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Just as the Toyota Prius defined the hybrid vehicle for the American market, the Nissan Leaf shaped our idea of the electric vehicle (EV). Sure, electric cars have been around since the birth of the automobile, and they made a return in the 1990s with the General Motors EV1, but the Nissan Leaf, which debuted in 2010, was the first successful mass-produced EV.
The Leaf has many more competitors as it heads into the 2013 model year, but remains a leader in its class. Notable changes are a new 6.6 kW charging system that dramatically reduces the amount of time needed to charge batteries, and a new base model that drops the entry-level price of the Leaf by about $6,000. Also added for 2013 are optional leather seats and 17-inch wheels, a Bose audio system and new colors.
Leaf ownership presents some complications. Without gasoline backup, running out of power leaves you stranded. Also, charging stations are still few and far between, and longer trips require special planning. Lastly, the base model has the same internal charger as the 2012 model and requires its longer 4- to 8-hour charging time.
The S comes with: 16-inch steel wheels; a rear spoiler; chrome door handles; power and heated side-view mirrors; one-touch rear hatch release; traction control; four-wheel disc brakes; push-button ignition; Bluetooth connectivity; automatic climate control; power door locks and windows; a 12-volt DC outlet; a tilt steering column; a six-way manual adjusting driver’s seat and four-way manual adjusting passenger seat; a trip computer; heated cloth seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel; and an AM/FM/CD stereo system with a 4.3-inch monitor, four speakers, USB port and steering-wheel-mounted controls.
The SV builds on the S with: 16-inch five-spoke alloy wheels; a hybrid heater system; a 6.6 kW on-board charger; an advanced “B Mode” regenerative-braking system; CARWINGS remote car connectivity; an auto-dimming rearview mirror; cruise control with steering-wheel-mounted controls; an AM/FM/CD audio system with a 7-inch display and six speakers; and cloth seating made from partially recycled materials.
The SL adds: 17-inch five-spoke alloy wheels; automatic LED headlights; fog lights; a rear-spoiler-mounted solar panel; a universal garage door opener; a cargo cover; and full-leather seating.
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|Build & Price|
2012 Nissan Leaf$15,995 | 21,533 mi
2012 Nissan Leaf$17,951 | 20,464 mi
2012 Nissan Leaf$18,911 | 12,900 mi
2011 Nissan LEAF$13,950 | 36,610 mi
2011 Nissan Leaf$13,995 | 26,553 mi
2011 Nissan LEAF$14,849 | 31,436 mi
2011 Nissan LEAF$14,950 | 35,165 mi
2011 Nissan LEAF$14,977 | 49,362 mi
2011 Nissan Leaf$15,491 | 35,425 mi
2011 Nissan LEAF$15,950 | 23,725 mi
2011 Nissan LEAF$15,950 | 10,980 mi
2011 Nissan Leaf$15,987 | 34,200 mi
2011 Nissan LEAF$16,826 | 21,426 mi
Powerful motor, stylish body and tons of features, but very expensive, shorter range and lower MPGe
Decent base price, similar city MPGe, but downright silly looking and very short range
Standard hybrid range and well equipped, but still uses fuel and only 95 MPGe
Great looking body, 300-mile range and up to 50 miles of electric-only range, but very expensive