Nissan Leaf Review
The 2012 Nissan Leaf ranks 6 out of 11 Upscale Small Cars. This ranking is based on our analysis of 39 published reviews and test drives of the Nissan Leaf, and our analysis of reliability and safety data.
The 2012 Nissan Leaf is environmentally friendly, but a lot of car buyers may find its limited range and cramped interior hard to live with.
Most test drivers will tell you that the 2012 Nissan Leaf has a lot going for it. Its price is good for an electric car, it’s loaded with standard features, and to the surprise of the automotive press, it accelerates and brakes a lot like gasoline-powered shoppers are used to. However, many accolades end there because the Leaf’s powertrain and interior space limit its practicality.
Because the Leaf is all-electric, it isn’t powered by gasoline. In most cases, that means owners must charge the Nissan Leaf before they leave home, which can take up to 20 hours without an optional quick charging station. Once charged, the Leaf’s maximum range on one charge is 73 miles, according to the EPA. This number can change based on how many people are in the car, the weather and how much cargo you’re carrying. Seventy-three miles may sound good, but if your battery drains, you could be in a tight spot. Distance and range issues aside, the Leaf also gets complaints for its tight rear seats, small cargo space for a hatchback and confusing interior technology.
In the Leaf’s defense, several reviewers say that while the Leaf’s range and cramped quarters make it impractical for some shoppers, it should be perfect for those in the market for an electric vehicle that they’ll only drive around town.
Other Cars to Consider
If you're looking for an affordable mass-market electric car, the Nissan Leaf is one of few options. If you're willing to use a little gas, consider the Chevrolet Volt, but keep in mind that it’s a lot more expensive than the Leaf. Though the Volt is pricier, it will give you some peace of mind because the Volt is powered by two electric motors, but has a gasoline engine that acts as a generator for the electric motors after the battery dies. That means the Volt still runs when the battery is depleted, unlike the Leaf.
The Nissan Leaf’s price is good for an electric car, but compared with many hybrids, it’s very expensive. If cost is an issue, the Toyota Prius is a worthwhile alternative. It’s a hybrid, which means you don’t have to worry about charging or its range. It also costs significantly less than the Nissan Leaf and has a lot of cargo space for a hybrid.
Details: 2012 Nissan Leaf
The 2012 Leaf is Nissan’s only electric car and is available in SL and SV trims. This year, the Leaf gains a standard battery heater, a heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, heated outside mirrors and a rear-seat heat duct on all models. The SL trim has a new standard quick charge port.
See the full list of 2012 Nissan Leaf specs.
- "With the 2012 Nissan Leaf, a real (and realistically priced) electric car is finally here." -- Edmunds
- "While the range of the 2012 Nissan LEAF electric car can't match that of a conventional gasoline-powered hybrid (or even that of a plug-in hybrid like the Chevrolet Volt), it can tackle the normal driving range most people cover in a day, or roughly 100 miles before needing to be recharged." -- Kelley Blue Book
- "Range aside, the Leaf seems like a normal car." -- Car and Driver
- "Overall: Generally sweet to drive, but still a second or third car for most Americans because of unexpected demands, unplanned trips that could exceed range." -- USA Today
- "The Nissan Leaf isn't for everybody. I could say the same of any car I review, yet for some reason it seems necessary to remind consumers of this fact when detailing electric cars like the Leaf and Chevrolet Volt." -- Cars.com