2012 Nissan LEAF Review

Pros & Cons

  • No more gas stations
  • spacious, quiet cabin
  • ample features
  • snappy acceleration
  • intelligent navigation system.
  • Limited cruising range
  • limited recharging points
  • home charger is a necessity
  • small trunk for a hatchback.
List Price Range
$6,500 - $7,901

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Edmunds' Expert Review

With the 2012 Nissan Leaf, a real (and realistically priced) electric car is finally here.

Notably, we picked the 2012 Nissan Leaf as one of Edmunds' Best Used Cars, Trucks and SUVs.

Vehicle overview

Introduced just last year, the Nissan Leaf was the first full-electric vehicle to be marketed to mainstream American buyers. In many ways, it succeeds in being just as accessible as its manufacturer intends. The Leaf has a spacious cabin, with a tall, airy greenhouse that comfortably seats four full-size adults and provides excellent visibility. On the road, the car boasts peppy acceleration and, were it not for the lack of engine noise, you'd probably be convinced you're driving one of any number of gas-powered models. And though the Leaf's cargo capacity is on the small side, this Nissan has hatchback utility in its favor.

Once you factor in the $7,500 federal tax credit (residents of certain states are eligible for additional credits as well), the 2012 Nissan Leaf's pricing is quite affordable. A 220-volt home-charging station that costs $2,200 is a must-have, but the financial blow is softened by a tax rebate as well. Charging the Leaf costs less than paying for gas, though the picture may be less favorable in states with tiered electricity rates, depending on your usage.

At the end of the day, however, electric cars come with certain compromises. The EPA rates the Leaf's range at just 73 miles, a number we essentially verified during a six-month test of the Leaf. This isn't a problem on shorter commutes, but it presents challenges on lengthier trips, since the number of charging stations is currently quite limited. And charging takes quite a bit longer than the minute or two you'd spend filling a gas tank; plan on this process taking about 30 minutes at a quick-charge commercial station and 4-8 hours with the home charger. Of course, those are both rare, so for the moment you're likely looking at a recharge time of twice that or more with a standard electric outlet.

Given these limitations, the 2012 Nissan Leaf isn't the best fit for all shoppers. For long-distance commuters, one-car households and apartment dwellers interested in green-minded transportation, the Chevrolet Volt, Toyota Prius (plug-in or regular hybrid) and Volkswagen Golf TDI are all better picks. The Leaf also faces new competition this year as there's an all-new Ford Focus Electric to consider. Still, if it makes sense for your lifestyle and you're excited at the idea of owning a full-electric vehicle, the 2012 Nissan Leaf won't disappoint.

2012 Nissan LEAF models

The 2012 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, heated exterior mirrors, a battery heater, keyless ignition/entry, full power accessories, cruise control, automatic climate control, a height-adjustable driver seat, a heated tilt-only steering wheel, heated front and rear seats and 60/40-split-folding rear seats. Also included are cloth upholstery made from recycled materials, an 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, along with a quick-charge port that facilitates charging to 80 percent capacity in 30 minutes at high-voltage public charging stations.

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. A home-charging station is optional.

2012 Highlights

For 2012, the Nissan Leaf gets more standard features, with the trade-off being a price increase of $2,420 on base models and $3,530 on SL models. Cold-weather features such as heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, heated exterior mirrors and a battery heater are now standard on all models, with SL models adding a standard quick-charge port.

Performance & mpg

The 2012 Nissan Leaf is powered by an 80-kilowatt electric motor (107 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque) fed by a 24 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. In Edmunds performance testing, a Leaf went from zero to 60 mph in 10 seconds, which is about the same as a subcompact hatchback with an automatic transmission.

The EPA estimates a driving range of 73 miles, but real-world range may vary and 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. During a six-month test of the Leaf in metropolitan Los Angeles, we managed to average 85.5 miles of range. The EPA has given the Leaf an energy efficiency equivalent rating (MPGe) of 106 mpg city/92 mpg highway and 99 mpg combined.

Safety

The 2012 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. In Edmunds brake testing, the Leaf came to a stop from 60 mph in 126 feet, which is a bit longer than average for a compact hatchback like the Leaf.

In government crash testing, the Leaf received five out of five stars for overall protection, with four stars for frontal-impact protection and five stars for side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Leaf its highest rating of "Good" in frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests.

Driving

If you've driven a hybrid, you know how silent they are in electric-only mode. The 2012 Nissan Leaf cruises with this kind of serenity at all times, with only a vague high-pitched whine detectable under heavy throttle. Even the high-pitched noise the Leaf generates to alert pedestrians at low speeds is largely undetectable in the cabin. The downside is that wind and road noise are more noticeable at highway speeds, but overall the Leaf is impressively quiet.

As an electric car, the Leaf offers abundant torque. Acceleration is brisk from the first tap of the throttle, and the car gets up to speed with little fuss -- this Nissan certainly shines as an urban runabout. Press on the brake 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.

Interior

The Leaf's battery pack is located under the floor beneath the seats. This space-efficient placement is partially responsible for the car's roomy rear seats, which provide comfortable accommodation for adults. There's no shortage of headroom in the first row, though taller drivers may find their legs a little crunched. 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.

A split-level instrument cluster dominates the cabin. The center control panel features a touchscreen, which controls the standard navigation system and shows special displays for things like cruising range and energy efficiency readouts. You can even program the start time for the recharging system to take advantage of lower electricity rates. Interior quality is about the same as that of other compact cars, but overall fit and finish is noticeably a cut above.


Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2012 Nissan LEAF.

Trending topics in reviews

Most helpful consumer reviews

A Connecticut Leaf Owner Speaks
ctleafowner,02/12/2012
I am not your prototypical Leaf owner. For one, I live in Connecticut...one of two Leaf owners in the state...I have a long commute (45 miles one way) and, at the moment, I don't have a Level 2 charger where I work (I'm working on that, but the Chevy Volt has made convincing my company to get one very difficult). After a few rookie mistakes (driving 70 mph to work in the cold w/o a full charge), one of which found me driving into my garage with 4 miles of charge left, I have learned to drive back and forth to work with no range issues. The Leaf definitely makes you think about the way you drive and makes you think about your trips before you go anywhere. That being said, I love my Leaf.
Money Saving Tips
kool69,10/06/2012
When buying the LEAF start off with the lease. This way get the $7500 deducted from the price right away. After that is done, you refinance and buy it. I did this and got my discount right away without waitng. Next, Home Depot has a 240v battery charger online that is a couple of hundred dollars cheaper than what is offered anywhere else. If you have a gas dryer use the electrical connection for that circuit and save more money. Driving tip, I have found that following behind large trucks on the highway increases the range considerably. I auctually got the 100mpg when I drove under 60mph when following these trucks
The car is waste of money
innaberm1@yahoo.com,04/10/2018
SV 4dr Hatchback (electric DD)
The vehicle has never performed as advertised. The cruising with 100% charged battery was 70 miles on a good day and 60 miles on a windy day. The battery started losing its capacity very quickly. In 5 years, the car can only be charged to 40%, which is 30 miles cruising range. Purchasing the extended warranty was waste of money, it does not cover the replacement of the battery for the capacity loss.
7,000 miles in, I would buy another
skoorbmax,04/03/2013
Prior to this vehicle I had a 3rd gen Prius. I much prefer the drive of this. The power train is more responsive, and at low speeds the car is much quicker (though no quicker at higher speeds). I am in NY state and have taken this through a winter now. Including winter my average miles/kWh are in the low 3's. 3.9 miles/kWh that EPA claims are quite optimistic. The heat destroys range, as does highway driving. Nonetheless, at 3.2 miles/kWh and at 75% charge efficiency (120V charging) and $.11 kWh I am still about 87 miles per $4.00 in electricity.

Features & Specs

See all Used 2012 Nissan LEAF features & specs

Safety

NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    Overall4 / 5
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    Overall5 / 5
  • Side Barrier Rating
    Overall5 / 5
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front Seat5 / 5
    Back Seat5 / 5
  • Rollover
    Rollover4 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of Rollover11%
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Good
  • Roof Strength Test
    Good
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Good
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test
    Good

More about the 2012 Nissan LEAF

Used 2012 Nissan LEAF Overview

The Used 2012 Nissan LEAF is offered in the following submodels: LEAF Hatchback. Available styles include SL 4dr Hatchback (electric DD), and SV 4dr Hatchback (electric DD).

What's a good price on a Used 2012 Nissan LEAF?

Price comparisons for Used 2012 Nissan LEAF trim styles:

  • The Used 2012 Nissan LEAF SL is priced between $6,500 and$7,901 with odometer readings between 30044 and42976 miles.

Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on used cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, VA. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.

Which used 2012 Nissan LEAFS are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2012 Nissan LEAF for sale near. There are currently 2 used and CPO 2012 LEAFS listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $6,500 and mileage as low as 30044 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2012 Nissan LEAF.

Can't find a used 2012 Nissan LEAFs you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Nissan LEAF for sale - 7 great deals out of 23 listings starting at $14,264.

Find a used Nissan for sale - 11 great deals out of 14 listings starting at $25,584.

Find a used certified pre-owned Nissan LEAF for sale - 4 great deals out of 15 listings starting at $18,306.

Find a used certified pre-owned Nissan for sale - 8 great deals out of 13 listings starting at $13,535.

Should I lease or buy a 2012 Nissan LEAF?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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Check out Nissan LEAF lease specials