KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 2/13/2014
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.
You'll Like This Car If...
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.
You May Not Like This Car If...
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.
What's New for 2014
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.
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.
For vehicle details and pricing notes…