My 2018 Nissan Leaf: Three Days In

I recently turned in my venerable Ford C-MAX energi and leased a brand new 2018 Nissan Leaf EV. I test drove the Leaf in addition to the Chevy Bolt and ultimately went with the Leaf due to its lower cost and the fact that it wasn’t a GM brand car. I’ve wanted an all-electric vehicle for years and now I’ve finally taken the plunge. So far I’ve been very happy with how the Leaf has performed overall and I wanted to take just a few minutes and highlight my initial impressions about the car after my first three days owning it.

I’ll make more of these videos as I form opinions on other aspects of the car, but for now I hope you enjoy this brief glimpse into the Nissan Leaf.

User Interfaces of the Week


We’re less than a week away from Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference where Tim Cook and company will unveil the latest and greatest for OS X, Apple Watch and iOS. No doubt we’ll get a preview of iOS 9 and all it has to offer, but before we move forward, sometimes it’s best to reflect on where we’ve come from. I wish I could say the user interfaces featured here were but a distant App Store memory, but alas they all come from currently-shipping apps.

A few weeks ago I went looking for a well designed gas / milage tracking app in the App Store. I’ve been using Gas Cubby for years, but wanted something new to help me keep track of MPG with my new Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid. From my own experience, I knew that doing a general search in the App Store tends to yield less than optimum results. Even so, I just wasn’t prepared for the sloppy approach many of these apps tried to pass off as user interface design.

Being a UI designer myself, I have surrounded myself in my professional and digital life with talented designers and developers who consistently release top-notch apps. The problem with living in a bubble of roses is you sometimes forget what the real world smells like. As I paged through dozens of these milage trackers I was reminded just how many apps on the store are basically junk. Over at Daring Fireball, John Gruber has a recurring piece he calls “User interface of the Week” where he highlights some of the worst cases of user interface “design” he’s encountered. I don’t feel right calling these apps out by name, but if any apps deserved John’s moniker, these sure do.

Seeing what often passes for acceptable design in the App Store often reminds me of all the hard work that goes into creating my own well designed and executed apps. So many people think software just grows on trees, but it doesn’t. Designing and building best-in-class software requires a depth of knowledge and experience that a relative few possess.

I can’t wait to see what WWDC has in store for the future of my favorite software platforms. I’m hoping Apple inspires an entire new group of developers to strive for excellence and bring users apps that are truly worthy of these wonderful, futuristic devices. As for my milage tracker quest, I finally settled on Road Trip. It’s a bit more complex than I would like, but so far, so good.


2009 Honda Fit Review Is Go!

Back in August I wrote that I had test driven a 2006 Honda Fit and was in a holding pattern for the brand new 2009 model to come to Honda dealers before I made my final purchasing decision. Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I took the plunge in early October and I’m pleased to report that it was the right decision. I’ve now been driving my new car for over a month and have a good handle on how the Fit drives, my likes, dislikes and quirks. The review that follows isn’t an exhaustive play by play, but rather what I’ve come to learn that might help other buyers like myself decide if the Fit is right for them. If you’re in the market for a new fuel efficient vehicle and have been thinking about the 2009 Honda Fit, then read on.

The Good

Having been an owner of three previous Honda CRV’s, I was really worried about how much space I would have in the new Fit. I’m not a small guy and I do feel cramped in my wife’s Civic. But one of the first things you notice is that it is surprisingly roomy. It feels like it’s just big enough for me without having the extra size and weight of an SUV. The magic back seats are much better than my old CRV seats and fold down 100% flush with the storage compartment in the back. I can already tell this will come in handy when loading big items into the cargo area.

Honda’s advertisements for the Fit tout its fuel economy and with good reason. My Fit’s gas tank is a full 3 gallons smaller than my CRV’s, but now I’m getting an average of 31.5 mpg as opposed to 21 before. This means I’m getting roughly the same number of miles out of a full tank as I was with the CRV, but for less fuel and less money. Totally wonderful!

The car is super fun to drive. Unlike my CRV, the Fit takes corners tightly, hugs the road like a semi-real sports car and does an admirable job of shifting both up and down. There are many winding roads around where I live and I’ve rediscovered the joy of driving on them thanks to my new Fit. Other nice things include:

• Daytime running lights for safety

• Real time MPG indicator as you drive

• Two glove boxes instead of just one

• Hidden iPod adapter in the upper glove box

• Audio controls on the steering column

• GPS navigation system shows ATMs, restaurants & more

The Not So Good

I’ve never run across a car that was perfect and the 2009 Honda Fit is no exception. There will always be things that, for one reason or another, you wish were different about the vehicle. Thankfully, I don’t consider any of the items below to be deal breakers from a buyer’s perspective. I do think they are things that Honda should look at improving in future revisions.

My single biggest problem with the 2009 Honda fit is the lack of useable dash space. What exactly is useable dash space you ask? It’s those places where you can put loose change, a pen, maybe a receipt the bank teller just handed you, etc. Because the Fit’s dash features sports style gauges, there is no place above the steering column to throw things. My CRV’s gauges were flat and therefore there was a small “shelf” that I often used for just this purpose. What’s worse, the passenger seat pretends to have such a shelf, but it lacks a rubber foot like the CRV did which renders it useless as objects simply slide right off when you turn a corner.

Honda also touts the fact that the interior of the Fit has no less than 10 cup holders, but this isn’t so much of a feature as it is a waste of space. Even seating 5 people, each person would have to have 2 drinks each to make use of all those cup holders. Note to Honda: I’d rather have utility space rather than so many cup holders in the future, thank you very much.

Being an user interface designer, I can’t help but critique the audio and navigation system too. On the surface the hands-free GPS seems great, but after using it for more than a few minutes, you really start to learn how poorly it is designed. Every single time you turn the ignition on, you’re confronted with a disclaimer screen that you must manually dismiss. Every. Single. Time. If you don’t, the system will default to a giant digital clock. Sure, you can get to the audio controls, but you won’t be able to use the GPS portion unless you hit that damned “Okay” button. Bad Honda, bad! Other things that need improving include:

• Honda’s iPod interface doesn’t see “Podcasts”, only playlists

• Turning off auto-door locking isn’t obvious or easy

• Too many hands-free voice commands to remember

• Cloth materials on doors seems to scuff easily


Overall, I love my new car. I managed to lower my car payments significantly while keeping much of the cargo space of my old CRV. The Fit’s gas mileage is great for a non-hybrid vehicle and has cut way down on my fuel costs. The 2009 Fit is fun to drive, has sleek lines and nice styling. While I would love for the interior to make better use of space, and some of the quirks of the audio / navigation system to be ironed out, I none-the-less can recommend the 2009 Honda Fit whole heartedly for anyone looking to buy one.


Waiting for the 2009 Honda Fit

So the lease on my 2005 Honda CRV was up this past July and like millions of other Americans who are dealing with high gas prices, I started looking for a smaller car this time around. Enter the Honda Fit. One of the best selling cars in its class, the Fit seemed just like what I was looking for both in gas mileage and price. I set up an appointment to test drive a Fit and found that I really did like it. Surprisingly it drives much more like my CRV than I expected. I thought I would feel very low to the ground, but I didn’t. And when Honda says the Fit is one of the roomiest cars for its size, they are not kidding. I didn’t feel cramped at all. There’s only one problem – a new model is coming in just a few months.

After a quick bit of research, I’m glad the sales person at Crown Honda didn’t manage to pressure me into walking off the lot with the current model. The 2009 Honda Fit has improvements in almost every area that make waiting worth it. Here’s a list of just some of those improvements:

• Tire pressure monitoring system

• Voice activated GPS

• Apple iPod adapter now standard

• Two new engines: a 1.3 liter i-VTEC or a 1.5 liter i-VTEC

• Overall length, width and wheelbase have been increased

• Windshield moved forward, A-pillar is smaller for better visibility

• More storage space

With all of the focus on gas mileage these days, I was really happy to see that the Fit includes a built-in tire pressure sensor. That small addition should help owners immensely when it comes to getting the most miles from each fill up. The Fit also forgoes the standard addition of a spare tire and includes a tire patch kit instead. By doing so, the car frees up space for other things like those wonderful “magic seats” while also lightening the load, again increasing gas mileage. You gotta give Honda credit, in today’s world every bit helps.

I’ve also noticed some nice things about the new Fit that Honda doesn’t tout, but are none-the-less important to a CRV driver like myself. One of these features is the ability to control the sound system from the steering wheel. I’ve really grown to love this feature in my CRV and every time I climb into my wife’s Civic, I instantly miss it. These controls are absent on the current Fit, but you can see in close-ups of the 2009’s dash, that they are there. Another is the modified gauges including a non-recessed speedometer. I really don’t like the current “sports” look of today’s gauges with deep wells that hold the instrumentation. While the 2009 Fit doesn’t totally remove these recessed gauges, the primary one is once again flat and easy to read which is a big help. Lastly, there is an extra storage well on on the passenger’s side above the glove box and a swing down storage tray between the front seats. Both are obviously lifted from the design of the CRV which is just fantastic.

if I didn’t know better, I’d swear Honda had designed the new 2009 Fit just for me. Of course, there are always downsides to any car and advanced reviews suggest that the car’s pick-up isn’t as good as the current model. This, combined with higher levels of noise at highway speeds seem to dictate an informative test drive is in order before I make my final decision. For now, I’m happy going month-to-month on my current lease and biding my time. Of course, when the new models arrive, they’ll probably be in short supply, so that “autumn” release may eventually turn into a winter purchase. If the 2009 Fit turns out to be 1/2 as good as it looks however, I think I’ll have made the right decision. Wish me luck!

UPDATE: Due to popular demand, Honda decided to release the new Fit a month early. It’s being released to dealers on August 26th so if you’re in the market, prick up your ears people!