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 Spud on Sunday, January 26, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 20,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
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."
2 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By ElectricEnthusiast on Sunday, January 05, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
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."
6 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By green car 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."
8 people out of 11 found this review helpful
By AG 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."
16 people out of 19 found this review helpful
By AirRunner 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."
3 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By No Gas 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."