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2012 Nissan LEAF

Overview
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2012 Nissan LEAF Review

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KBB Expert Rating: 8.1

At a time when the only electric vehicles other manufacturers are showing are the concepts appearing at the auto shows, Nissan has put talk into action by producing the first all-electric mass-produced car. Introduced last year, the Nissan LEAF EV (electric vehicle) ushers in a new dawn of clean, eco-friendly non-oil burners perfect for short jaunts in the urban jungle. While the range of the 2012 Nissan LEAF electric car can't match that of a conventional gasoline-powered hybrid (or even that of a plug-in hybrid like the Chevrolet Volt), it can tackle the normal driving range most people cover in a day, or roughly 100 miles before needing to be recharged. Despite a flurry of critics who say electric cars are not feasible, Nissan has sold every one of the 20,000 2011 LEAFs it built before they ever hit the showroom. But, don't worry, more LEAFs are slated for 2012 production, so the line to future just got a little shorter.

You'll Like This Car If...

If you really want to make a statement about lessening our dependence on foreign oil, climbing into a 2012 Nissan LEAF electric car will definitely send a strong message. If you don't commute more than 100 miles a day, live in an area with easily accessible electrical ports and don't mind waiting from 30 minutes to eight hours to "fuel" your car, the 2012 Nissan LEAF EV is your ticket to the eco-Super Bowl.

You May Not Like This Car If...

Those with unpredictably long commutes, or who live in more rural settings where it's hard enough to find a bathroom let alone a 220-volt outlet, should probably set their green ambitions on a plug-in hybrid like the 2012 Toyota Prius plug-in or the Chevrolet Volt.

What's New for 2012

The 2012 Nissan LEAF gains heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, battery heater, heated outside mirrors and rear-seat HVAC ducts. The SL trim receives a Quick Charge Port.

Driving the LEAF

Driving Impressions Other than its electric motor, the 2012 Nissan LEAF rides and handles pretty much like any other 5-door economy car. Whether in urban stop-and-go traffic or on a windy back...

road, we found the LEAF to be utterly unremarkable, and we mean that in a good way. When loaded with passengers, the LEAF didn't struggle or strain as would a conventional 4-cylinder. Instead, its electric motor delivered all the torque a little car could ask for, resulting in brisk acceleration. In ECO mode, the LEAF conserves energy so the power is not as potent, but you can travel farther. We found that the LEAF's electric power steering feels a bit numb on center, but the steering wheel response is nicely weighted with quick turn-in. Using the Versa Sedan's suspension components gives the LEAF a comfortable and smooth ride with a little bit of sportiness for good measure. 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 2012 Nissan LEAF EV 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 2012 Nissan 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.

2012 Nissan LEAF Details
2012 Nissan LEAF photo Interior

The 2012 Nissan LEAF's super-quiet, feature-laden cabin is the equal to the car's contemporary exterior, with a high level of user friendliness. The 2012 LEAF electric car's mid-size dimensions create an open and inviting space suitable for four adults. The formed front bucket seats are comfortable but not big on side or back support. In a nod to the LEAF's eco-friendly mission, the seat coverings are made of recycled materials. The rear seat includes a 60/40 split-folding setup for times when the smallish 11.7-cubic-foot cargo bay just won't do. While basic controls, such as the air conditioner and the radio, operate just like in any other car, the megaload of vehicle and systems information that can be called up at any time does require spending a bit of time with the rather thick owner's manual.

Exterior
2012 Nissan LEAF photo

The 2012 Nissan LEAF didn't have to be styled so distinctively but it seems fitting that such a unique car should also have a unique look. The LEAF's flowing unconventional shape and 0.29 coefficient of drag have little to do with the car's electric parts and more to do with keeping wind noise at bay. Further wind cheating enhancements include low-drag LED headlights and taillights, and low-rolling-resistance tires wrapped around ultra-lightweight alloy wheels. The 5-door hatch design maximizes the LEAF's interior occupancy options, while the port for charging the LEAF resides in the center of the car's nose.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

Beyond its advanced all-electric powertrain and on-board charger/charging cord, the 2012 Nissan 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 6-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio package with iPod/USB connectivity, Bluetooth and available XM Satellite Radio, sophisticated trip computer, electric climate-control system, heating elements for the seats, steering wheel and mirrors, 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, foglights and automatic headlights.

Optional Equipment

2012 Nissan LEAF electric vehicle extras are minimal to say the least. SL buyers 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.

Under the Hood

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 rpm
Projected per-charge range: 72 miles
EPA city/highway fuel economy equivalent: 106/92

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2012 Nissan LEAF Consumer Reviews

Overall Rating
8.7
Out of 10

Based on 46 Ratings for the 2011 - 2015 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    8.4/10
    Quality
    9.0/10
  • Reliability
    9.2/10
    Performance
    9.1/10
  • Comfort
    8.9/10
    Styling
    8.7/10

Excellent local vehicle

By on Saturday, August 02, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 23,584

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
8/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "Very liberating."

Cons: "The cons are just lack of infracstructure/chargers"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9

"I purchased a SL model, minus the Cold Weather Package, with 20,000 miles for $14,000. Depreciation value aside, to drive by gas stations is a GAS! Love it. I have solar panels and I use dealerships to recharge, in my area public chargers are at a minimum. I have been asking business and city and county officials to get more chargers installed. I use it for a 50 miles radius and I projected to use this car for 80% of my needs. With chargers I can up that to 90% of my needs. It has turned into a hobby/passion/pastime. The car performs as advertised. I added tinted glass to keep the AC use at a minimum. The car was purchased to enjoy the technology. The Over $120 a month saved on gasoline is a plus. While I loved my hybrid's 35 MPG performance, zero fuel is way above that."

4 people out of 7 found this review helpful

I am so glad to own, but paid too much.

By on Thursday, July 24, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 24,000

10 8.0
overall rating 8 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
8/10
Value
1/10
Reliability
8/10
Quality
8/10
Performance
8/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
7/10

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"This is a great little car, but it's value depreciated way too quickly. The car is worth about $10,000 less then what we paid. We've only had the car for a little over one year. Very disappointing."

4 people out of 5 found this review helpful

Love this car... it pays me!

By on Monday, June 16, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
9/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
8/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "great for regular commutes"

Cons: "not for long road trips (without a lot of planning"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"My wife and I bought this car in Sept 13 and was the best decision we've made! Financially, this car just makes sense. first off the $7500 Fed rebate made it very affordable. we only put down $3500, but received a check back from State of California for $2500. then for the kicker, I was paying $350/month in gas for my 2012 Honda. my car payment is only $280; I save money every month."

17 people out of 26 found this review helpful

great car, easy and fun to drive.

By on Sunday, May 11, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
7/10
Reliability
9/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
9/10

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9

"I have had this car for a little over a year. I really like using zip lane to work,and carpool lane on the way home. I have solar on my home and don't pay for any fuel charge at all. Its been great so far. Plus $7500 tax credit was real nice."

8 people out of 9 found this review helpful

Know your limits

By on Sunday, January 26, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 20,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
8/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
7/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "Fun to drive, HOV access !!"

Cons: "Effective range in long life battery mode is 60 mi"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9

"Very predictable and reliable car with typical range anxiety limitations. 60 mile effective range when considering the recommended "long life battery" conditions."

5 people out of 9 found this review helpful

Great commuter car

By on Sunday, January 05, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,500

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
8/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "perfect city car"

Cons: "needs more efficient heater"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"I've driven my Nissan Leaf for 24 months. It's been an excellent car with nearly zero costs. Solar panels on our roof supply the electricity. It is fast on the freeway, and its size makes it easy to park. Interior size is surprising with legroom and head room in the front seat very similar to my Lexus RX SUV. The 100 mile range makes it possible to do everything in a day's drive except climb to ski resorts. For that you need a Tesla or a Volt. I use our 1999 SUV for those trips. Only negative of the car is the heater which uses a lot of power, about 30% of battery use on cold winter days. Still, have never run out of power even though I use battery conserving 80% charge. A full charge of 24 kWh is equivalent to two-thirds of a gallon of gas. 80% is just over half a gallon of gas. It is amazing to drive 80-90 miles on the energy of less than a gallon and a cost of about $2.50 of electricity."

10 people out of 12 found this review helpful

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Trading in or Selling? Know where you stand with the most up-to-date Kelley Blue Book Value at your fingertips. See your car's value

Buying this car?