With its digestible price and overall practicality, the 2014 Nissan Leaf is an appealing choice for buyers ready for an electric vehicle. Like other EVs, the Leaf's sub-100-mile range and hours-long recharge times won't work for everyone. For those who can make the compromises, this all-electric hatchback rewards with its ease of use and the fact it never needs gasoline.
You'll Like The 2014 Nissan LEAF If...
Looking to reduce your carbon footprint and never visit a gas station again? The 2014 Nissan Leaf is the everyman's EV to beat. And thanks to a lower entry price that took effect last year, Nissan's electric car undercuts rivals such as the Ford Focus EV and Fiat 500e.
You May Not Like The 2014 Nissan LEAF If...
If you have an unpredictable driving schedule, travel more than 100 miles per day or live in a residence without 220-volt power support, better options are the Chevrolet Volt, Toyota Prius Plug-in or Ford C-Max Energi. These plug-in hybrids can travel hundreds of miles thanks to their onboard gasoline engines.
A rearview camera becomes standard across the lineup. Nissan has removed the Long Life Mode, which allowed charging to 80 percent instead of 100. The company says the feature's rationale – the impact on long-term battery durability – was less than initially expected and thus not needed.
The 2014 Nissan Leaf has a futuristic and airy cabin. This EV can technically seat five passengers, but it's more comfortable for four. The car's tall roofline and abundance of glass make the interior feel open and provide good visibility. The front seats are adequate, but could use more side support. Instead of a traditional shift lever, the Leaf uses a small orb that toggles up for Reverse, down for Drive, and to the side for Neutral. Park is engaged with the press of a center button. In back, cargo space is good at 24 cubic feet, and the rear seats fold in a 60/40 split for larger items.
Though now a few years into its lifecycle, the Nissan's electric hatchback still boasts contemporary lines and design touches that set it apart from almost everything else. Its squat, 5-door profile is aerodynamic and functional, but where the Leaf most stands out is in its lighting treatments. The front headlights are nearly as long as the car's hood, and in back there are slender, contoured LED taillights and turn indicators. In front above the grille is the Leaf's charging port, and since there is no gasoline engine to create emissions, there is no tailpipe.
The first thing you'll notice about the 2014 Nissan Leaf is its smooth, quiet operation. Since there's no gasoline engine, there's none of the associated noise or vibration. After that initial surprise comes another in just how normal the Leaf feels otherwise. Whether in stop-and-go traffic, on windy roads or at higher speeds on the freeway, the Leaf is a capable yet mostly unremarkable partner – and we mean that in a good way. Like other electric vehicles, the Leaf has quick initial acceleration thanks to its torque-rich electric motor. Drivers seeking to eke out extra mileage can select Eco mode, which increases regenerative braking and reduces output of the motor and climate system. Another mode, "B" on SV and SL trims, increases the aggressiveness of the EV's regenerative-braking system and is handy when going downhill. The Leaf's low-rolling-resistance tires have more grip than expected, allowing a modicum of spirited cornering.
The 2014 Nissan Leaf's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts near $30,000 for a base S model, around $33,000 for the midlevel SV trim, and $36,000 for a top-line SL. These prices drop substantially when factoring in the $7,500 federal tax credit for electric vehicles. State incentives can lower the Leaf's price by thousands more. Less quantifiable are electric vehicles' potential access to carpool lanes with a single occupant. Back in the hard-numbers equation, the Leaf's starting price is several thousand dollars lower than that of the Chevrolet Volt, Ford Focus Electric and diminutive Fiat 500e. The Leaf is inexpensive by EV standards, but it's not the least-expensive out there. The tiny-but-fun Chevy Spark EV starts lower. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying. On the resale front, the Leaf is expected to have below-average residual value.
The 2014 Nissan Leaf comes in three trims. Base S models are nicely equipped with rearview camera, Bluetooth wireless communication, and heated front and rear seats. A 4-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system includes USB and auxiliary inputs, and a 4.3-inch display. Midlevel SV models add a 7-inch display, six speakers and navigation. Also included in the SV are cruise control and CARWINGS charge status/timing/locator app integration. Top-line SL trims include leather, 17-inch wheels, LED headlights, a solar panel on the rear spoiler to support the 12-volt system, and HomeLink remote transceiver. The Nissan Leaf's steering wheel doesn't telescope, but it is wrapped in leather and offers heating as standard.
Just a handful of major options are offered on the 2014 Leaf, and selection is simple since they are bundled into three packages. Base S models can be upgraded with a 6.6 kW onboard charger for faster recharging. SV trims can be had with LED headlights, fog lights and a quick-charge port for specialized high-speed chargers. Top-line SL models can be outfitted with Nissan's snazzy Around View Monitor backup camera system and a 7-speaker Bose premium audio system.
This smartphone app available for iPhone, Android and Blackberry enables Leaf owners to check their vehicle's state of charge, begin or end a charging session and adjust climate controls from almost anywhere. The service is free to owners for three years.
EVs are quiet by nature, but Nissan's engineers took the Leaf to the next level by using sound-suppressing technologies such as vortex-shedding body pieces, an acoustic front windshield, and an aerodynamic antenna. With the Nissan Leaf, tranquility comes standard.
Under the Hood
Energized by a lithium-ion battery pack mounted beneath the floor (warranted for eight years/100,000 miles), the Leaf’s 80kW/107-horsepower motor churns out a stout 187 lb-ft of torque from zero rpm. Power is directed to the front wheels via a single-speed reduction gear, enabling a 0-to-60-mph sprint of about 10 seconds with a top speed of 90 mph. In base form the 2014 Leaf has a 3.6 kW onboard charger, and that means slower charge times of eight hours on a 220-volt line. Optional on the S and standard on the SV and SL is a 6.6 kW version, which allows charging in five hours. With the optional Fast Charge receptacle (standard on SL models), the Leaf can be charged to 80 percent in 30 minutes. On the other end, charging on a standard 110-volt outlet can take over 20 hours.
AC synchronous electric motor
24kWh lithium-ion battery pack
187 lb-ft of torque
EPA-estimated range: 84 miles
EPA city/highway fuel economy equivalent: 126/101 mpge
Think of an electric car and the Nissan Leaf will likely come to mind. Now in its fourth model year, the Leaf made the electric vehicle (EV) mainstream thanks to its digestible price, easy driving manners and overall user-friendliness. If not for its near-silent operation or the fact it never needs gasoline, you might think the Leaf were any other 5-passenger compact hatchback. The battery-powered Leaf has consequently found a place among commuters and the eco-conscious alike, but it's not for everyone. Primarily, the Leaf's sub-100 mile range and hours-long recharge time remain hurdles. But for buyers ready for an EV, the 2014 Nissan Leaf trumps others such as the Chevrolet Spark EV and Fiat 500e in both size and its nationwide availability.