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3/4 Front Glamour 2013 Nissan LEAF

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Expert's Rating


MPG 129 City / 102 Highway
  • Astonishing economy
  • A driving experience that feels conventional
  • Nearly silent operation
  • Significantly reduced recharging time
  • Severely limited driving range
  • High sticker price, though offset by state and federal tax credits
, Automotive Editor -
The Nissan Leaf isn't for everyone -- but the right buyer will love its extreme eco-friendliness and economy.


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.

The Leaf comes in a trio of trim levels – S, SV and SL – and all three feature an 80 kW AC motor that produces 107 horsepower and 187 pound-feet of torque. A 24 kWh lithium-ion battery with 48 compact modules provides energy, and a single-speed reducer delivers power to the front wheels. The 2013 Leaf can now exceed the 73 miles that the 2012 model could drive on a single charge. Nissan estimates the Leaf will get 130 MPGe in the city and 102 MPGe on the highway, which clearly beats out its direct competitors – the Ford Focus Electric and Mitsubishi i-MiEV.

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.

Which Style To Buy?

2013 Nissan LEAF
Starting price

2013 Nissan LEAF S

Recommended for: Buyers looking to break free from gasoline without breaking the bank

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.

2013 Nissan LEAF
Starting price

2013 Nissan LEAF SV

Recommended for: Buyers who want a quicker charge or a sportier look

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.

2013 Nissan LEAF
Starting price

2013 Nissan LEAF SL

Recommended for: Buyers who want to save the environment but won't sacrifice basic luxury amenities

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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