By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.1
The first pure electric-powered vehicle introduced by a major automaker, the 2011 Nissan LEAF heralds the dawn of a new era of ultra-clean motoring. Although distribution will be geographically limited and its numbers will be supply-constrained to only 20,000 units during the initial year of sales, all of those units have already been spoken for by eco-minded buyers and Nissan is gearing up its Smyrna, Tennessee, assembly plant to produce 50,000 of these five-passenger mid-size hatchback sedans here annually starting in 2012. With a 100-mile nominal range, driving characteristics that effectively mirror conventionally-powered cars and a surprisingly affordable price tag made even more attractive by various incentives, the LEAF is a legitimate and very real alternative choice, particularly for those considering its primary rival, the Extended-Range Electric Vehicle (E-REV) 2011 Chevrolet Volt.
No question that card-carrying Greenies who think EVs are the future and the future is now will love the new Nissan LEAF. Others will simply have to decide if a vehicle with its admirable cost-to-benefit ratio makes the most sense as a second or third commuter car or as a substitute for a conventional hybrid.
Drivers with unpredictable daily schedules, long commutes and/or budgets that will support only one car will be better off with a standard compact/mid-size vehicle, some type of hybrid – or the LEAF's high-profile but pricier rival for eco plaudits, the Chevrolet Volt.
The electric-powered Nissan LEAF is nothing less than a revolutionary step in the advancement of modern ultra-clean automotive design. It combines user-friendly technology in a practical, affordable package that should appeal to anyone who can live within its per-charge range limitations.
Driving Impressions Nissan has always contended that its ultra-clean character aside, the LEAF would deliver the same basic driving experience as any conventional competitor. Having put it through a variety of real-world...paces, from urban stop-and-go to rolling two-lane backroads to formal freeway hauling, we can confirm that promise of functional transparency has been kept. Initial acceleration is brisk, ride compliance good and it's surprisingly capable when the going does get twisty. While calling it "sporty" would be an overstatement – especially in ECO mode – the LEAF does respond to all control inputs in a confidently predictably manner. Admittedly a tad numb on center, the LEAF's electric power steering is direct and decently weighted while its Versa-based suspension bits keep body roll fairly well in check. The effect of its regenerative braking, while noticeable, is hardly intrusive. Even the low-rolling resistance tires serve up more grip than expected, allowing, if not encouraging, at least a modicum of spirited motoring.
Green to the core
Nothing is absolutely emission-free, but with its pure electric powertrain the new Nissan LEAF comes as close as possible to zeroing out its carbon footprint. To complement that exemplary level of eco-friendliness, nearly 95 percent of all components in this groundbreaking vehicle are recyclable.
Enlightened touch-screen navigation system
In addition to guiding you to your destination and presenting various points of interest along the way, the navigation package in the LEAF graphically depicts the range limits of your out-and-back travel per charge as well as the location of all nearby commercial recharging locations.
The 2011 Nissan LEAF's well-isolated, full-featured cabin matches understated contemporary flair with a high level of user friendliness. A technical mid-size offering, it seats five, teaming decently formed front buckets with a utility-enhancing 60/40 rear bench seat that will pamper a pair of full-size adults, accommodate a trio of kids or fold to upsize cargo space from 11.7 to 24.0 cubic feet. Like much of its interior trim, all of the people perches are covered in fully recycled/recyclable material. Basic control functions are all logically arrayed, although getting comfortable with the megaload of vehicle and systems information that can be called up at any time does require a bit of personal orientation.Exterior
Distinctively – and some might contend controversially – styled, the LEAF's five-door hatch design was created to optimize total operating efficiency. Its aerodynamic lines coupled with various other streamlining elements yield a 0.29 coefficient of drag while helping to minimize wind noise that can become much more noticeable when you eliminate the sounds normally created by an internal combustion engine. Low-draw LED headlights and tail lamps bookend the package to further help extend the LEAF's potential operating range. Properly filling its nicely flared fender wells are 205/55 Bridgestone Ecopia low-rolling resistance tires wrapped around lightweight aluminum wheels.
Beyond its advanced all-electric powertrain and on-board charger/charging cord, the LEAF's lengthy features roster includes a full array of power assists, driver-selectable/eco-encouraging digital readouts, real-time navigation/vehicle-information systems, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio package with iPod/USB connectivity, Bluetooth and available XM Satellite Radio, sophisticated trip computer, electric climate control system, Intelligent Key push-button starting, the ability to use web-enabled smartphones to monitor and control various on-board systems/functions. In addition to its vehicle dynamics/traction control systems, the LEAF also has front/front-side/side-curtain airbags. The $940 step up from SV to SL trim brings a RearView Monitor, rear-spoiler solar panel, fog lamps and automatic headlights.
2011 Nissan LEAF extras are minimal to say the least. A Cold Package for both the SV and SL adds heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, heated mirrors, extra rear-seat heater ducts and dedicated temperature management circuitry, while SL buyers also can opt for a supplemental Quick Charge Port capable of delivering an 80 percent recharge in 30 minutes at dedicated public charging stations. Also on offer is a 220V home charger. Projected to cost about $2,200 installed – half or less after various credits – this hard-wired unit cuts recharging time to roughly eight hours compared to the 20 needed on a basic 110V plug-in.
Energized by a 24kWh Lithium-ion-manganese-graphite battery pack mounted beneath its floor and warranted for eight years/100,000 miles, the LEAF's 80kW/107-horsepower motor/generator develops 206.5 pound-feet of torque from zero rpm. Sent to the front wheels via a single-speed reduction gear, it makes this 3,370-pound Nissan surprisingly quick off the line, takes it to 60 mph in around 10 seconds and lets it reach 90 mph. While temperature extremes and driving conditions will impact real-world range, a selectable ECO mode that that rolls back throttle response and steps up the regenerative braking effect can help stretch its nominal 100-mile per-charge potential by roughly 10 percent. Nissan says recharging will run $3 or less and that unless gasoline dips below $1.10/gallon, the LEAF's "fuel" costs will be less than a conventional car that averages 25 mpg.
AC synchronous electric motor/generator
24kWh lithium-ion-manganese-graphite battery pack
80kW/107-horsepower @ 2,730-9,800 rpm
206.5 lb-ft of torque @ 0-2,730 rpmn
Projected per-charge range: 72 miles
EPA city/highway fuel economy equivalent: 106/92
By green car (UT) on Friday, December 06, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 7,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Love it, very quiet interior. plenty of power."
Cons: "needs snow tire for winter"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"It is a good car for 90% of driving. It doesn't do well on the snow. Range around 80 if heater is on. Snow tires help a lot, but drops the range by 10 mile."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By AG (OR) on Friday, November 08, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 6,700overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Instant torque, comfort, fuel & maintenance cost"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I own this car for about a week, but there is a lot to say. It changed my thinking about driving. What I like. Instant torque. It feels and sounds like an airplane on a runway when you floor the accelerator. Size. Just right for me, two kids in the back and, occasionally, an adult in the front. Comfort. All features are very well thought-through. E.g. AC and heating consumes power significantly reducing the driving range. So, the car is equipped with seat heating running from the secondary battery and has a climate control timer that would pre-heat/pre-cool your car a few minutes before the planned departure while it's still plugged in. I noticed parking breaks are automatically releasing when I start driving. The charge status of the car can be checked online or through a mobile app so that you don't overpay for hogging a public charge station. The car can also send you an email or a text when it's done charging. Etc. The car is full of nice surprises. I am yet to find an unpleasant surprise. All small things are there - cupholders, compartment for eye glasses, dimming rear view mirrors, convenient steering wheel controls for bluetooth and audio, proximity key entry, folding back seats for large luggage - can't think of anything missing or annoying. Even the locking beep is loud enough to hear, but quiet enough to not disturb neighbors at night. Driving leaf changes my thinking while I drive. Gas prices are no longer a concern. Driving range is. So, I am continuously checking how many miles I drive per kWh and try to maximize it, using Eco mode and cutting back on acceleration and using climate control. Trip planning is important. I drive over 35 miles a day and use more than a half of the battery. I have not installed the 240V charger at home yet, so if I arrive home empty, the car will not fully charge by the morning - I need to charge at public stations near my work, but not too much. They charge your car and your credit card - $1/hour. That's about $1 for 10 miles. Still less than gas, but way more expensive than charging at home. So, at public stations, I want to charge only partially to maximize charging at home. Definitely, more planning than just filling up the tank once every 2 weeks, but it's manageable and fun. There is also plenty of tools to track driving history/economy/savings/environmental impact etc. Need to mention maintenance cost. There are no oil changes, filters, oxygen sensors, DEQ tests, transmissions. The number of moving parts inside the car requiring maintenance is minimal. Battery longevity is something I need to check out. Nissan guarantees not more than 20% drop in battery capacity in 5 years. If it is more - they will replace the battery (which, by the way, does not seem to be too expensive). And, in 5 years, batteries will get better. Relatively large car price is off-set by the $7,500 federal tax credit and gas savings which, I think, is over $100/month for me. So far, I like this car a lot."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By eck1901 (AL) on Wednesday, October 23, 2013
I don't own this caroverall rating 1 of 10rating details
Pros: "?? Makes greenies happy."
Cons: "Economic disaster - like all EVs"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"After I stopped laughing at the 10/10 MOST AMAZING writeup, consider this: NOW - MY TURN FOR A LITTLE FACT FINDING: 35252 miles / 2 years = 17626 miles per year / 52 weeks per year / 5 days per week driving = 67.8 miles per day, EVERY DAY MON. THRU FRI, 52 weeks per year. That means, according to 2 more reasonable evaluators in the story, he drove MORE than the other guys found they could go on a full charge, and he does this EVERY DAY. Then I laugh that this guy, in sunny AZ, has so much solar power, he can heat, cool, cook, wash, dry, take hot showers, run his well pump system for his lawn (remember - AZ), etc. AND STILL HAVE ENOUGH SOLAR POWER TO CHARGE HIS VOLT, all for FREE!!!! That's what he says, not me. I wonder what happens when they have a cloudy day??? What a homer - either pure lies or he works for Nissan. By the way, I bought a 1 year old Taurus w/ 20K miles for $14650 TOTAL. We get 18 in town and 24 on the highway - let's call that an avg. of 21mpg. In 35252 miles, I would spend $30 x 5 for 5 oil changes, $150. 35252 / 21 x $3.25 / gal = $5456 gas for a total expenditures of $5605 in 2 years, so divide that by 2 and I spend $2802 per year. There have been no repairs and the car has turned 50k mi. So, in comparison w/ his net $34000 Leaf, incl. over 2X my sales taxes and car tags and insurance (since his car is over 2X my price) AND assuming he paid enough federal taxes to get the full $7500 tax credit for buying it (highly unlikely), let's compare: $34000 - $14650 = $19350 /$2802 annual Taurus operating expenses = 6.9 year PAYBACK. He is supposed to be better off than me AFTER 6.9 years of usage assuming his FREE DRIVING DUE TO HIS NO COST BECAUSE OF FREE AZ SOLAR POWER. Of course, let's don't consider that we both lose resale value each year and that a normal $34k car loses more than 2X more than a $14k car each year and that his resale value will in fact be near $0 in a a few years, his battery loses storage, efficiency, etc. every year and he will have to buy a NEW BATTERY after 8 years etc. etc. Don't worry about the details. No bad assumptions on his part? Can you imagine someone who actually pays a bottom line, NET fed. income tax of more than $7500 living in a house that solar can provide all his power needs for free? Somehow I can't see making a decent living but surviving like a pauper on his solar power, unless he went super solar. And just how much did he invest to power his house w/ solar? I wonder how many decades of TROUBLE FREE, NO MAINTENANCE SOLAR POWER does he need to break even on his investment? Does he have 10 acres of solar panels AND oodles of batteries sitting around for his nighttime storage and usage, including enough batteries to fill his Leaf for a full charge OVER NIGHT? Does he dust and clean his solar panels every week (remember - AZ) or does he hire that done? Remember, solar panels are not like your other electronics, they are perfect, just install them and they work forever - buy and forget. Hope he got some extra batteries for that occasional cloudy day, and, um, winter. Can you imagine being one of the "4 out of 4 people found this helpful" reading his story and rushing down to the Nissan dealer? I'd love to be selling unicorns or magic pixy dust out in front of the dealer's lot."
2 people out of 21 found this review helpful
By AirRunner (MO) on Thursday, October 10, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 320overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "No gas--ever! Practical. Minimal maintenance."
Cons: "Heel space in front seat (odd not to have it)."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"After having the 2013 Leaf SV for a full week now, I thought I'd add my review. My commute is 24 miles round trip. I am fortunate to have access to a charging station at work, so I primary charge there. I intentionally ran the battery low over the weekend to know what to expect. The range indicator showed 8 miles when the number disappeared and was replaced with "---" and warnings to charge immediate. I then continued the remaining 1 mile to my house and used the trickle charger (I do not yet have the 240V charge cable installed at home yet). I did not make it to "Turtle" mode so I suspect I still had several miles or more of range left. After a week of use, am I still excited to have the car? Absolutely."
By No Gas (AZ) on Thursday, October 03, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 23,250overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"My Nissan Leaf is a great car. It is quiet and comfortable and I have not bought gas in town for more than two years. It has excellent acceleration and the dealer just provided me with an 82 battery capacity-5 star rating. The car is in excellent condition and is a Sedona Red color."
By Car Guy (CA) on Sunday, September 15, 2013
I don't own this caroverall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Drives well, quality build"
Cons: "Short range on freeways."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"I just test drove a 2011 Leaf with 6000 miles on it. I have a 56 mile round trip commute so I asked for a long test drive since the dealership is two blocks from my work. So I drove it from the dealership to my house and back. The drive is mostly freeway miles with only one big hill and a few small ones. I put on the a/c and head lights to try to see what it could do in extreme conditions. When I left the dealership the range meter said 84 miles. When I got back to the dealership I had gone 57 miles and the battery level was all the way down and the miles indicator was flashing a low battery warning for the final 3 miles or so. I was very disappointed that the Leaf could not go 50ish miles on the freeway in ECO mode at 65 mph without completely running the battery down. I was glad I took it for the long test drive before buying it expecting to get at least 60 plus on a full charge. The ride and everything else was very good, just couldn't worry about the mileage everyday of my commute, so I didn't buy it."
8 people out of 8 found this review helpful