Now built in the U.S., the 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. Competitors include the Ford Focus Electric and Mitsubishi i.
New for 2013
Nissan claims improvements to the 2013 Leaf's aerodynamics, energy management system and regenerative braking help the car travel farther on a charge. A newly optional 6.6-kw onboard charger lowers the time it takes to charge the battery using a Level 2 setup from seven hours to four, according to Nissan.
A less-expensive entry-level S trim level is new for 2013, and sticker prices for the SV and SL trims have been lowered, too.
Other changes include an optional hybrid heater system for better, more efficient heating in cold weather; an optional B driving mode that enables more aggressive regenerative braking; and a charge port door release button on the key fob.
Additional upgrades include a standard leather-wrapped steering wheel, a new black interior color scheme, more cargo room and new available features like Bose premium audio, 17-inch alloy wheels, a surround-view camera system and leather upholstery.
ExteriorAmong 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 steel wheels with covers; 16- and 17-inch alloy wheels available
- Standard rear spoiler
- Locking and lighted charge port on the nose of the car
- Standard LED taillights; optional LED headlamps
- Optional fog lamps
- Small solar panel atop the SL's liftgate spoiler trickle-charges the regular 12-volt battery
InteriorThe five-seat Leaf has a 60/40-split folding backseat that extends the cargo area forward. Interior features include:
- Standard cloth upholstery; leather-trimmed seats optional
- Standard front and rear heated seats
- Standard heated steering wheel
- Standard CD stereo with MP3 jack and iPod connectivity
- Standard Bluetooth connectivity
- Dash screen can show a graphical range indicator on the available navigation system's map and provide multiple energy-readout screens to help gauge energy use and remaining range
- Optional Pandora integration for iPhone
- Optional navigation system has a new Eco route feature that suggests energy-saving routes
Under the HoodThe Leaf uses a 340-volt battery pack to power an electric drive motor, which drives the front wheels with 107 horsepower and 187 pounds-feet of torque. Mechanical features include:
- Depleted battery can recharge in seven hours at 240 volts or in 21 hours at 120 volts
- Optional 6.6-kw onboard charger cuts charging time to four hours at 240 volts
- A public quick-charge station (where available) can charge a depleted battery to 80 percent in about 30 minutes, but it requires the optional quick-charge port
SafetyThe 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. Safety features include:
- Side-impact airbags for the front seats
- Side curtain airbags
- Antilock brakes
- Electronic stability system
- Traction control
- Optional backup camera
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