Can the Nissan LEAF live up to the accolades of its inaugural year as it now enters its second year of production? Nissan apparently believes so and the automaker has added a few bells and whistles to the 2012 model to ensure the LEAF doesn’t slip from its standing as the go-to no gas, no tailpipe car for meeting real-world consumer needs. Last year, the LEAF edged out both the BMW 5-Series and the Audi A8 to be named 2011 World Car of the year, in addition to being named the 2011 European Car of the Year. How will it stack up to the competition in 2012?
It’s off to a decent start. Nissan LEAF has earned a 5-star overall vehicle rating for safety as part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), the first all-electric vehicle to do so. Nissan LEAF was also named a “Top Safety Pick” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Nissan’s eye to safety with the LEAF includes six air bags, 4-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS), vehicle dynamic control and traction control system .
Chalking up an impressive runner up position on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s top ten list of fuel economy leaders for 2012, the Nissan LEAF posts an impressive 106 mpg city/92 mpg highway equivalent. The 2012 LEAF has a range of 100 miles on one full charge, a satisfactory range for today’s commuter.
But while the LEAF is all about fuel efficiency, Nissan’s engineers have ensured that the energy benefits are not at the expense of comfort and convenience. The medium-sized hatchback seats five adults with ample legroom and headroom. And to please its owner on those chilly winter mornings, the 2012 model year includes the standard addition of heated front and rear seats, a battery heater, heated steering wheel, heated outside mirrors and rear HVAC duct on all models. Also, a Quick Charge Port is now standard on the LEAF SL, meaning that as public quick charge stations begin to multiply across the country, the Nissan LEAF can shed its identity as a commuter-only car and take on the role of a primary vehicle.
Nissan LEAF Charges Forward
It’s all about the power, electric power that is. The 2012 LEAF is powered by a lithium-ion battery made up of 48 compact modules and carries a warranty of 8 years or 100,000 miles. Its high-response 80kW AC synchronous motor can generate 107 horsepower and 207 lb.-ft. of torque, delivering a fun driving experience with the feeling of plenty of power to eat up the pavement. If the quick charge port and a DC fast charger is used, the Nissan LEAF can reach 80 percent of capacity in only about a half hour. But if public charging stations haven’t come to your city, you can charge the LEAF right at home. It takes about seven hours to reach full charge capacity using a special 220V outlet.
Exterior Designed to Reduce Air Flow
The Nissan LEAF’s has a distinctive exterior with sharp lines, a v-shape design and long, and up-slanting LED headlights with blue internal reflective appearance that consumer about half the electricity of conventional halogen lights. But like other hybrids and EVs, exterior design is heavily dedicated to reducing drag and the LEAF is no exception. Even those stylish headlights are designed to split and redirect airflow away from side mirrors.
The aerodynamics are not solely centered on the front end design. The exterior features a rear spoiler as standard as well as a flat underbody with rear diffuser and aerodynamically shaped LED taillights to round out the car’s green design. Stylish chrome door handles, aerodynamically designed outside mirrors and a large greenhouse design to provide a brighter interior environment help round out the car’s energy efficiency. More fun that efficient, 5-spoke 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels are now standard.
Interior Gives Contemporary Feel and FunctionIf the Nissan LEAF aims to behave like a car of the future, it takes a step toward that objective by allowing the use of smart phones to turn on the car’s AC and remotely set charging functions, even when the vehicle is powered down. The vehicle features an on-board remote controlled timer that can be programmed to start the charging process.
Inside, a digital instrument panel includes the standard gauges, as well as a capacity level gauge and distance to empty display. The panel also includes an eco indicator to help drivers monitor energy efficiency. A monitor has the capability of displaying range as well as a selection of available charging stations within driving distance. More gadgets include a navigation system satellite radio and Bluetooth system as standard.
Offered in two models, the LEAF SV and LEAF SL, the latter includes a photovoltaic solar panel in the spoiler that supports charging the 12-volt battery for lights and car accessories.
Fuel Economy: 106 mpg city/92 mpg highway/99 mpg combined
MSRP: $27,700 after tax savings