The five-seat Nissan Leaf is a purely battery-electric mass-market car. With no onboard range-extending generator like the Chevrolet Volt's, the Leaf has a range of roughly 100 miles, period. A five-seat compact four-door hatchback, the Leaf is eligible for federal and state incentives.
Standard features include a 120-volt trickle charger, a navigation system, wireless connectivity and the ability to schedule charge times via web or smartphone. The uplevel SL trim level adds features like automatic headlights, fog lights, a solar panel, backup camera and a cargo cover.
New for 2012
The 2012 Leaf adds a standard battery heater, heated side mirrors, a heated steering wheel, and heated front and rear seats. A quick-charge port is now part of the SL trim level's features list.
Among high-efficiency four-doors with aerodynamic shapes, the Leaf manages to look distinctive, mainly due to its curvy rear end and raised headlights, which are designed to deflect oncoming air around the side mirrors to reduce drag and noise. Exterior features include:
- Standard 16-inch alloy wheels
- Standard rear spoiler
- Small solar panel atop the SL's liftgate spoiler trickle-charges the regular 12-volt battery
The five-seat Leaf has a 60/40-split folding backseat that extends the cargo area forward. Though it's a hatchback, the cargo volume behind the seats is closer to that of a sedan's trunk. Interior features include:
- Standard cloth upholstery
- Standard navigation system, satellite radio and Bluetooth connectivity
- Dash screen can show a graphical range indicator on the map and provide multiple energy-readout screens to help gauge energy use and remaining range
- Available backup camera
Under the Hood
The Leaf uses a 340-volt battery pack to power an electric drive motor, which drives the front wheels with 107 horsepower and 207 pounds-feet of torque. The charging port is in the car's nose under a door. Mechanical features include:
- Depleted battery can recharge in eight hours at 240 volts or in 20 hours at 120 volts
- A public quick-charge station (where available) can charge a depleted battery to 80 percent in about 30 minutes, but it requires the available quick-charge port
The Leaf's high-voltage battery pack is designed to disconnect in the event of an airbag deployment or water intrusion. At the behest of rescue workers, Nissan incorporated an access panel into the floor that has a kill switch for first responders. Standard safety features include:
- Side-impact airbags for the front seats
- Side curtain airbags
- Antilock brakes
- Electronic stability system
- Traction control