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Among startup electric-car makers, Coda is probably the least-well known. Its 2012 Coda Sedan is now on the market, in California only, and it offers a blend of virtues and drawbacks for the dedicated plug-in car buyer.
The Coda Sedan is an all-electric four-door sedan that blends a Chinese-manufactured body with a lithium-ion battery pack and electric drivetrain installed in the United States. The battery contains 31 kilowatt-hours of usable energy--more than all competitors (except the much pricier Tesla Model S range)--and gives slightly more range. The EPA rates the Coda at 88 miles of range, though our road test suggests it may deliver close to 100 miles of mixed-use real-world range in temperate climates.
The body styling is somewhere between plain and invisible, neither objectionable nor ugly. The car simply vanishes in traffic, not necessarily a bad thing. The trunk is large, the car holds four adults comfortably in a compact four-door sedan body, and it's easy to place in traffic due to its slab sides, square corners, and large greenhouse.
Inside, the Coda Sedan looks good on the surface, but proves to be full of odd details and outright flaws behind the wheel. The seats are comfortable, and the car is pleasant enough to drive. It's the little things that prove irritating, leading to the impression that Coda has released the beta version of a car to the paying public.
Just a few examples include a door armrest inches lower than the console elbow rest, blue odometer numbers that turn invisible in sunglasses, flimsy door handles, an interior mirror that traps your fingers against the sunglasses holder in the roof while adjusting it, and pale grey plastic already discolored after a day of having blue jeans rub against it.
The performance delivered by the Coda's 100-kilowatt (134-hp) electric motor is adequate to keep up with traffic. The car handles rush-hour stop-and-go traffic, high-speed freeway mileage, and twisting mountain roads with composure if not enthusiasm. Like many electric cars, it's smooth and quiet enough that it appears to be traveling more slowly than the speedometer proves.
Build quality is a major concern in the Coda, with evidence of its small-company roots visible in several places. We noticed some loose wiring under the hood, hand-applied black electricians' tape wrapping wires, and misaligned trim and door seals.
The Coda Sedan hasn't been crash-tested by either the NHTSA or the IIHS, and it includes little added safety equipment beyond the legal requirement. It comes with six airbags (front and side bags for the front seats, plus one side-curtain bag on either side for outboard passengers), plus anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control,and a tire-pressure monitoring system (all now mandatory equipment). Niceties found in other compacts--like adaptive cruise control, reversing cameras, and other advanced safety systems--are not available.
The no-bargaining base price of a 2012 Coda Sedan electric car is $37,250, plus a mandatory $895 delivery fee, for a bottom line of $38,145. It qualifies for a $7,500 Federal income-tax credit, a $2,500 California purchase rebate, and various other incentives.
For more details on the all-electric 2012 Coda Sedan, see the first drive report on Green Car Reports.
- Straightforward, simple sedan
- Anonymous design draws no attention
- Delivers close to 100-mile range
- 6.6-kW charger speeds recharging
- Marginal build quality
- Styling bland at best
- Many annoying detail flaws
- Only sold in California now
- Risk of unknown startup carmaker