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2013 Nissan Leaf Review By John Heilig

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2013 Nissan Leaf

By John Heilig
Mid-Atlantic Bureau
The Auto Channel

REVIEW: 2013 Nissan Leaf

The Bottom Line First: The Nissan Leaf is an incredible vehicle. It is silent on the road, had very good performance, great economy and it’s comfortable.

Model: 2013 Nissan Leaf SL
80 kw synchronous electric motor
Horsepower/Torque: 107 hp/187 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: Single speed reducer
Wheelbase: 106.3 in.
Length x Width x Height: 175.0 x 69.7 x 61.0 in.
Tires: P215/50R17
Cargo: 24.0/30.0 cu. ft. (rear seats up/down)
Economy: 130 mpg e city/102 mpg e highway
Range per charge: 85-90 miles
Curb Weight: 3,340 lbs.
Sticker: $36,190 (includes $850 destination charge, $1,220 in options)

I had trouble not driving the Nissan Leaf during the week I had it. It intrigued me every time I sat behind the wheel. From the pushbutton start/stop to not going to the gas station for a week, the Leaf was almost perfect. I say almost because we couldn’t get the air conditioner to work. It seems it was low on charge. Thank God for cool early fall weather.

The Leaf is a full electric car. Unlike the proposed BMW i3, there is no small gasoline engine to be used as a range extender. So I was concerned to a degree about range. When the Leaf was delivered, it had a range of 90 miles indicated on the instrument panel. Generally, comparing the odometer, which listed miles traveled, with the predicted range, 90 miles was an honest estimate.

I drove the Leaf everywhere, and discovered that I only travel about 60-70 miles in a normal week. My wife and I often travel a good deal further, but going to the stores, playing golf, taking short trips in the area, and church seemed to occupy most of our time. As for golf, we folded the rear seat backs down and fit two bags in the back. The cargo area did not have a flat floor when the seat backs were lowered, but that may have been due to the fact that the batteries were located in the floor.

Our trip to church was interesting. We parked in our usual spot and discovered when we exited that there was another one parked next to us. It was our minister’s wife’s car, which she is leasing.

“We have been having fun getting to understand the technology,” Susan wrote. “I keep a log of what kind of range is required to go places, and it’s interesting to note it isn’t always the same. For example, it requires 12-15 miles to get to our daughter’s house and 8 miles to get home. I guess it’s more downhill to get home. (It’s also about 20-25 miles from her home to our church.) We are excited about the possibilities of electric cars on the roads. And it sure is nice not to pay for gas.”

Besides the obvious, I was impressed by the knockout styling of the Leaf. Like the Juke, it has a unique approach to headlight and taillight placement.

The sticker for the Leaf is almost $39,000. However, Federal incentives range from tax credits of $2,500 to $7,500, depending on the size of the battery. Pennsylvania, where I live, also offers a $3,500 rebate for electric vehicles. These help mitigate the cost.

Nissan also claims that the Leaf will retain approximately 80 percent of its battery capacity after five years and 70 percent after 10 years for average use. Capacity loss will vary with usage, and these figures are not guaranteed.

The last two paragraphs answer two of the most frequently asked questions about the Leaf.

I found the Leaf to be a fun and comfortable car to drive. Handling was good. Unlike most small cars, the ride was not choppy, but more like a much bigger car. The front seats are comfortable. By its nature, the Leaf isn’t set up for long rides, but over the short haul it’s pretty nice.

Shifting is accomplished through the use of a mouse-like palm shifter. Reverse is to the left and up, drive to the left and down. To park you hit the “P” button in the center of the shifter. Acceleration is very good. At first you may tend to be gentle with the accelerator pedal, but once you become more familiar with the car you discover that it has a lot of power and you needn’t be afraid to use it.

The only real problem is the utter silence of the Leaf. It’s hard to believe it’s on and ready to go and I always questioned whether or not it was ready until I shifted and it started moving.

There’s a clear infotainment screen with very good audio information. The navigation system is easy to program and has the added advantage of identifying nearby charging stations. Presently, these are mostly Nissan dealers.

The instrument panel has, from the left, a battery temperature gauge, a power meter and range and “fuel level” on the right. The center power meter indicates how long it will take to charge the battery to full charge at 110 volts, 220 volts and high output 220 volts. The digital speedometer is in a nacelle at the base of the windshield. Also in this gauge are a digital clock, outside temperature readout and an eco indicator showing how economically the Leaf is being driven.

I would suggest a thorough reading of the owner’s manual just to acquaint yourself with all the nuances of this car.

I confess that I originally looked at the Leaf as an oddity because of its uniqueness. Now, after having driven it for a week, I feel it’s a damned nice car.

2013 The Auto Page