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 Electric Duck on Sunday, January 25, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 21,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Iphone App, Power, Charge at home, quite, 0 emissions"
Cons: "My left foot gets a bit chilly in winter"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have had my 2014 Nissan Leaf SV since Feb 2014 and regularly tell people it is the best car i have even owned. I have a 85km round trip commute each day and have recently reached 21,000km. This car impresses me on a daily basis and we even use it to drive up the ski hill after work, after 20min top up at home on the level 2 charger. Outdoor weather proof charger from home depot is $950, no garage required. I regularly use the leaf to drive around 4 10yr olds to soccer with all the balls and gear in the trunk. Have even used it for a few 200km family road trips, just takes a bit of planning to map out the quick charge stations. Currently looking to buy a 2nd one for my wife as it's a great car and highly recommend it."
By sdmacuser on Tuesday, January 13, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 24,000overall rating 4 of 10rating details
Pros: "Commuter lane access"
Cons: "Safety concerns at speeds over 40MPH"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Simply doesn't matter if you feel like Jane Jetson when driving because such feelings can be overly misleading and irrelevant. Before you purchase any vehicle take the time to look at all crash tests for the vehicle in question. In this case the 2014 Nissan Leaf. Might wish to Google the following web site review / report on the Leaf. It's titled, "2014 Nissan Leaf small overlap IIHS crash test." The following crash test results caught my attention and concern, especially when transporting others as well as myself at speeds in excess of 40MPH."
4 people out of 10 found this review helpful
By giffmistress on Thursday, January 01, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 9,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Green, zippy, roomy, quiet, affordable, fun!"
Cons: "Battery life for highway driving."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"My average daily driving is 40 - 50 miles in town, this is a second car. In my area, charging stations are plentiful and convenient and mostly free. Plugging in at home overnight in a regular outlet is sufficient to completely charge it. No noticeable increase in my power bill. Very zippy, quiet, fun to drive, and surprisingly roomy. I frequently bring 4 teenagers and their backpacks home from school. My Great Dane loves to ride in the back seat! I can make 25-30 mile round trips on the interstate starting with a full charge. Hotter weather, running the a/c, depletes battery quicker at highway speeds. With in town driving my battery life is greatly extended, exceeding the displayed remaining range. Highway driving estimated range is pretty accurate especially if I use cruise control. An excellent second car!"
8 people out of 18 found this review helpful
By MineCraft on Wednesday, December 31, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 10,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun to drive, cost very little"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I love the car. Cost about $1 to $2 per day to charge the car for my 65 miles commute. Thanks for the 100% torque all the time, pick up is quite snappy. Has no problem passing other cars on highway. Basically, no maintenance cost. Skip any maintenance packages dealer try to sell you."
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful
By Barbell on Thursday, December 04, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 6,700overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Solid built, Incetives help make price palatable"
Cons: "Range, Lack of or Vandelized Charging stations"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 4
"I completely enjoy my Leaf. Its comfortable with good seat support, great quality finishes and features even on the base model its peppy with surprising acceleration and good handling. I am disappointed though that as more and more make it into the marketplace that fewer establishments are not expanding their charging stations or facilities to keep more than one or two accommodated. Its also a sad to see so many charging stations vandalized whether they are the Nissan charging stations or one at stores. Trading my range anxiety back in for a super small consumption of fuel and relying more on my hybrid car for the second year of my two year lease with Nissan."
19 people out of 27 found this review helpful
By David on Friday, September 26, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 11,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Crazy cheap to drive, zippy in the city"
Cons: "60 mile range - not for extended highway driving."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"When you do the math, you'll find that this is the most economical way to drive. The cost of this vehicle is less than many gas powered vehicles (after all the incentives), and you pay next to nothing to drive it. I'ts super zippy and fun to drive in the city, and it's got enough pedal left to drive comfortably on the highway (for a while)."
20 people out of 35 found this review helpful