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 CO2Todd on Monday, March 02, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 11,500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Quick, Quiet in a luxurious way, edgy, spacious"
Cons: "You can't plan over 60 miles on hot/cold day"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"If you drive a car in the city and want to park in tight spots, quickly accelerate from 0 - 30mph, require lots of trunk and head space, plus does not pollute or damage the lungs of your cycling, walking and running fellow humans then this is your car. We buy wind power and charge our car overnight with a 110v and only use the charging stations when going to Whole Foods or the Science Center."
By Ed D. on Tuesday, February 17, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 31,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun to drive, no gas cost"
Cons: "Satellite radio sounds tinny"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This has been the best new car I have ever purchased (about 4th). All worked as published, and you can see a lot of thought went in from the bottom up to make this an efficient car that still feels like a "real" car. There are several indicators to let you know how efficiently you are driving - so up to you whether you want to be a lead foot or not - and how much energy distance you have left. The only thing that has worn in 31,000 miles are the tires."
6 people out of 6 found this review helpful
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."
12 people out of 19 found this review helpful
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."
13 people out of 28 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!"
11 people out of 22 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."
2 people out of 4 found this review helpful