Although details on the U.S. version of the 2013 Nissan LEAF have yet to be disclosed, the automaker has rolled out a comprehensively updated version of its electric-powered 5-door hatch in Japan. In addition to a significant reduction in curb weight, an increase in range and more rear cargo space, the domestic model also benefits from a number of new comfort and convenience touches, as well as more attractive pricing on the entry-level model. It remains to be seen how many of these enhancements will also make their way to America when Nissan begins building our version of the 2013 LEAF in its Smyrna, Tennessee, assembly facility. However, it seems likely the cars that go on sale here during the first quarter of next year will benefit from at least a number of the more meaningful revamps.

On the mechanical front, the motor in the Japanese-spec 2013 LEAF uses lower-cost magnets that contain 40 percent less rare earth metals. Engineers also have pulled nearly 180 pounds out of the overall package through a combination of integrating various powertrain elements and ancillary functions, streamlining the battery module and case structures and adopting more lightweight components. The LEAF's suspension and steering have been tweaked to take advantage of the drop in curb weight. So too have its climate control and regenerative braking systems, which coupled with the mass reduction, help increase the car's total per-charge range from 200 to 228 km (124 to 141 miles) on the Japanese driving cycle. However, Nissan rightly points out those numbers cannot be directly compared to the U.S. EPA regimen.

While exterior changes are largely confined to new trim and wheel choices, Japanese buyers can now opt for leather upholstery and are better informed courtesy of news on-board information display screens that include a direct readout of the remaining percentage of battery charge. The more compact powertrain packaging also allowed Nissan to move the LEAF's downsized on-board charger from the rear quarters to the underhood area, a transition that increased capacity of its cargo bay by about 12 percent.

Nissan says it will have more information on the U.S. version of the 2013 LEAF sometime during the next month. While yet to be confirmed, we expect to see the new LEAF make its formal public debut at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show in January.

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