Overview & Reviews
Forget about Who Killed the Electric Car? How about who brought it back to life? While there have been $100,000 electric sports cars and funny garage-built oddities in recent years, the Nissan Leaf made its mark by being the first fully electric car priced and designed for the everyday car shopper.
When fully charged, the Leaf has an effective maximum range of about 80 miles. That's sufficient to schlep most people from home to work and back, but longer trips will, of course, pose a challenge. As such, the Leaf is best for multicar households or those with shorter commutes. Another must is having a garage, ideally with a 240-volt charger. If you can check these boxes, though, the Nissan Leaf could really revolutionize your driving experience. It's an electric car for the real world, and that's an idea that everyone can get behind.
Current Nissan Leaf
The Nissan Leaf is an all-electric, five-seat compact hatchback. It's powered by an 80-kilowatt electric motor that's fed by a 24 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Output is 107 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque, but we advise taking these numbers with a grain of salt, since the "instant-on" power delivery of an electric motor is vastly different from gasoline- or diesel-fueled acceleration.
The Leaf is available in three trim levels: S, SV and SL. Despite being the base model, the S still features keyless ignition/entry, automatic climate control, a heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, Bluetooth, a rearview camera and an iPod interface. However, the S model's entry-level onboard charger needs a lengthy 8 hours to fully charge the battery pack.
Stepping up to the SV and SL adds a more robust onboard charger that cuts the charging time to 4 hours with a 240-volt charging dock. You also get a "B-mode" function that allows for more aggressive regenerative braking in certain situations. Standard and available features include 17-inch alloy wheels, a 360-degree parking camera system, a navigation system with 7-inch display and a Bose audio system. The SL boasts standard leather upholstery and a quick-charge port (enabling 80 percent charges in 30 minutes at high-voltage commercial charging stations).
In reviews, our editors have remarked on how relaxing the Leaf is to drive. Anyone who has driven or at least stood next to a gas/electric hybrid will know how eerily quiet it is when operating in electric mode. Well, such serenity never ceases in the Nissan Leaf, as there is only a high-pitched whine from the electric motor under heavy acceleration. Don't confuse serenity with slowness, though, because there's an abundance of torque available as soon as you step on it, giving the Leaf an alert, energetic feel around town. This fairly heavy car also handles surprisingly well, in part because its batteries lie beneath the floor, delivering a low center of gravity that enhances agility.
With the Nissan Leaf, driving an electric car doesn't mean you have to leave people or stuff behind. This is a mainstream passenger car, not a science experiment with a cramped cabin. The rear seat is comfortable for adults, and the hatchback cargo area can be expanded to accommodate larger items (though its load floor isn't flat with the rear seatbacks folded). Like many other alternative-energy vehicles, the Leaf features a futuristic cabin design, with split-level instruments and a center touchscreen that operates the stereo, standard navigation system and special electric system displays.
Used Nissan Leaf Models
The Nissan Leaf debuted for the 2011 model year with two trim levels: SV and SL. Both came standard with the less powerful (3.3 kWh) onboard charger. The high-powered charger (6.6 kWh) didn't appear until 2013, so expect longer charge times to be a downside of buying any used Leaf from 2011 or '12.
A quick-charge port -- the one that yields an 80 percent charge in 30 minutes when using commercial charging stations -- was optional on all 2011 Leafs. For 2012, this port became standard on the Leaf SL. Also for 2012, every Leaf gained standard heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, heated exterior mirrors and a battery heater.
The SV and SL upgraded to a standard high-powered onboard charger for 2013 -- the one that cuts normal charging times from 8 hours to 4 hours with a 240-volt power source. The base S model was also introduced, albeit with the less powerful charger.
A rearview camera was made standard on all models for 2014.
User Reviews:Showing 1 through 10 of 101.00
Safe bet for a used car - 2013 Nissan Leaf
By Ray Murray - December 7 - 1:37 am
This continues to be an excellent car. I still favor it for everyday driving. I now live in a single location in Maryland. I have my own charging station. Yesterday I charged the car from 35% to 98% in two hours of non-peak time on the BGE Electric Vehicle Schedule. That cost about $1.60 for 55 miles of driving. I've found this car easier to live with having a Level II charger at home. Previously I was charging it at my condo overnight using the 110V charger. I purchased this car used to see for myself what living with an electric car is really like. I kept my older cars just in car just in case I found it too difficult to deal with the electric car at times. This car has substantially exceeded my expectations as a car I can live with. It has become my favorite car to drive. I live in two locations in the Washington D.C area on the Beltway. I was expecting to only use this car at one location for local driving. Instead, I find that I can also go between the locations on weekends without range anxiety. This car works very well in the DC area, now the worst commuter area in the nation. When in nasty traffic jams on the DC beltway, the BW parkway, and other major roads this car doesn't get grossly worse energy economy as is the case with my other cars (one a hybrid). In some cases the economy even improves in when you get into a major traffic slowdown. In the DC area that means 99% of the time. I find that a used purchase of a Leaf is a safe bet. I purchased a certified used one with 0% financing for extra security. From what I see now, I think that a non-certified one could have been a good buy too. I got the advantage of someone else claiming the $7500 tax credit, which made my cost lower since people buying new ones have that incentive. I noticed that people buying new 2015 or 2016 models can get very good purchase, financing, and lease deals too. I figured out that that some people won't get the full 7500 incentive since they don't pay 7500 in federal taxes anyway. If they purchase used, or even lease a new one, they effectively get the advantage of that credit. As far as living with the car goes, you learn to "plan" your driving a bit more, to make sure it has adequate charge. For me it is nice my older cars in reserve. I have not purchased a charging station yet, so I depend on my trickle charger and public charging stations. I end up going to businesses (restaurants, malls, grocery stores, etc) having charging stations. Whatever I've saved in gasoline cost in the last month I've ended up spending that (and more) at those businesses. In some cases such charging stations are a mile or two from where I need to be. That has help pushed me to get some more much-needed and pleasant exercise by doing some more walking. As I walk along roads I wish a lot more more people had electric cars so I wouldn't have to hear as much noise, or breath as much exhaust. I do not find that there are yet enough charging stations in the overall DC metro area area. They tend to be common in some areas and very absent in other areas. The campus where my suburban Maryland employer center is doesn't seem to want to make them available. I like the free ones at some businesses, but realistically I'd like some more paid stations that price the power roughly around the cost I pay at home, plus some extra cost for occupying the space beyond a reasonable charging time. It is nice that Walgreens has stations, and I'd like to see them at all of their locations, however, their cost of $2.00 per hour makes it more expensive to power a Leaf than powering my Honda Civic Hybrid at current gasoline prices. I found that living with the hybrid for 9 years, learning how to leverage the regenerative braking, has helped me transition to living with the Leaf. Buying a Leaf used is a safe bet. You can learn to live with it's range quite well. 5/22/2015. I've had this car 7.5 months now and have put 6000 miles on it. I use it much more than my other cars. I have to make a point of driving them periodically to make sure they don't sit too long. I am ready to get rid of one of them. I have come to appreciate the quietness of the car, and it's decent sound system. I've averaged 4.6 miles/kilowatt in nasty DC/Baltimore area traffic, which comes out to about 115 mpg, although I am paying BGE and Virginia power the equivalent of about $4.00/gallon. I still rely on 110V charging overnight for most of my charging, though I'd like to have a 240V charging station. I have found some free charging stations, that I end up using about 25% of the time. The whole charging station situation is not ready for prime time yet. I did find that charging stations are easier to find in the city of Washington D.C. than gas stations. Overall I continue to be very pleased with this used Leaf. A used one is a safe bet.
A history making car! - 2011 Nissan Leaf
By R. Edelman - October 19 - 4:54 am
Why is this a history making car? Because the Nissan Leaf was one of the first practical and affordable all-electric sedans. I purchased this car new in 2011. Back then, the Leaf was made in Japan. Now they are made in Tennessee, but I don't think there should be a difference in quality. My Leaf has almost 50,000 miles on it, and it has been reliable and almost completely trouble free. It is deceptively roomy inside because there is no fuel tank or exhaust system. Maintenance costs are low. The original tires lasted 45,000 miles. To recapture the kinetic energy of the car, most of the braking is done by the drive train. This is called "regenerative braking", and allows the drive train to act as a generator to charge the battery. All electric vehicles and hybrids utilize regenerative braking. Not only is regenerative braking energy efficient, it allows the brakes to last a long time. For example, I also own a Toyota Prius with over 100,000 miles on it, and the brakes have never been serviced. Driving an electric car is fun. The electric motor provides all of its torque instantly, which allows excellent acceleration from a stop as well as on the road. It is quite, and there are no vibrations. There are no exhaust fumes or oil leaks, and the drive train of the car tends to stay clean. The down side of any electric car is the battery. Batteries are heavy and expensive. They become less efficient in very cold weather, and they lose charge capacity as they age. Both of these translate into reduced range. And you need access to a 220 volt charging station to recharge the car in a few hours. The Leaf is sold with either a 24 kWh battery or a 30 kWh battery. I recommend the 30 kWh battery as it provides a range (when new) of about 100 miles, rather than the 75 miles provided by the 24 kWh battery. That 75 mile range provided by the 24 kWh battery when new drops down to about 55 miles after 5 years. So, the larger battery will allow you a more generous range even after the car is several years old. Despite the battery issue, I really enjoy the Leaf ownership experience. Nissan service and support has been very good. Based on my Leaf ownership, I have become a fan of electric drivetrains, so much so that I am now on my second Leaf, one with the 30 kWh battery (which was not available in 2011). I do not think that I will ever go back to owning a car that is not either all-electric or a hybrid. Nissan should be commended for taking a big risk in developing and marketing the Leaf. I think that the commitment to manufacturing an all-electric car will pay off for Nissan in the future.
2013 SV Leaf Review - 2013 Nissan Leaf
By leaf_owner - October 5 - 11:40 am
My commute consists of 5 days a week 33 miles each way on mostly highway (55-60mph) with limited city traffic. I can drive back and forth to work on 1 charge with no problems of range as I pull in my home with about 30 miles of range. You must get a home charger as the trickle charge (regular 110 outlet takes to long to charge). I installed for $1800 the AV Charger which is a 220 volt/30amp charger which charges the car from empt to full in 3-3.5hrs or about 26 miles per hour of charge. The information above is based on driving in April and May in Central NJ. I have not driven the Leaf in the colder temperatures but I will post a follow up this winter.
Turning over a new Leaf! - 2011 Nissan Leaf
By anewleaf1 - October 4 - 9:39 am
We've only had our 2011 Leaf for two weeks but already we are in love with this car. Gas has gone up $.20 since my last fill up in my old car, so I'm already saving more money. The car has great "get up and go", it isn't anything like the hybrids you hear about not having any power to them. I can leave everyone at the stop light if I want to. The first few days I found myself speeding frequently. The interior is very comfortable, even for adults in the back seat. It sits up a little higher than the sedan I traded in, which is nice. This car is all electric so it's not for someone looking to drive it a long way. I only use it to commute to work and run errands so it's perfect.
Love my Leaf - 2015 Nissan Leaf
By Orlando - September 30 - 4:56 pm
I bought my 2015 Leaf used in November 2016. The purchase price was very affordable even though as a used car it is not eligible for any tax incentives. My commute is 35 miles each way and while I can drive to work and back on a single charge my office parking lot contains EV charging stations. I generally use them for 2 hours because I like to leave work on a full charge in case I want to make side trips on the way home. My main reason for this purchase wasn't the price of gasoline but rather low maintenance. Given that I have 3 other high mileage vehicles, maintenance has always been an issue. This is a no brainer for me. Just unplug and go. In six months I've driven 13,000 trouble free miles. The ride is great and acceleration very brisk. Overall I'm very pleased with this purchase. This is the perfect commuter car for me.
know what is important to you - 2013 Nissan Leaf
By jas2012leaf - September 22 - 11:39 pm
I lease a 2012 Leaf. It comes with no spare tire, a real drag. It is not a winter car for those who have trouble driving in snow. It needs winter tires for the front, and I don't know how much that will help. Using heat,wipers,defrost, and driving in snow lessens the range by 30%. I commute 26 miles uphill <1000 ft and I've used 80% of the power to do it in winter on bad days. I use a 120volt space heater to warm the car first. Better range (126 mi/charge) 2016. Ad now is misleading . 126/106 isn't the range, but the mpg equivalent- comparing it to a gas car. Don't be fooled. Solar roof is available only overseas,not in usa yet. Decent second car, my 1st, but I'm waiting to 2016 for next..
<50% battery capacity at 90,000 mi & more issues - 2011 Nissan Leaf
By Rick SantAngelo - September 10 - 8:52 am
The gauge is wrong, though I am missing only 4 bars my battery is under 50% of original capacity, a maximum charge from one bar to full is less than 10Kwh, my driving experience is 40 mi or less on a charge at this point in time. At 60,000 miles the dealer checked and told me that 3 bars down (which was my state at the time) was to be expected even though I experienced under 50 miles. My brakes pulse wildly at high speeds and I am on my third set of tires. Based on the revised battery warranty, a buyer should be well aware that their car will be worthless after 5 years and no one in their right mind should buy one used. All along the way my dealer (and the designated technician) demonstrated a total lack of knowledge and expertise on this car, and to this day has no idea about replacing a battery. As recently as this year (5 yrs after introduction) Nissan still does not have any description of what is covered ON A LEAF under their own extended warranty which demonstrates that they have not figured out yet how to deal with this technology.
Test drive it and you will be sold! - 2013 Nissan Leaf
By atlpsychdoc - August 5 - 2:40 am
Had my 2013 for about 3 months now. I cannot imagine EVER driving an ICE car again. Now, gas powered cars feel crude, rough and loud. The Leaf is smooth and quiet. I feel like I'm driving on air. I love the fact that I am helping to decrease our dependence on foreign oil and that I am not contributing emissions to the environment. (This car was second choice to my unaffordable fantasy car, a TESLA , but I truly couldn't be happier.) Acceleration is not exactly going to wow you when getting up to highway speeds, but it's certainly enough to feel safe merging into highway traffic. I expected an electric car would be VERY sluggish and was pleasantly surprised from the test drive on!
The best car we've owned! - 2012 Nissan Leaf
By ok778 - July 3 - 11:59 am
We have a 68 mile daily commute to and from work in cold climate Michigan so we looked at the volt, prius, tdi, among others trying to offset costs of gas. We narrowed our choice to a volt or leaf after test driving cars. The volt was a close second but the Leaf beat it out for the following reasons: the volt managed a meager 30 miles in all electric when driven in temps hovering in the mid 40s - this wouldn't even get us half way. The leaf pulled out 82 during same weather. The leaf is larger with seating for 5 and larger cargo area. We liked the Leaf's dash and gauge layout better than the Volt. The leaf is quiet,yet has tremendous torque and really flies off the line. And price
Electric Wonder - 2012 Nissan Leaf
By mikelaw1 - April 18 - 11:16 am
The Leaf has great acceleration up to about 40 mph, because of the high torque of the electric drive, it is only two wheel drive but feels like four wheels drive, maybe because of large wide tires (55 series) and a low center of gravity, Batteries under floorboard have a lot of weight, so it really hugs the road. Keeps the car about forty mph in ECO mode, (slower mode, slower acceleration ) should get you 150+ mile range. It really begins to use up the juice over 50 mph and by 60 to 70 mph range is only about 75. Frost on inside if left outside is a problem requiring defrosting before starting out. It is a really about town car. Most charging stations appear to charge $3 for a charge.