By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.9
Think of an electric car and the Nissan Leaf will likely come to mind. Now in its fourth model year, the Leaf made the electric vehicle (EV) mainstream thanks to its digestible price, easy driving manners and overall user-friendliness. If not for its near-silent operation or the fact it never needs gasoline, you might think the Leaf were any other 5-passenger compact hatchback. The battery-powered Leaf has consequently found a place among commuters and the eco-conscious alike, but it's not for everyone. Primarily, the Leaf's sub-100 mile range and hours-long recharge time remain hurdles. But for buyers ready for an EV, the 2014 Nissan Leaf trumps others such as the Chevrolet Spark EV and Fiat 500e in both size and its nationwide availability.
Looking to reduce your carbon footprint and never visit a gas station again? The 2014 Nissan Leaf is the everyman's EV to beat. And thanks to a lower entry price that took effect last year, Nissan's electric car undercuts rivals such as the Ford Focus EV and Fiat 500e.
If you have an unpredictable driving schedule, travel more than 100 miles per day or live in a residence without 220-volt power support, better options are the Chevrolet Volt, Toyota Prius Plug-in or Ford C-Max Energi. These plug-in hybrids can travel hundreds of miles thanks to their onboard gasoline engines.
A rearview camera becomes standard across the lineup. Nissan has removed the Long Life Mode, which allowed charging to 80 percent instead of 100. The company says the feature's rationale – the impact on long-term battery durability – was less than initially expected and thus not needed.
Driving Impressions The first thing you'll notice about the 2014 Nissan Leaf is its smooth, quiet operation. Since there's no gasoline engine, there's none of the associated noise or vibration. After that...... initial surprise comes another in just how normal the Leaf feels otherwise. Whether in stop-and-go traffic, on windy roads or at higher speeds on the freeway, the Leaf is a capable yet mostly unremarkable partner – and we mean that in a good way. Like other electric vehicles, the Leaf has quick initial acceleration thanks to its torque-rich electric motor. Drivers seeking to eke out extra mileage can select Eco mode, which increases regenerative braking and reduces output of the motor and climate system. Another mode, "B" on SV and SL trims, increases the aggressiveness of the EV's regenerative-braking system and is handy when going downhill. The Leaf's low-rolling-resistance tires have more grip than expected, allowing a modicum of spirited cornering.
This smartphone app available for iPhone, Android and Blackberry enables Leaf owners to check their vehicle's state of charge, begin or end a charging session and adjust climate controls from almost anywhere. The service is free to owners for three years.
EVs are quiet by nature, but Nissan's engineers took the Leaf to the next level by using sound-suppressing technologies such as vortex-shedding body pieces, an acoustic front windshield, and an aerodynamic antenna. With the Nissan Leaf, tranquility comes standard.
The 2014 Nissan Leaf has a futuristic and airy cabin. This EV can technically seat five passengers, but it's more comfortable for four. The car's tall roofline and abundance of glass make the interior feel open and provide good visibility. The front seats are adequate, but could use more side support. Instead of a traditional shift lever, the Leaf uses a small orb that toggles up for Reverse, down for Drive, and to the side for Neutral. Park is engaged with the press of a center button. In back, cargo space is good at 24 cubic feet, and the rear seats fold in a 60/40 split for larger items.Exterior
Though now a few years into its lifecycle, the Nissan's electric hatchback still boasts contemporary lines and design touches that set it apart from almost everything else. Its squat, 5-door profile is aerodynamic and functional, but where the Leaf most stands out is in its lighting treatments. The front headlights are nearly as long as the car's hood, and in back there are slender, contoured LED taillights and turn indicators. In front above the grille is the Leaf's charging port, and since there is no gasoline engine to create emissions, there is no tailpipe.
The 2014 Nissan Leaf comes in three trims. Base S models are nicely equipped with rearview camera, Bluetooth wireless communication, and heated front and rear seats. A 4-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system includes USB and auxiliary inputs, and a 4.3-inch display. Midlevel SV models add a 7-inch display, six speakers and navigation. Also included in the SV are cruise control and CARWINGS charge status/timing/locator app integration. Top-line SL trims include leather, 17-inch wheels, LED headlights, a solar panel on the rear spoiler to support the 12-volt system, and HomeLink remote transceiver. The Nissan Leaf's steering wheel doesn't telescope, but it is wrapped in leather and offers heating as standard.
Just a handful of major options are offered on the 2014 Leaf, and selection is simple since they are bundled into three packages. Base S models can be upgraded with a 6.6 kW onboard charger for faster recharging. SV trims can be had with LED headlights, fog lights and a quick-charge port for specialized high-speed chargers. Top-line SL models can be outfitted with Nissan's snazzy Around View Monitor backup camera system and a 7-speaker Bose premium audio system.
Energized by a lithium-ion battery pack mounted beneath the floor (warranted for eight years/100,000 miles), the Leaf's 80kW/107-horsepower motor churns out a stout 187 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 base form the 2014 Leaf has a 3.6 kW onboard charger, and that means slower charge times of eight hours on a 220-volt line. Optional on the S and standard on the SV and SL is a 6.6 kW version, which allows charging in five hours. With the optional Fast Charge receptacle (standard on SL models), the Leaf can be charged to 80 percent in 30 minutes. On the other end, charging on a standard 110-volt outlet can take over 20 hours.
AC synchronous electric motor
24kWh lithium-ion battery pack
187 lb-ft of torque
EPA-estimated range: 84 miles
EPA city/highway fuel economy equivalent: 126/101 mpge
The 2014 Nissan Leaf's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts near $30,000 for a base S model, around $33,000 for the midlevel SV trim, and $36,000 for a top-line SL. These prices drop substantially when factoring in the $7,500 federal tax credit for electric vehicles. State incentives can lower the Leaf's price by thousands more. Less quantifiable are electric vehicles' potential access to carpool lanes with a single occupant. Back in the hard-numbers equation, the Leaf's starting price is several thousand dollars lower than that of the Chevrolet Volt, Ford Focus Electric and diminutive Fiat 500e. The Leaf is inexpensive by EV standards, but it's not the least-expensive out there. The tiny-but-fun Chevy Spark EV starts lower. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying. On the resale front, the Leaf is expected to have below-average residual value.
By Jason on Friday, September 05, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 1,200overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "great value, great handling, quiet, solid, fun"
Cons: "budget materials, range,"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"An interesting fact is that most early cars were electric. Until the 1920's, electric cars out sold gas cars. Things have come full circle with the Nissan Leaf, and electric cars are becoming popular once again. If you own one, it becomes immediately apparent that they are the future. The car is comfortable and relaxing to drive. The tranquility of commuting to work without engine noise or gear shifts is something that I didn't consider when I leased the car, but it's one of it's greatest strengths. It's also got lots of power. It's fast off the line and fun...although as others have said, this is mostly true under 45 mph. The car seems well made, although the materials feel like what you'd find in a $18K car and not a $30K car. That's ok though, the awesomeness of the electric drivetrain more than compensate. In the future though, as electric cars become more common, they will need to drop the price or step up the quality. Overall, I strongly recommend the car. It's a hoot."
4 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By connie on Thursday, August 21, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 20,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"As long as you know exactly how to use an electric car you will love it. I drive 1000 miles a month for around $20 worth of electricity. and No maintenance... Take that Prius"
6 people out of 13 found this review helpful
By Wetev on Thursday, August 21, 2014
I owned and sold this car
Reason: Totaled after accident
Pros: "Quiet, no trips to gas station"
Cons: "Can't only car, limits to range, need garage."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"If your driving fits well into the profile, see below, this can be a great commuting and around town car. It is quiet, responsive in city traffic, roomy, convenient. The profile of an owner that will really like this car is: Lives in a reasonable climate, drives 20 to 50 miles on most days, and you have another car for days when you need to drive longer distances, in other words, can trade with the spouse or other household member. Also, the owner will need a garage or carport or similar place to install a charging station. Yes, the 120V cable supplied with the car will work, but is somewhat of a hassle, and some 120V outlets are poorly made/installed/wired."
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful