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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Review: 2012 Nissan LEAF SV

The Nissan LEAF is the first all-electric mass produced car. The LEAF was introduced back in 2010 and just recently celebrated its 2nd birthday. Since its release Nissan has sold more than 46,000 LEAFs. I was really excited to get the keys to the LEAF because it was going to be my first time in an electric vehicle. The Nissan LEAF competes against the Chevy Volt and Mitsubishi i-MiEV. There are two LEAF models to choose from, the SV and the SL. My tester was the LEAF SV that came in at $36,220.

Exterior
The Nissan LEAF has been called ugly, hideous, and unattractive but I have to say I love the look of the LEAF. I do not have a problem with quirky designed cars (I drive a JUKE). I think the design of the LEAF is futuristic and perfect for the type of vehicle it is. The LEAF receives standard chrome door handles, 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, and a rear spoiler. Moving up to the SL trim will get you a solar panel rear spoiler and fog lights. My tester's exterior color was Glacier Pearl.

Interior
The LEAF offers a very airy and inviting cabin. Before getting into the LEAF I read a lot of reviews and comments about the quality of materials used. There is a mix of soft-touch materials and hard plastics throughout the cabin. The hard plastics did not bother me because I very rarely came in contact with any of those areas. The seats in the LEAF are comfortable and supportive. For those who are eco-conscious the cloth material used on the seats are made of recycled materials. The rear seats offer plenty of headroom and legroom even with the raised seating position due to the battery pack. The rear seats have a 60/40 split-folding set up which allows for more storage. For a hatchback design the 11.7 cubic foot of cargo room is disappointing. The controls and buttons in the LEAF operated no differently than in any other vehicle. The touchscreen was responsive and did not give me any problems.

Tech
The SV trim of the LEAF comes well equipped for an entry level model. SV buyers get Bluetooth connectivity, SiriusXM satellite radio, push-button start, LED lights, a 6-speaker stereo system, Navigation system with a 7-inch display, and heated front & rear seats. SL trim buyers will gain a rearview camera.

Safety
The LEAF is equipped with front airbags, driver and passenger front side impact airbags, and front and rear roof-mounted side curtain airbags. Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), ABS with Electronic Force Distribution, Tire Pressure Monitoring system, and the LATCH child seat anchoring system are also standard.

Charging
120-volt: 20 hours to fully recharge a depleted battery
240-volt: 8 hours to fully recharge a depleted battery (Standard)
DC "quick": 30 mins to charge the battery to 80%. In order to get this option buyers will have to shell out $700 extra when buying or leasing a LEAF SL.

Behind the Wheel
Under the hood you will find a 80 kW electric motor that produces 107 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. Power from this motor is sent to the front wheels. Once inside of the LEAF I was able to get a comfortable seating position but was annoyed that the steering wheel could only tilt and not telescope. This is for all automakers please make your steering wheels tilt and telescope from now on! I was really interested in using the shifter and thought it was unique and simple to use. Pushing the start buttons turns on the LEAF which emits a chime to let the driver know the vehicle is on. At the beginning of last week it was in the high 60's which allowed me to start off with a range of 106 miles. The starting range dropped to 96 miles towards the end of the week due to the colder weather. The visibility out of the LEAF was really good but I did not like the split A pillar towards the bottom. All of my daily driving is in the city which this car was made for. I did have range anxiety because the last thing I wanted to be was stranded on the side of the road. The feeling of range anxiety did go away the more I drove the LEAF. The battery pack sit under the floor and gives the car a low center of gravity. The low center of gravity allows the LEAF to handle extremely well. While driving the torque was always available when I needed it. This was my first time experiencing regenerative brakes and I adjusted to them in no time. The LEAF's ride is comfortable, smooth, and sporty. Driving the LEAF felt weird because there was no engine noise. I am not a fan of grey colored interiors so I hope that Nissan will have other interior colors for the LEAF in the future. My favorite feature which definitely came in handy during the cold weather was the heated steering wheel.

Overall
My time in the Nissan LEAF was very enjoyable and exciting. I was able to drive the LEAF for a week just on two full charges. The LEAF does have a few setbacks which include price and range. A 2012 Nissan LEAF starts at over $36,000 but there is a tax credit of $7,500. Also next year Nissan will release a less expensive version of the all electric vehicle.  I drive a Nissan JUKE and I thought that it was going to be a huge difference once I started driving the LEAF. While the LEAF is an electric vehicle it drives and behaves like a normal car. The Nissan LEAF is not for everyone and that pretty much goes for every car. I would recommend the LEAF for anyone who does city driving and is looking for a fuel efficient vehicle. Those who are worried about the battery pack should know that it is warranted for 8 years/100,00 miles. There is no doubt the LEAF is expensive but as the technology becomes less expensive the price of electric vehicles will fall. In a few years I could see myself leasing or buying a Nissan LEAF.


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