By KBB.com Editors
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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."
3 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By sdmacuser on Saturday, January 10, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 24,000overall rating 3 of 10rating details
Pros: "Commuter lane access"
Cons: "Just about everything else including no use /AC/HT"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"It’s simply foolish to buy a Nissan Leaf unless you also own solar on your home in S. California to help defray SDG&E energy rates (even under time of use conditions) which happen to be 2-3 times the national average /the highest rates (per KWh) in the nation as of the writing of this recommendation. At these prices you are much better off filling up a Nissan Versa with gas to the brim even at Sunny SD inflated gasoline prices. We call it the sunshine tax for a reason. Welcome to the land of the fruits and nuts (most of which are located in SF and Sacramento respectively). To give you an idea, my monthly SDG&E electricity statement (which btw is second only to our mortgage) for 1300 kilowatt hours as of Sept. 2013 was a $449.00. That's right, nearly $450. Before the Leaf our rates averaged $85 to 120 monthly. Just as a comparison, when I first started as a customer with SDG&E back in 1979 I was only paying $15 monthly for electricity. Today I spend $15 daily! Given the slight decline locally in Exxon gasoline prices, it’s actually cheaper to drive our 6 cylinder 2012 Nissan Murano as of October 2013 thru Dec. 2014. Why spend big money not only on added three tier level Electricity rates but also on a very limited range vehicles? It's simply crazy to say the least. Buy a Leaf in this high rate electric market in San Diego or even the Bay Area is truly nuts, Btw, anyone out there interested in taking over my monthly 2013 Leaf Car Payments which now gets 19% less range than when we first purchased it new only 20 months ago? Yes folks, that's nearly 1% PER MONTH loss of driving range thanks to Nissan batteries. Won't be long before this vehicle stops being a commuter car and simply sits in our driveway as a golf cart to the shopping mall. That is unless I wanna spend another $5-6K on a nissan leaf replacement battery. It's like spending good money over bad. Sorry but I can't recommend a Nissan Leaf at all. Not even to my golf buddies!"
9 people out of 17 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)."
19 people out of 34 found this review helpful