2014 Nissan Leaf Walk Around

Because efficiency is crucial when it comes to EVs, design tends to be less by imagination and more by wind tunnel. Designers and engineers took great care to make the Leaf as aerodynamic as possible in order to achieve the least amount of drag, and subsequently, the maximum amount of range.

We think the Leaf is really cute, with a combination of Japanese Nissan and French Renault design ideas inside and out. It is not a small car, even though it looks small. EPA rates it bigger than 100 cubic feet inside, qualifying it as a compact car.

The underpinnings of the welded unibody chassis are mostly derived from Nissan's worldwide network of B-sized cars including the Nissan Versa, with struts up front and a torsion beam suspension at the rear: simple, cheap to build, and largely effective. Everything in the car operates electrically, from the A/C system to the power steering, and it all works very well as a package.

Leaf's electric charging-system terminal resides in a hatch in the nose. Those raised headlamp units that stand proud off the front fenders were designed to split the air into two paths, so that the two paths would go around the outside rearview mirrors as quietly as possible. A similar low-noise treatment was done to the antenna.

The big mouth on the bottom carries cooling air into the motor compartment and, interestingly, Nissan has made the underhood area look like a conventional four-cylinder engine and 12-volt battery. The slippery shape, which includes a completely flat bottom, generates a wind-tunnel coefficient of drag of only 0.29, among the best of all cars, because aerodynamic drag drains power and creates unwanted noise.


Inside, the Leaf is simple, clean and modern, with the instrumentation packaged in a beautiful blue-tinted array of center, left, and right modules.

The interior boasts more space than it might appear to have from the outside. Six-foot-tall drivers and passengers will have enough leg space and headroom, and the seats are comfortable and well-fitting. The tilt steering wheel is comfortable to use, but it unfortunately does not telescope. Plenty of light comes into the car thanks to the large windows and narrow pillars, which also aids visibility.

Cargo space in the Nissan Leaf measures 24 cubic feet with the rear seats in place, or 30 total cubes with the 60/40-split rear seats folded flat.

Special instruments include a large speedometer, battery temperature, power meter, remaining energy, capacity level, distance-to-empty, and an ECO mode indicator. The palm-sized floor shifter offers Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive, and one more notch to the rear, Eco mode, which changes how the throttle and brakes work to give the best possible mileage performance from the battery. The Leaf navigation system is programmed to show all available public charging stations as well as a continuously updated circle of driving range overlaid on the nav map. There is a separate screen for charging timer to take advantage of low electricity rates at night, and a climate control timer screen.

On SV and SL trims, the Leaf includes a system called Carwings, a smartphone application that can check state of charge, charging status, a start-charging command, and a remote switch to start the heating or cooling system. It can also tell the driver if the charger has been inadvertently or deliberately disconnected.

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