By Zach Vlasuk
Selling the American public on the idea that electric cars are a practical, affordable form of transportation is no easy task. Persuading them to purchase that electric vehicle from an unknown car company might be asking the impossible, but Coda Automotive aims to overcome these challenges and attract a respectable number of open-minded early adopters with the new battery-powered 2012 Coda Sedan. An ambitious endeavor indeed, made even harder by the fact that the 2012 Coda Sedan lacks the quality, efficiency, value and driving characteristics needed to compete with the likes of Ford's venerable Focus Electric, the popular Nissan Leaf and the new Honda Fit EV. Outside of its class-leading 88-mile range, the Coda Sedan is, at best, underwhelming.
If you're the type of person who chooses to be different just for the sake of being different, regardless of the implications, the 2012 Coda Sedan might be right up your alley.
Prospective electric car shoppers looking to add a measure of value, style and refinement to their ownership experience, rather than sacrificing it should take a closer look at the Ford Focus Electric, the Nissan Leaf or the forthcoming Toyota RAV4 EV.
Based in Southern California, Coda Automotive is a privately held company that designs and sells battery systems for various types of transportation and general utility purposes. Looking to expand their reach into automotive manufacturing, Coda developed a 5-passenger, all-electric version of the Chinese-built Hafei Saibao compact car for the U.S. marketplace.
Driving Impressions Though it handles like a wheelbarrow filled with wet cement, the Coda Sedan packs a surprisingly formidable powerplant. Off-the-line acceleration is not as smooth as most mainstream EVs, but the...100kW electric motor provides more than adequate passing power that far exceeds the performance capabilities of the less-expensive Mitsubishi i-MiEV. The brake feel, however, is unnatural, and fluctuates from stoplight to stoplight. Heavy steering effort is required for low speed maneuvers, while a sizable amount of on-center slack adds an element of ambiguity to highway lane changes. Moreover, the front and rear suspension system tends to produce a variety of popping sounds when exposed to abrupt changes in road levels, such as entering a driveway or rolling a speed bump. But despite the unsettling soundtrack emanating from the floor below, overall ride quality is tolerable.
LITHIUM IRON PHOSPHATE (LiFePO4) BATTERY
Coda's battery pack employs a state-of-the-art lithium iron phosphate construction for superior heat resistance and longer life than most lithium-ion systems. Additionally, 99 percent of the LiFePO4 battery is recyclable at the end of its service.
ACTIVE THERMAL MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
Extreme temperatures can wreak havoc on a battery's ability to hold a charge. To help overcome Mother Nature's challenges, the Coda Sedan uses a series of cooling and heating vents to continuously regulate battery temperature and maximize the Coda Sedan's range.
The 2012 Coda Sedan adheres to a minimalist philosophy throughout the cabin. While today's electric cars are typically crammed with an array of engaging tech features, the Coda Sedan offers little in the way of in-car electronics. An off-the-shelf Alpine head unit with a 7-inch touch screen serves as the hub for audio, navigation and Bluetooth controls. Furthermore, the touch screen is buried low in the center stack and quite difficult to view. Despite the Coda's premium price ($38,000), the cabin is overflowing with the type of substandard plastics and panel gaps one might find in a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe. On a brighter note, the rear quarters feature a 60/40 split rear seat along with a generous helping of headroom and legroom for up to three occupants.Exterior
Similar to gazing at a star-filled sky, the Coda Sedan's exterior provides a glimpse into the past. Though at first glance it could be mistaken for a late 1990s Kia Sephia, the 2012 Coda Sedan incorporates a hint of 21st-century style with a set of LED taillights and daytime running lights. To help project a more aggressive stance, the Coda's fender wells are filled with standard 17-inch alloy wheels and low-profile rubber. And since the battery pack resides beneath the passenger floor, trunk space is plentiful at 14.1 cubic feet.
The Coda Sedan comes in one trim level, with standard equipment consisting of a 6-way manually- adjustable driver's seat, eco-friendly fabric seating materials, and an Alpine audio system with navigation, iPod connectivity and Bluetooth. Unfortunately, steering wheel controls, automatic climate control and power-adjustable front seats are absent from the Coda's menu. Safety gear includes six airbags, a full suite of electronic stability aides and complimentary 24/7 roadside assistance.
Leather seating and black-painted alloy wheels are the lone options for the 2012 Coda Sedan.
Powered by a 31 kWh lithium iron phosphate battery, the Coda Sedan's electric motor produces 134 horsepower and a healthy 221 lb-ft of torque from zero rpm. Power is directed to the front wheels via a single-speed eGearDrive transmission, enabling a 0-60 mph time of around 9.5 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 85 mph. Recharging a depleted battery with the included 110V power supply requires a staggering 30 hours of charge time, while the highly recommended 220V setup takes only six. For peace of mind, the battery pack is backed by a lengthy 10-year/100,000-mile warranty. The Coda currently bests the competition with a respectable 88-mile maximum range, but also qualifies as the least efficient electric vehicle on the market – and by a considerable margin.
AC synchronous electric motor
31 kWh lithium iron phosphate battery pack
221 lb-ft of torque
EPA estimated range: 88 miles
EPA city/highway fuel economy equivalent: 77/68 MPGe
Before federal incentives, the 2012 Coda Sedan has a base Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of around $38,000. Fully loaded, the Coda tips the scales at roughly $40,500. The Ford Focus Electric shares a similar starting price, with the Nissan Leaf beginning closer to $36,000. The least expensive EV available is the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, which comes in just under $30,000. The Coda Sedan is currently available in California, with an expanded dealer network due to emerge in fall of 2012. Kelley Blue Book has yet to comprehensively determine the level of depreciation for the 2012 Coda Sedan, though we currently expect the majority of its challengers to retain higher resale values.
By Sandy (CA) on Wednesday, February 27, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 8,200overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Eco-clean, quiet, great real world range"
Cons: "An $18K car with a $20K battery, but that's OK."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"The Coda is a solid solution to my need for a clean, cheap-to-drive car for local trips. Recent software updates have brought the braking and regeneration up close to the Focus and Fit. Throttle response between 25 and 65 is quiet and amazing. The Alpine Audio/Navigation combo unit is not user friendly. The heating and air conditioning are good, the fan a bit noisy at lowest setting. Glove box is small, sun visors modest. Overall the car drives well, performs fine. It needs updating re style, inside and out, and some refinement to catch up to the current market. A San Francisco dealer recently offered the car at a large discount, making it a significant bargain."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful