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HEELS ON WHEELS: 2014 Nisaan Leaf Review +VIDEO

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2014 Nissan Leaf

By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2014 Nissan Leaf

The Nissan Leaf hatchback has the titled of being the first one-hundred percent electric vehicle to be mass marketed to American consumers. For 2014, the model has extended its traveling range from 75 to 84 miles, and a rearview camera comes as standard equipment.

I drove a 2014 Nissan Leaf powered by a 80 kW AC synchronous motor, a 24kW lightweight lithium-ion battery pack, and a standard 3.3 kW (or bigger 6.6 kW) onboard charger. The battery itself is comprised of 48 compact modules of four cells each that deliver a total 107 horsepower. Available in the base S, SV and SL trim levels, my top-shelf Leaf SL came with the following standard features: leather upholstery; rearview monitor; navigation; CARWINGS; charging timer; hybrid heater system; HVAC timer; XM radio; Bluetooth; a spoiler-mounted solar panel; fog lights; aerodynamic underbody cover and rear diffuser. Total price as described came to $27,520.

Going all-electric requires a change of driving lifestyle that hopefully doesn’t exceed a distance of roughly 84 miles. Nissan claims the quick-charge port can recharge up to eighty percent of the bigger 6.6 kW onboard charger in a half-hour; otherwise a 240-volt outlet will take about four hours and a 120-volt twice as long as that. Competing electric-only vehicles include the Ford Focus Electric, Chevy Spark EV, Fiat 500e, and the VW eGolf. Plug-in hybrid options that still use minimal gas include the Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius Plug-in.


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2014 Nissan Leaf

Stylish But Comfortable Results: Nissan’s telematics system CARWINGS is a smart phone app that monitors the Leaf’s battery state, performs remote climate control, and locates nearby charging stations – a necessity for electric travel. The cabin is spacious with soft-touch materials done in lighter tones, and the seats are firm. The straightforward center console features digital gauges that tell you vital vehicle statistics, like your average miles-per-gallon equivalent and how much electricity you have left. Cargo space is where the Leaf lacks, and a sunroof option would have been an excellent addition.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Leaf its highest rating of "Good" in frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. Also, it has a 5-Star overall vehicle rating for safety as part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's New Car Assessment Program (NCAP). Standard safety equipment includes: antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags.

Cost Issues: The base Leaf S trim starts at $21,480; the mid-level SV at $24,500; an my fully loaded SL $27,520 (additional options included a $1,050 Premium Package with a Bose seven-speaker audio system and the upgraded multi-view display camera). The Leaf qualifies for a federal tax credit with residents of certain states.

Activity & Performance Ability: Understandably, an Electric Vehicle poses a challenge on lengthier trips and could pose a serious dilemma if you need to travel somewhere in an emergency when the battery is low. A standard 110-volt took me over eight hours to achieve a full charge. Road manners are smooth and ready at the acceleration with zero hesitation. Nissan also came up with an “Approaching Vehicle Sound for Pedestrians” system that alerts pedestrians by emitting a sound from a speaker at the front of the vehicle. With eco-driving manners, the Leaf can earn back some lost miles. A vehicle like this is ideal in California, giving you access to the Commute Lane and choice parking spots with charging meters.

The Green Concern: The EPA has given the Leaf an energy efficiency equivalent rating (known an MPGe) of 126 miles-per-gallon city and 101 highway for a combined 114. The EPA also estimates a driving range of 84 miles. This equivalency rating was developed as a way to provide a standard so consumers can compare vehicles across the spectrum; it is based on a formula of 33.7kW-hrs being equivalent to one gallon gasoline.

The 2014 Nissan Leaf is a mechanical achievement, additionally boasting an impressive interior with noticeable standard features and a host of eco-minded perks and technology. Just skip the base S trim that uses the smaller 3.3 kW onboard charger.

©2014 Katrina Ramser