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2014 Nissan Leaf Photo

2014 Nissan Leaf - Review

 
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7.6
/ 10
TCC Rating
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BASE
INVOICE
$27,154
BASE
MSRP
$28,980
Quick Take
The 2014 Nissan Leaf is the world's most popular battery electric car, and the greenest--but it can take time to get used to real-world ranges of 60 to 90 miles. Read more »
Decision Guide
Opinions from around the Web
Styling
Performance
Quality
Safety
Features
Mileage

The Leaf is challenging in one respect: its looks. Ooftah, what a beast!

Wall Street Journal »

Engagingly sophisticated

USA Today »

The footprint is like any other subcompact, but the beltline rises high and there's copious quantities of glass expanding from the windshield back.

Autoblog »
Pricing and Specifications by Style
$28,980 $35,020
MSRP $28,980
INVOICE $27,154
Get Price Quote
4-Door HB S
Gas Mileage N/A
Engine Electric
EPA Class Mid-Size Cars
Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
Passenger Capacity 5
Passenger Doors 4
Body Style 4dr Car
See Detailed Specs »
7.6 out of 10
Shopping for a new Nissan Leaf?

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Choose a Style Below for Colors and Options
STYLE INVOICE MSRP
2014 Nissan Leaf 4-Door HB S
4-Door HB S
Electric
Front Wheel Drive
$ 27,154 $ 28,980
2014 Nissan Leaf 4-Door HB SV
4-Door HB SV
Electric
Front Wheel Drive
$ 29,979 $ 32,000
2014 Nissan Leaf 4-Door HB SL
4-Door HB SL
Electric
Front Wheel Drive
$ 32,803 $ 35,020

The Basics:

The 2014 Nissan Leaf is the current model of the world's best-selling electric car, with more than 100,000 on roads of dozens of countries in North America, Asia, Europe, and elsewhere. Now in its fourth model year, its sales are likely to grow throughout 2014 as the Tennessee plant that assembles both Leaf hatchbacks and the batteries that power them ramps up production.

When it was launched in 2010, the unusual-looking Leaf was a huge gamble by Nissan that it could own battery-electric vehicles in the same way that Toyota owns hybrids--and that the global car-buying public was ready for an all-electric vehicle powered by a modern lithium-ion battery. It hasn't been smooth sailing for the company, with numerous launch hiccups, negative coverage of plug-in cars, and the 2011 earthquake and tsunami all working against the Leaf in its early years. But Nissan persevered, and the Leaf is now a popular model in its lineup in certain locales where electric cars are popular, including California and the Pacific Northwest, but also in Atlanta and several parts of Texas.

The 2014 Leaf is largely identical to the U.S.-built 2013 model, which incorporated several changes over its Japanese-assembled predecessors. The one major change is a rise in its EPA combined rating for electric range, which has risen to 84 miles from last year's 75 miles. This isn't due to any changes in the car, but to the elimination of an 80-percent battery charging mode--which, under arcane EPA rules, reduced the range rating.

As before, in cold weather and at high speeds, battery range can fall by up to one-third, depending on how the car is driven. The Leaf isn't likely to be a household's only car, though electric-car drivers say their "range anxiety" abates quickly as they gain confidence in their cars. Other than that, the only notable difference for 2014 is that the rearview camera is now standard equipment.

Styling hasn't changed in four years, with the lines no less distinctive than in 2011. The Leaf's upright body swells around the wheels, with notably swept-back headlamps that reach almost to the base of the windshield and contain transparent vertical fins that channel air around the car to reduce its aerodynamic drag and conserve battery energy. There's no grille, since there's no conventional radiator, and the nose instead has a central charging port under a Nissan-badged door that looks like a large gas door where the grille would otherwise be. At the rear, vertical ribbons of LED taillights flank the tailgate.

The Nissan Leaf five-door hatchback is easy to drive, keeps up with traffic, carries four people comfortably and five when needed, and comes with all the usual features and accessories found on any other compact car. While it's still perhaps $10,000 pricier than a comparably sized conventional car, buyers find they save enormous amounts of money from not having to buy gasoline. Indeed, electric cars cost only one-fifth to one-third as much per mile to run as gasoline cars do, depending on how much the owner pays for a kilowatt-hour of electricity.

To the driver, the Nissan Leaf functions perfectly well, but many of the controls feel slightly remote, since virtually everything is electrically actuated. Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph is a bit less than 10 seconds, though because there's no transmission to shift and the Leaf's electric drive is exceptionally quiet, it's hard to gauge how slow or fast the acceleration is. Top speed of the 3,200-pound car is capped at 90 mph.

Mechanicals are fairly simple: A 24 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack is mounted in the floorpan and extends up under the rear seat as well. It powers an 80-kilowatt (107-horsepower) electric motor that drives the front wheels, and also serves as a generator under regenerative braking, returning energy that would otherwise be wasted as brake heat to the battery for reuse.

Recharging the battery is usually done by plugging it into a 240-volt Level 2 charging station. Nissan dealers will arrange to have one of these installed, at a cost that varies depending on the condition of your house and garage wiring and electric service. You can also use standard 110-volt wall current to recharge a Leaf, via a charging cord stored in the load bay, but that can take up to 20 hours for a fully depleted battery. All Leafs except the base S trim level have an onboard 6.6-kilowatt charger which will recharge a fully depleted pack in about 4 hours. Owners can direct the car to pre-heat or pre-cool its cabin while still plugged in, via a smartphone app or commands on the car's touchscreen display, which conserves battery energy. The app also provides updates on the charging process, and alerts if the car is unplugged or it stops charging before the battery is fully charged.

The steering and handling are direct, but relatively numb. This isn't a car you'll necessarily take to slalom tests or handling gymkhanas, but it does feel slightly appliance-like. We suspect that'll be just fine for those who use the Leaf as a practical, low-cost commuter or around-town vehicle.

The 2014 Nissan Leaf comes in three trim levels. Starting at $28,980, the base Leaf S has 16-inch steel wheels with silver plastic wheel covers, uses dark-colored nylon upholstery, and forgoes the large dashboard touchscreen and other amenities. It also has a slower 3.3-kW onboard charger that takes longer to recharge the battery. The mid-level SV model, at $32,000, adds alloy wheels, the larger touchscreen display, and better telematics.

The luxury Leaf SL model, at $35,020, sports a small photovoltaic solar panel mounted on the roof spoiler over the tailgate. It generates just enough power to run two ventilation fans that pull hot air out of the cabin while parked in the sun--reducing the load on the air-conditioning system when the car is used. Options include an energy-saving seven-speaker Bose audio system and Nissan's AroundView Monitor. All models also carry a mandatory $850 destination fee.  All Leaf models qualify for a $7,500 Federal income-tax credit, along with various state, local, and corporate incentives. Nissan also offers a three-year lease at $199 a month, allowing the benefits of the tax credit (which goes to the lessor) to reduce the monthly payment, as well as reducing worry about battery durability over the life of the car.

Likes:

  • Zero emissions, always
  • Distinctive, futuristic design
  • Quiet, smooth travel
  • Five seats (unlike the Volt)
  • Very low running cost per mile

Dislikes:

  • Range falls in cold weather
  • Handling and steering numb
  • Rear passengers sit knees-up
  • Love-it-or-hate-it styling
Next: Interior / Exterior »

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