One of the first, and arguably one of the most successful, examples of a modern electric vehicle, the Nissan Leaf is a 5-door hatchback with room for five passengers and a whole bunch of their stuff. Classified as a midsize car by the EPA, the 2014 Leaf is available in S, SV, and SL trim levels, and prices start at $29,830. Apply a federal income tax credit and any additional state or local incentives to the deal, and you can get a Leaf for less than 20 grand.
From the front wheels rearward, the 2014 Nissan LEAF is a stylish, if unusual, car. Up front, only the ‘unusual’ descriptor applies. My Leaf SL test car included these snazzy 17-inch aluminum wheels, which add palpable visual substance.
You’re forgiven if you find the Nissan Leaf’s interior to be somewhat plain. It’s not as outlandish as the exterior styling, and that’s fine, because the result is appealing in the same way that Apple products are. In fact, the floating center control panel and its piano black trim is reminiscent of an iPad. The leather seats in the SL model, combined with appealing interior textures and tones, make the Leaf’s cabin look and feel upscale.
Because the Leaf’s lithium-ion battery is installed beneath the car, the seats sit high and provide a great view out. The driver’s seat is quite comfortable, but since the car’s range is limited to 84 miles, you’re unlikely to experience fatigue before needing to recharge the battery.
Like the front seats, the rear seat is mounted high in the car and provides excellent thigh support combined with a great view out. Legroom is generous, but there is very little space under the front seats for passengers’ feet.
Measuring 23.6 cu.-ft. behind the rear seat, the Leaf’s trunk is huge, though the charge cord storage bag takes some of that space, as does the Bose subwoofer on models that have the optional Premium Package. Unlike most hatchback models, though, the cargo space doesn’t double with the rear seat folded down. Nissan says maximum capacity measures 30 cu.-ft.
An 80-kW electric motor powers the Nissan Leaf’s front wheels, generating 107 horsepower and 187 lb.-ft. of torque. The car’s top speed is 90 mph, and it can travel approximately 84 miles on a fully charged battery. While these figures don’t seem impressive on the surface, the Leaf is quick, and it can easily handle the average American’s 33-mile daily driving habit.
Since its debut for the 2011 model year, the Nissan Leaf has provided its owners with outstanding reliability, according to Consumer Reports. Not enough Leaf owners have reported their experiences to J.D. Power over the years, except in 2012, when the market research firm found the car’s quality to rate better than average.
While the Leaf receives high marks in crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)*, it performs at an average level for front passenger protection in a frontal-impact collision and for rear passenger protection in a side-impact collision.
* The IIHS has not tested the Leaf in the small overlap frontal-impact test
Aside from the standard safety equipment required by all cars, the 2014 Nissan Leaf is equipped with a beeping noise to alert bystanders when the car is reversing, and a fake engine noise to make sure people know that an electric car is approaching. These are safety measures that Nissan takes because otherwise the Leaf would be silent at low speeds, posing a potential threat.
Choose the Leaf SV or SL, and it is equipped with a touchscreen infotainment system with a 7-inch display and CarWings technology. CarWings is specific to the Leaf, helping the driver to find charging stations and quickly program one as a destination, to better understand how much farther the Leaf can travel in terms of geography on a map, and to estimate range extension without the climate control system engaged. A corresponding mobile application allows the Leaf’s owners to program specific charging times, monitor charging status, and to pre-condition the interior with the heater or air conditioning.
An Around View Monitor is optional for the 2014 Leaf, providing a top-down, 360-degree view of the car and its surroundings to help make it easier to maneuver in tight quarters.
This doohickey here is called Palm Drive. It sits on the Leaf’s center console, and it what the driver uses to engage Reverse, to select Drive, and to operate the available Braking Mode for the regenerative braking system. A button on the top is marked “P” for Park.
Two charge ports are offered for the 2014 Nissan Leaf, each installed under a panel on the car’s nose. The one on the right is compatible with the car’s standard trickle charger, seen here, which works with a standard household outlet and which takes a really long time to charge the battery. This port is also used in connection with the available 240-volt home quick-charging station, which costs $1,999 installed and speeds complete recharging, accomplishing the task in four hours.
The port on the left is compatible with public DC Fast Charger stations, which can supply an 80% battery charge in just 20 minutes.
The Nissan Leaf’s most direct competitor is the Ford Focus Electric, but that’s a smaller car. Additional alternatives include the Chevrolet Spark EV and the Honda Fit EV, neither of which is as roomy inside as the Leaf.
In the midsize electric vehicle category, the Nissan Leaf has been the only game in town since 2011. In that time, public EV charging stations have grown from a national network numbering in the hundreds to more than 13,000 available across the country. This expansion of charging stations certainly makes the 2014 Leaf more appealing than ever.
Nissan provided the 2014 Leaf for this photo gallery
2014 Nissan Leaf photos by Christian Wardlaw