as if they didn’t want to sell the car. Our sales adviser was trying to explain that the residual value of LEAF is pretty low after the end of lease, but that should not be my concern – it should be Nissan’s to think of their sales and marketing strategy. To add to the insult, while browsing the available inventory in the 100-mile radius from where we live there were 32 cars matching or in similar specifications to what we were looking for. 2 weeks later now, there are still 31 listed, so it’s not as if the car is selling like hotcakes. Disappointing. Very.

* * *

Call it a compromise, but we have settled for a hybrid instead. Since I’ve had previous experience owning a Hyundai I was interested to check out Kona – neither my wife not me were particularly crazy about the design though. Then Ioniq caught my attention. Cheaper than Kona, better equipped and definitely better looking sounded like a much better of a deal. It is worth mentioning that the Hyundai dealership nearby make the whole experience absolutely worthwhile. From the get-go, we were greeted by a very friendly and polite sales adviser who would help us through the whole process. Patient and tactful, transparent about sales conditions and never pushy – this is how the car sales experience should be like. While signing the paperwork I was greeted by one of the brothers that own the place, then received a personalized thank you note via email for being their customer. It all made us quickly forget about the negative experience we had with Nissan.

For what it is worth, my wife enjoys the new car a lot. It is a bit of an adjustment coming from a SUV to a compact car, but she is happy to have a reliable car again. The gas mileage is great (52+ mpg and climbing, the car is EPA rated at 58 mpg) thanks to combined 1.6 liter gasoline engine and 32 kW electric motor coupled with 1.56 kWh battery. The technology is up to speed (it comes with Apple CarPlay as standard) and I am sure it will serve us well till we can decide on what electric car will replace it. To think of it, we are three quarters of a way there! 😉

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