By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 8.0
The 2013 Leaf is the epitome of Nissan's determination for the continual advancement of electric cars. Case in point, the 2013 Nissan Leaf boasts an extended range, faster charge times, and a new entry-level "S" trim that holds the title as the most affordable 5-passenger electric car on the market. Although the notion of owning and operating an electric car might seem a bit daunting, the Nissan Leaf delivers the same basic driving experience as its conventional rivals. In the end, however, the pitfall of every modern electric vehicle is limited range, and the Leaf's EPA-estimated sub-100 mile range disqualifies it as a feasible alternative for many car shoppers. While the 2013 Leaf is unable to evade its fundamental shortcomings, green-minded buyers who have been waiting to purchase a reasonably-priced electric car will take delight in Nissan's zero-emission marvel.
Whether you seek to reduce your carbon footprint, eliminate fuel costs, or simply despise gas stations, the all-electric 2013 Nissan Leaf won't disappoint. In addition, the Leaf's new pricing strategy proposes a strong affordability advantage over competitors like the Ford Focus EV, Honda Fit EV, and plug-in Chevrolet Volt.
If you have an unpredictable driving schedule, travel more than 100 miles per day, or live in a residence without 220-volt power support, we recommend setting your eco aspirations on a plug-in hybrid like the new Ford C-Max Energi, Prius Plug-in or the Chevrolet Volt.
Now in its third year of production, the Nissan Leaf undergoes a significant price reduction along with a number of enhancements for the 2013 model year. Key revisions to the lineup include a new entry-level "S" trim, a newly available onboard 220-volt charger that reduces charging time to roughly four hours, and improved energy efficiency thanks to refined aerodynamics, additional regenerative breaking capabilities, and better energy management.
Driving Impressions Save for the absence of engine noise, the 2013 Nissan Leaf drives and handles like any mainstream vehicle. 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. The electric motor's abundance of low-end torque provides brisk acceleration, particularly when pulling away from a stop. Although it restricts overall power output, activating the driver-selectable Eco mode can boost maximum range by nearly ten percent. The electric power steering is light and properly weighted for both highway and city driving. Press on the brakes and you'll notice that the 2013 Leaf lacks the vague, unnatural brake feel associated with most regenerative braking systems. Even the low-rolling-resistance tires serve up more grip than expected, allowing, if not encouraging, a modicum of spirited motoring.
This handy smartphone application allows Leaf owners to monitor their vehicle's state of charge, begin or end a charging session, and adjust the climate controls from virtually anywhere.
Although electric powertrains are inherently quiet, Nissan engineers worked to further reduce ambient noise levels by incorporating such sound-suppressing technologies as vortex-shedding body pieces, an acoustic front windshield, and an aerodynamic antenna. With the Nissan Leaf, tranquility comes standard.
The 2013 Nissan Leaf's contemporary exterior is complemented by a futuristic yet user-friendly interior. The spacious greenhouse can accommodate four full-size adults and a small amount of cargo. Furthermore, the tall roofline and generous expanses of glass give the cabin an airy feel. The front seats are relatively comfortable, though they don't provide much side support. In a nod to the Leaf's eco-friendly mission, the seat upholstery is crafted from recycled materials. And since a bag of golf clubs nearly exceeds the physical limitations of the diminutive 11.7-cubic-foot cargo bay, the rear seat features a 60/40-split design for transporting larger items.Exterior
Although it might seem as if Nissan's design team borrowed a few styling cues from a 1980s sci-fi film, the Leaf's unconventional shape was developed to optimize aerodynamic efficiency. Additional streamlining elements include contoured taillights, ultra-lightweight alloy wheels wrapped in low-rolling-resistance tires, and headlight fins that direct air away from the side mirrors. These wind- cheating components yield a slippery 0.29 drag coefficient while helping to minimize wind noise. Recharging the Leaf is a relatively simple process, as the charge port resides conveniently within the front grille area.
In base "S" form, the 2013 Nissan Leaf includes automatic climate control, keyless access with push-button start, heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, and a 4-speaker audio system with Bluetooth connectivity and a USB port for portable music players. Mid-tier SV models add navigation, Pandora Internet radio compatibility for iPhones, and aluminum-alloy wheels, while the range-topping SL trim includes a solar panel on the rear spoiler, low-draw LED headlights, and a quick-charge port capable of delivering an 80 percent recharge in 30 minutes with a public DC fast charger. In terms of safety, every 2013 Leaf comes equipped with six airbags, a full range of electronic stability aids, and three years of complimentary roadside assistance.
The Nissan Leaf sees a handful of enticing new features added to its options list for 2013. Chief among them is Nissan's celebrated AroundView monitor, which provides a birds-eye view of the vehicle while parking, and a 7-speaker Bose premium audio system. Regardless of which model grade you choose, the 220-volt home charging station is a must-have for any electric car owner. This hardwired unit carries a rather lofty $2,200 price tag, though tax credits are available to help offset the cost.
Energized by a 24kWh lithium-ion battery pack mounted beneath the floor (warranted for eight years/100,000 miles), the Leaf's 80kW/107-horsepower motor churns out 207 lb-ft of torque from zero rpm. Power is directed to the front wheels via a single-speed reduction gear, enabling a 0-to-60-mph sprint of about 10 seconds with a top speed of 90 mph. In the end, the Leaf's forte is an ability to run on inexpensive energy, and Nissan claims a full recharge will cost approximately $3.00. For those who are unfamiliar with electric cars, cold temperatures and aggressive driving habits will have a significant impact on total range, so be sure to consider the facts before heading to the dealership.
AC synchronous electric motor
24kWh lithium-ion battery pack
80kW/107 horsepower @ 2,730-9,800 rpm
207 lb-ft of torque @ 0-2,730 rpm
EPA-estimated range: N/A
EPA city/highway fuel economy equivalent: N/A mpge
Starting just under $30,000, the 2013 Nissan Leaf undercuts the previous 2012 pricing structure by over $6,000. Thankfully, this price drop does not come at the expense of standard equipment. Best of all, the Leaf qualifies for up to $7,500 in federal tax credits, plus an additional $2,500 in rebates from select states. Both the Ford Focus EV and plug-in Chevy Volt begin in the $40,000 range, while the lease-only Honda Fit EV comes out to right around $37,000 at the end of the 36-month term. Each of these competitors is eligible for the aforementioned rebates. To get a clearer idea of what people in your market area are paying for the 2013 Leaf, take a look at KBB.com's Fair Purchase Price at the bottom of this page. Due to tepid demand and aggressive incentives, the 2013 Nissan Leaf, like all electric vehicles, is expected to retain below average residual values.
By green car (UT) 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."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By AG (OR) 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."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By eck1901 (AL) on Wednesday, October 23, 2013
I don't own this caroverall rating 1 of 10rating details
Pros: "?? Makes greenies happy."
Cons: "Economic disaster - like all EVs"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"After I stopped laughing at the 10/10 MOST AMAZING writeup, consider this: NOW - MY TURN FOR A LITTLE FACT FINDING: 35252 miles / 2 years = 17626 miles per year / 52 weeks per year / 5 days per week driving = 67.8 miles per day, EVERY DAY MON. THRU FRI, 52 weeks per year. That means, according to 2 more reasonable evaluators in the story, he drove MORE than the other guys found they could go on a full charge, and he does this EVERY DAY. Then I laugh that this guy, in sunny AZ, has so much solar power, he can heat, cool, cook, wash, dry, take hot showers, run his well pump system for his lawn (remember - AZ), etc. AND STILL HAVE ENOUGH SOLAR POWER TO CHARGE HIS VOLT, all for FREE!!!! That's what he says, not me. I wonder what happens when they have a cloudy day??? What a homer - either pure lies or he works for Nissan. By the way, I bought a 1 year old Taurus w/ 20K miles for $14650 TOTAL. We get 18 in town and 24 on the highway - let's call that an avg. of 21mpg. In 35252 miles, I would spend $30 x 5 for 5 oil changes, $150. 35252 / 21 x $3.25 / gal = $5456 gas for a total expenditures of $5605 in 2 years, so divide that by 2 and I spend $2802 per year. There have been no repairs and the car has turned 50k mi. So, in comparison w/ his net $34000 Leaf, incl. over 2X my sales taxes and car tags and insurance (since his car is over 2X my price) AND assuming he paid enough federal taxes to get the full $7500 tax credit for buying it (highly unlikely), let's compare: $34000 - $14650 = $19350 /$2802 annual Taurus operating expenses = 6.9 year PAYBACK. He is supposed to be better off than me AFTER 6.9 years of usage assuming his FREE DRIVING DUE TO HIS NO COST BECAUSE OF FREE AZ SOLAR POWER. Of course, let's don't consider that we both lose resale value each year and that a normal $34k car loses more than 2X more than a $14k car each year and that his resale value will in fact be near $0 in a a few years, his battery loses storage, efficiency, etc. every year and he will have to buy a NEW BATTERY after 8 years etc. etc. Don't worry about the details. No bad assumptions on his part? Can you imagine someone who actually pays a bottom line, NET fed. income tax of more than $7500 living in a house that solar can provide all his power needs for free? Somehow I can't see making a decent living but surviving like a pauper on his solar power, unless he went super solar. And just how much did he invest to power his house w/ solar? I wonder how many decades of TROUBLE FREE, NO MAINTENANCE SOLAR POWER does he need to break even on his investment? Does he have 10 acres of solar panels AND oodles of batteries sitting around for his nighttime storage and usage, including enough batteries to fill his Leaf for a full charge OVER NIGHT? Does he dust and clean his solar panels every week (remember - AZ) or does he hire that done? Remember, solar panels are not like your other electronics, they are perfect, just install them and they work forever - buy and forget. Hope he got some extra batteries for that occasional cloudy day, and, um, winter. Can you imagine being one of the "4 out of 4 people found this helpful" reading his story and rushing down to the Nissan dealer? I'd love to be selling unicorns or magic pixy dust out in front of the dealer's lot."
2 people out of 21 found this review helpful
By AirRunner (MO) 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."
By No Gas (AZ) 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."
By Car Guy (CA) on Sunday, September 15, 2013
I don't own this caroverall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Drives well, quality build"
Cons: "Short range on freeways."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"I just test drove a 2011 Leaf with 6000 miles on it. I have a 56 mile round trip commute so I asked for a long test drive since the dealership is two blocks from my work. So I drove it from the dealership to my house and back. The drive is mostly freeway miles with only one big hill and a few small ones. I put on the a/c and head lights to try to see what it could do in extreme conditions. When I left the dealership the range meter said 84 miles. When I got back to the dealership I had gone 57 miles and the battery level was all the way down and the miles indicator was flashing a low battery warning for the final 3 miles or so. I was very disappointed that the Leaf could not go 50ish miles on the freeway in ECO mode at 65 mph without completely running the battery down. I was glad I took it for the long test drive before buying it expecting to get at least 60 plus on a full charge. The ride and everything else was very good, just couldn't worry about the mileage everyday of my commute, so I didn't buy it."
8 people out of 8 found this review helpful