2012 Nissan Leaf SL
(Electric 1-speed Direct Drive)
What our ratings include
Date Driven: 11/16/2010 (2011 Leaf SLE)
Torquey with somewhat reposnsive acceleration around town. Less urgent at freeway speeds, but still adequate. It's all buttery smooth because the direct-drive transmission never shifts.
Routine handling is agreeable, but not sporty. The steering, although quick, feels lifeless and light in regular driving. Braking action is synthetic and less than confidence-inspiring. More regenerative braking upon throttle lift would help here.
A well-damped ride that strikes a very nice balance between control and plushness. The low placement of the (dense) batteries aids both ride and handling. Reasonably light for an electric car, which helps, too.
Exceptionally quiet powertrain and good isolation from road and wind noise. The benefits of electric propulsion are immediately obvious from behind the wheel.
Despite its unconventional powertrain, the Leaf doesn't punish you with an unconventional cabin. Controls and interfaces are all familiar and logically laid out, though knobs would be preferred over buttons for the HVAC and radio.
Large windshield and front side glass provide the kind of wide-open view that is becoming rare in modern cars. Rear three-quarter visibility hampered somewhat by rising beltline and thick C-pillar.
Seat Access & Space
Low floor, large door and low front-seat bolster really ease access to the front seat. Interior space is good for a car of this size. Lots of front headroom; less so in the backseat.
Cargo & Storage
Cargo area isn't huge when backseat is upright. Folding it down makes for a usefully large cargo space.
Lots of parts-bin components in the cabin and hard plastics but the overall impression isn't one of unrelenting cheapness. Panel gaps are average.