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 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