The Nissan Leaf is an "okay" electric car, but a financially advantageous commuter car. Here's why: if a person is looking for an affordable commuter car, he or she might consider a used Mitsubishi Mirage or a Hyundai Accent. The only issue is, these two cars have a very bland driving experience. While the Leaf is certainly not up to par with an i3 or 500e, it provides a far more dynamic driving experience than its gasoline counterparts. Regardless if you want a "fast car" or not, the Accent and Mirage will feel very sluggish even in city driving. Oppositely, the Leaf has ample power under say forty or so for city driving. Additionally, electric cars excel in city driving by maximizing regenerative braking. In any of these cars, the city is their intended habitat, proving the point: a used Leaf is one of the best sub-$10,000 city cars.
Since Leaves - ahem - Leafs, require almost zero maintenance, city-dwelling millennials will find this perfect because this means more economic freedom, like purchasing their own Netflix account or buying an overpriced meal delivery kit. Additionally, not needing to purchase gasoline will save $400 each year over the Versa or Mirage. Another benefit of the Leaf versus the other two is the "fun factor," in Doug Demuro's words. I would not consider the Leaf a particularly "fun" car, but it's certainly more fun than other compacts. In city driving, acceleration in the Leaf feels quick. The word feels is italicized because it makes 107 hp (80kW) and zero to sixty takes roughly nine and a half seconds, which would not be considered quick by any means. However, since all 207 ft-lbs of torque is available almost instantaneously, it certainly did not feel like it lacked acceleration.
Steering, on the other hand, is not superb. It's very light, which is most likely sufficient for non-car people, but lacks the "sportiness" aspect present in the similarly priced Fiat 500e. Handling comes in at .79 g, which is mediocre, but definitely would not be a deciding factor in buying it. When comparing the Leaf to the 500e, the 500e does not bear the Leaf's practicality. The Leaf sits five people, which is a bit of a stretch because, unlike most EVs, there is a hump in the middle of the rear floor, which resembles a transmission tunnel. Consequently, this makes the fifth seat just a little bit harder to access.
The interior comfort in the Leaf is decent, with some notable aspects. This review model, provided by ECars Carolinas, a small EV dealership located southwest of Charlotte, NC, has cloth seating (included in the S and SV package). The cloth seats are fine and it should be known that they feel a little bit better than the cloth seats in the Chevrolet Volt. Two appealing features are the partial heads up display unit, which is in a visually ideal location, and the optional remote start, available in the SV trim. Overall, I find the dash to look a little outdated, but it is very functional, and you can easily see the state of battery health, which is a significant plus. The drive selector is another quirk, but at least it's relatively easy to understand. It does look outdated, and I think the Gen. 2 Leaf's gloss black shifter looks much more modern. In essence, the interior is undoubtedly not as techy as the Volt or i3, but it serves its purpose well.
Overall, I'd recommend purchasing a used Nissan Leaf, but only models 2015 and up. These will have around three years left on the battery to give peace of mind. The batteries will see around 70-80 miles of range, which is ample for daily driving. My only issue with buying a used Leaf is battery degradation. Some have been minimal, but there are models with prior owners who did not take proper care of the batteries. That's why it's vital to check the state of health gauge next to the state of charge gauge. If you buy from a dealer that specializes in electric cars, like ECars Carolinas, the chance of buying one with a heavily-degraded battery is unlikely. There will be a separate article posted on what to look for when buying a used Leaf coming soon. Stay tuned.
Image Courtesy: Nissan Motors