2011 Nissan Leaf Hatchback Review | Edmunds.com

2011 Nissan Leaf Hatchback

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Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) is a category of used car. Often late-model vehicles, they have been inspected, refurbished, if necessary, and are under warranty by the manufacturer.
Nissan Leaf Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine .0 L -cylinder
  • Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 1-speed Direct Drive
  • Horse Power Info is not yet available.
  • Fuel Economy 106/92 mpg
  • Bluetooth Yes
  • Navigation Yes
  • Heated Seats No

Review of the 2011 Nissan Leaf

  • With the 2011 Nissan Leaf, a real (and realistically priced) electric car is finally here.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    No more gas stations; spacious, quiet cabin; snappy acceleration; intelligent navigation system.

  • Cons

    Limited cruising range; limited recharging points; home charger is a necessity.

  • What's New for 2011

    The 2011 Nissan Leaf is an all-new model.

Full 2011 Nissan Leaf Review

What's New for 2011

The 2011 Nissan Leaf is an all-new model.


Forget about answering the question "Who killed the electric car?" That's because Nissan is bringing the electric car back from the dead. Sure, the Tesla Roadster has made the electric car cool again, but the 2011 Nissan Leaf is the first, full-electric mainstream vehicle to be put on sale for the American consumer. Unlike past electric cars (including the GM EV1), the Leaf can be purchased outright instead of leased, so there's no being forced to give it back to the manufacturer after two years to be studied and then destroyed.

The Leaf stores its power in a lithium-ion battery pack, making it one of the first vehicles to use this advanced battery technology. Lithium-ion batteries promise better acceleration and range than comparably sized nickel-metal hydride ones. Nissan says recharging at home with a special 220-volt charger will take 4-8 hours. A commercial quick-charge station can do it in about 30 minutes. Fully charged, the Leaf is estimated to have an effective range of about 100 miles.

Of course, 100 miles is about a third of the cruising range available in a conventional car, so the Leaf's primary drawback is readily apparent. Unlike a plug-in hybrid like the Chevy Volt, there's no backup gasoline engine to keep you moving once the Leaf's batteries are depleted. Instead, you'll be stuck with a rather lengthy recharging engagement, and that's if you manage to reach an available electricity source in time. Our take is that the Leaf is best suited for drivers doing a lot of routine commuting or making shorter trips, as well as owners with a two-car household and a garage.

For all that, the 2011 Nissan Leaf promises to be a very useful vehicle. A Leaf will hit the register with a price tag of about $25,000 after a $7,500 federal tax credit (residents of certain states are eligible for additional credits as well). Buyers are advised to purchase the $2,200 home-charging station, but even this piece of hardware has its own tax rebate of 50 percent. The Leaf's running costs should also be appealing, since the cost of recharging should be a fraction of what you'd pay for a tank of gasoline.

An electric car is definitely not for everyone. Long-distance commuters, one-car households and apartment dwellers interested in a fuel-efficient or green-oriented car should instead consider a 2011 Chevrolet Volt, 2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid, 2011 Toyota Prius (be it the regular version or new plug-in hybrid), or even a 2011 Volkswagen Golf TDI diesel. But for those who have been waiting to buy a real electric car, the arrival of the 2011 Nissan Leaf is a revolutionary event.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2011 Nissan Leaf is an all-electric four-door hatchback available in SV and SL trim levels.

Standard equipment on the SV includes 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlamps, keyless ignition/entry, full power accessories, cruise control, automatic climate control, height-adjustable driver seat, tilt-only steering wheel and 60/40-split-folding rear seats. Also included are cloth upholstery made from recycled materials, auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth, an advanced trip computer, a navigation system and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.

The Leaf SL adds a spoiler-mounted solar panel, automatic headlamps, foglamps, a rearview camera and a cargo cover.

Additionally, every Leaf comes standard with Nissan Connection, a remote vehicle access system that reports battery recharging data and can activate the climate control via a cell phone. Optional are a home charging station and a quick-charge port, which allows for charging to 80 percent capacity in 30 minutes at a public charging station.

Powertrains and Performance

The 2011 Nissan Leaf is powered by an 80-kilowatt synchronous electric motor fed by a 24 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Output is 107 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. At the same time, the power delivery of an electric vehicle is vastly different from that of gasoline, diesel or even hybrid vehicles, so take the Leaf's power ratings with a grain of salt.

Nissan estimates a range of 100 miles, but this depends on driving style, traffic conditions, cruising speed and battery age. In fact, even ambient temperature plays a role in determining cruising range, because extreme temperatures are detrimental for battery performance. The EPA has given the Leaf an energy efficiency equivalent rating (MPG-e) of 106 mpg city/92 mpg highway and 99 mpg combined and an estimated driving range of 73 miles.


The 2011 Nissan Leaf comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. A rearview camera is optional on the SL.

Interior Design and Special Features

Because the Leaf's battery pack resides under the floor beneath the seats, the rear seat is quite comfortable for adults. The front seat provides no shortage of space for even tall drivers and the seats themselves are quite supportive and comfortable, though the vehicle's short range makes sure they'll never be enjoyed during a long-haul road trip. The cargo area is on the small side for a hatchback, however, and even when you fold the rear seats, the cargo floor is not flat.

The Leaf's cabin is dominated by a split-level instrument cluster similar to that of the Honda Civic. The center control panel features a touchscreen, which controls the standard navigation system as well as special features like cruising range. You can even program the start time for the recharging system to take advantage of lower rates for electricity. Interior quality is about the same as other economy hatchbacks, but overall fit and finish is noticeably a cut above.

Driving Impressions

Anyone who has driven or at least stood next to a hybrid will know how quiet it is when operating in electric-only mode. It can be eerie or cool, depending on your point of view. With the 2011 Nissan Leaf, its serenity never ceases, and you can detect only a high-pitched whine under heavy throttle. This quiet creates the adverse side effect of making wind and road noise more noticeable at highway speeds, but overall the Leaf is impressively quiet.

As an electric car, the Leaf benefits from an abundance of torque available from the first touch of the accelerator pedal. The Leaf feels sprightly and gets up to speed with no drama -- as an urban runabout, it certainly excels. Press on the brakes and the pedal is firm and sure, without the sort of strange, vague feel indicative of most regenerative braking systems.

With its battery pack mounted low in the body and a well-tuned electric power steering system, we've been pleasantly surprised by how well the Leaf takes turns. Its responsiveness is typical of that seen in other well-engineered compact family cars, and in most ways the Leaf feels pretty normal to drive.

Read our Nissan Leaf Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

Turning over a new leaf!

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Vehicle: 2011 Nissan Leaf SV 4dr Hatchback (3-phase, 4-pole electric DD)

We've only had our 2011 Leaf for two weeks but already we are in love with this car. Gas has gone up $.20 since my last fill up in my old car, so I'm already saving more money. The car has great "get up and go", it isn't anything like the hybrids you hear about not having any power to them. I can leave everyone at the stop light if I want to. The first few days I found myself speeding frequently. The interior is very comfortable, even for adults in the back seat. It sits up a little higher than the sedan I traded in, which is nice. This car is all electric so it's not for someone looking to drive it a long way. I only use it to commute to work and run errands so it's perfect.

3 of 7 people found this review helpful

No battery capacity warranty leaves

by on
Vehicle: 2011 Nissan Leaf SL 4dr Hatchback (3-phase, 4-pole electric DD)

The lack of a battery capacity warranty has left dozens of warm-climate owners with cars that are no longer useful, and that are unsellable. There are no dealers in Phoenix, AZ that will take these cars as trade-ins because of the issues with the battery. After getting positive battery care reports, we can travel no more than 50 miles in our car that should go 80-100 miles. Nissan is changing it's story at every turn, and refuses to acknowledge a problem. Google: Real World Battery Capacity Loss, and you'll see the real deal with how Nissan treats it's customers. They do not stand behind this product. They got their 1.4 billion dollar loan, they don't need the LEAF anymore.

Welcome to the 21st century!

by on
Vehicle: 2011 Nissan Leaf SL 4dr Hatchback (3-phase, 4-pole electric DD)

I've had my 2011 Leaf for a month now. It's my only car. So far I've spent a grand total of $8.10 in electricity to drive 729 miles. In my previous car I was spending $180 a month in gasoline and probably another $50 in maintenance (if you averaged it out per month.) In the NW, off-peak power is $.044 / kwh. So, as you can see it's saving me about $220 / month. I've taken this car to every family event, errand and work daily. Not a single problem with range or anything else. I don't even need the 240v charger. The car is just great all around. Good room, good ride, excellent electronics, and decent handling. Acceleration is very good around town.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Smooth as silk

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Vehicle: 2011 Nissan Leaf SL 4dr Hatchback (3-phase, 4-pole electric DD)

I've really enjoyed owning and driving this car, which is now up to 10,000 miles. It is incredibly smooth, quiet and generally effortless to drive. The interior feels large, with plenty of room in the back for adults. The storage area is ample for the around-town usage dictated by the range. The range is occasionally a nuisance, but that's increasingly mitigated by charge stations. When my trips are well within the range, I have fun with the torque and the low center of gravity. So far it's getting about 30 miles per dollar, a fascinating new metric that really puts the sucking sound in the front of our minivan in perspective. (It's five times more expensive to drive that one a mile.)

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Just buy it!

by on
Vehicle: 2011 Nissan Leaf SL 4dr Hatchback (3-phase, 4-pole electric DD)

I have been driving my Leaf for 1 month, with 1,000 miles. Had a very difficult decision to sell my 2007 Lexus IS250 which I loved, and was worried to be driving an econobox tin can. I have no regrets at all! Believe it or not but it drives just as well as the Lexus, is more quiet, just as smooth, accelerates well, and just feels good to be doing the right thing! I have a 20 mile r/t commute to the office; with side trips, often am driving 35-40 miles which is perfect. I have a gas car for longer drives but rarely use it. Take advantage of tax credits while you can! Nissan put lots of research and money into this vehicle to get it right the first time. Just Buy It!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

After over a year of

by on
Vehicle: 2011 Nissan Leaf SL 4dr Hatchback (3-phase, 4-pole electric DD)

I've owned my LEAF for over a year now and have put just over 10,000 miles on it. The car is still really fun to drive and we've enjoyed every single mile. Everything is still tight, no rattles or wind noise. As for operating costs, I had the tires rotated twice (for fre at Discount Tires), annual battery check at the dealership (also free), and I replaced the cabin filter for $11 and had it detailed on its birthday for $60. Other than $342 in electricity to "fuel" it for the entire year, thats my total costs so far.

Talk About The 2011 Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf Discussions See all Started By

Leaf And Volt almost tied for the 2011 sales year. Interesting....

Looking at their latest products, the JUKE and the Leaf, -- I cannot feel inspired. They look exactly like their names imply one model is for jerks, and the other will be like a Leaf blowing in the w...

Read more about the 2011 Nissan Leaf

Gas Mileage


  • 106
  • cty
  • 92
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs
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