It’s not every day that the CEO of a car company takes you for a ride. Especially if it’s through the move-it-or-lose-it traffic of midtown Manhattan. In the rain. But Kevin Czinger seemed to enjoy it.
We covered the 2011 Coda Sedan all-electric car when it launched three weeks ago. Now we’ve had a ride in a development prototype driven by CEO Czinger, with product engineer Dave TenHouten riding along in the rear.
- STYLING: The Coda has better street presence than photos show, but it’s hardly cutting edge. We’re still undecided on the blank, grille-free front end. Style could be a drawback for buyers, who Coda thinks will move up to a full electric car from hybrids like the Toyota Prius.
- PERFORMANCE: In cut-and-thrust New York City traffic, Czinger had his foot in it and the car kept up just fine. We can’t comment on highway performance; the most we saw was about 45 mph (yes, the Manhattan speed limit is 30 mph).
- SEATING & INTERIOR: The front seats were comfortable for our 20-minute trip, though surprisingly low to the floor. The beltline is low too, so visibility was fine. The rear had enough leg room for TenHouten, who’s a full-size adult male human. Styling and plastic quality was acceptable, though more like Kia than Cadillac.
- INSTRUMENT PANEL: Czinger emphasised that the hard plastic dash and instruments were left over from the Chinese-made Hafei Saibao on which the Coda is based, not those of the production car. The new dash will include both digital instruments and advanced airbags, which had the longest lead time of any component. The company must still crash another 30 or so cars to validate them.
- REFINEMENT: The din of New York exterior noise was fairly well suppressed, though some electric motor whine was apparent. A remarkably noisy heater/air-conditioner pump would be replaced in production cars, said Tenhouten.
- BUILD QUALITY: This is the biggest question for Coda: Can Chinese-designed and built cars offer the high standards of design and build quality that Western buyers require? Panel gaps were wide but consistent, and we can only say nothing fell off during our tenure in the car. We look forward to crawling over, under, and through a production Coda Sedan.
- SUMMARY: This first Coda may never attract fashion-forward car buyers, but the greenest of Southern Californians likely look for different qualities in carbon-free cars.
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