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 leaf driver on Monday, February 03, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "gas savings and future maintenance savings"
Cons: "really a 60-65 mile range as others have noted"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"In response to angry man in this chain of reviews that compares solar power and electric vehicles to unicorns and fairies: Why so bitter towards science? On the solar power, he could take his fact free arguments up with Albert Einstein, if he were alive. I doubt he'd win that argument. Einstein explained how the technology in solar panels works in Nobel Prize winning research (he did not invent solar panels which have been around since 1800s). Furthermore, our worldwide telecommunications system (tv, phone, internet) is critically dependent on solar power, so the guy below might also have a bone to pick with a few aerospace engineers as well. Satellites use solar panels. It's more reliable than many other power sources and much more reliable than other electronics – these panels last for decades in space with no maintenance. Our solar panels came with a 25 yr warrantee and had zero damage after two hailstorms, so, they are exceptionally reliable. The first storm destroyed my cedar shake roof (wood chips all around the house after storm), and the second storm was worse (new asphalt shingles survived second storm). In 4 years, we've never (ever) had to clean them as the occasional rain suffices. When dusty, we notice no change in power output. Anyone aware of the green technology known as a garden hose could easily rinse panels in a dry location without getting on the roof. There are NO batteries with a grid tied system. Instead, the utility grid absorbs the solar panel electricity when not used and feeds it back to my house when the electricity is needed (like nighttime use or cloudy days). When we're not using the solar generated electricity, it is sold to our neighbors on down the electric grid. Just 10-12yrs of electricity bill savings created by a $15K investment for a 5.5KW solar panel system pays off the entire $15k investment. Payoff is much sooner if utility company raises rates as it already has twice (6% increase so far….), but let’s ignore that for simplicity. After 10-12yrs, there is easily 10-13++ years of free electricity still to be generated by the panels. The only part that may require replacement after 10 years is the inverter and that cost is included in the 10-12yr payoff analysis. The panels have been throwing off approximately 14 months of electricity every 12 months from January to December even with the cloudy days when nothing is generated. That’s 2 months extra months of electricity every year that the utility company owes me based on my 3000 sq ft house and average family usage. Since the panels were installed, we have not had to pay for any electricity from the utility company and every year they owe us more electricity. The solar panels were a no-brainer investment and take out the future uncertainty of electricity cost fluctuation by locking down my electricity for well over 20 years. If inflation stays at zero and the utility company does not raise rates for 20-25 years, these panels have a minimum return of 10%+ per year. However, if electricity prices rise in any way, for any reason, as they already have, the return gets to 15% annually very quickly and keeps rising. WE’VE TAKEN PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR, AND OWNERSHIP OF, OUR ELECTRICITY COSTS FOR THE NEXT 20-25 YEARS, and that’s comfort well beyond a significant decrease in CO2 emissions, increased grid transmission efficiency (power generated at the place it is needed), and a significant reduction in water used in electricity production. It’s a pretty straightforward diversification strategy and it saves us massive amounts of money! One way to use all that excess electricity from the solar panels was to buy an electric car, but we would do so ONLY if an electric car would be cheaper than a used gas or hybrid car. Our preference would always be to buy a used car, which is the preferred choice of all “greenies” and financially minded people. But there is a huge financial advantage the new EVs have over a used gas powered car: a gasoline powered car continues to require a significant investment in gas each and every week, month, and year!! Gas prices fluctuate pretty dramatically year over year too (think of the range of gas prices over the last 10 years). This electric car easily saves $1,600 per year over a gas powered 25MPG car if gas stays at $3/gal and electricity goes for 15 cents per kWh (that’s a very high kWh price compared to national average and nearly double what we pay per kWh). The savings rise quickly if gas prices go up. The battery has an 8 year/100K mile warrantee, so, we will save $8,000 - $13,000 (the lowest end of estimates) in the first 8 years or 100K miles. Because the car does not require the extra drive to a gas station to pay an additional $1,600 per year for gas, plus the cost of oil changes, mufflers and exhaust parts, spark plugs and ignition coils, hoses, belts, gaskets, etc., etc. , the time savings is significant as well. With 16 inch rims, there will be tire savings too and the coolant is rated to last 125,000 miles unlike typical antifreeze. Furthermore, we don’t need thousands of pounds of gas, oil and parts delivered to my local area every year. It would be 4,000 – to 5,000 lbs of gas per year compared to a battery pack weighing in at 660lbs delivered once every 8 years or 100k miles IF the battery quits when the warrantee runs out. The car costs $100 or less per month to insure at full coverage (you can check that on KBB.com). Nissan was also offering 100% financing at 0% so we can keep the 31K invested and pay for the car over 3 years (also get a lot of money back in a tax refund). EVs are a perfect second car and are not subject to the huge price fluctuations and political uncertainties of gasoline and have a much lower maintenance burden. Of course, anyone who buys and EV should first look very closely at their daily work commute and their average weekend driving and make sure an EV works for their specific situation. The vast majority of Americans would probably find that an EV such as a Leaf would save them massive amounts of money that would have otherwise been spent on gas. Most Americans are driving under 30 miles per day, so this car is perfect with a range easily twice that. We drive this car 400 miles per week on average. You can still have a second gas powered car for those long road trips and you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you won’t be bankrupted if future gas prices should spike dramatically and you won’t be stuck in a line at a gas station either. Once again, far from economic disaster, this car is improving my economic situation. I will post another update after more drive time... A couple of other points the guy below forgot to check – the federal tax credit is a refundable tax credit, so, an EV buyer gets that money back even if he/she doesn’t owe $7,500 in federal tax . There are also various state and local tax incentives depending on one’s residence. With our without these incentives, an EV still has the gas and maintenance savings."
18 people out of 24 found this review helpful
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."
5 people out of 7 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