Compact car; Built in Japan, USA
  • 4-door hatchback
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $6,100 – $18,400*

2011 Nissan Leaf Front

2011 Nissan Leaf Rear

2011 Nissan Leaf Interior

2011 Nissan Leaf Profile

2011 Nissan Leaf Front-2

2011 Nissan Leaf Interior-2

  • Fuel economy
  • Ride
  • Battery-charge time
  • Limited secondhand availability

Were it a conventional or gas/electric hybrid compact car, Leaf would be a decent value. It drives well and is reasonably practical. As a pure-electric car, however, it works exceptionally well. A Leaf is certainly not for everyone. In ideal temperature and driving conditions, Nissan’s claimed range of 100 miles is realistic. In cold climates, though, that range can be cut by up to half. This is not a vehicle anyone would take on a long road trip, but it’s a terrific urban/suburban commuter. The Leaf’s new-car price was rather steep (though offset by various tax credits and cash rebates from federal, state, and local governments, as well as incentives offered by the private sector). Secondhand, however, Nissan’s electric could be a better deal because it’s not been holding its value as well as some compacts. Of course, overall driving costs that can be measured in pennies-per-mile help alleviate the initial outlay. Overall, Leaf is every bit the game-changer Nissan promotes. If this is what we can expect from the electrification of the automobile, its future looks very bright indeed.


Launched for 2011, the Nissan Leaf was the first pure-electric car offered for sale to the U.S. mass market. This five-passenger, four-door compact hatchback ran exclusively on electric power. Leaf came in two trim levels: base SV and uplevel SL. All used a 107-horsepower electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack. Nissan claimed a maximum driving range of 100 miles. Leaf’s charging port could accommodate a 110-volt or 220-volt household outlet. It took about 20 hours to charge the battery from a 110-volt outlet. Using a special in-home 220-volt charging station, a full charge required about 8 hours. SL models were available with a “quick charge” port that could charge the battery to 80 percent capacity in 30 minutes via a 440-volt station. Note that these quick charge stations have not been available for home use. The Leaf came only with a single-speed transmission that functioned like an automatic. Standard safety features included all-disc antilock braking, traction control, an antiskid system, front side airbags, and curtain side airbags. A navigation system was standard on all. SL models had a rearview camera and small roof-mounted solar panel, which provided a trickle charge to the 12-volt battery that powered accessory items, such as the climate system. Possible competitors included the Chevrolet Volt (an extended-range electric sedan), Toyota Prius (hybrid), and Volkswagen Jetta TDI (diesel).

Yearly Updates

2012 Leaf
Standard equipment on the 2012 Nissan Leaf now included a battery heater, heated steering wheel, and heated front/rear seats. SL models added a “quick charge” port that could charge the battery to 80-percent capacity in 30 minutes.
2013 Leaf
There were several changes for this car’s third model year. Production of the car and its battery moved to the U.S. from Nissan’s native Japan. The lower cost of doing business here meant that Nissan could lower the car’s price. Nissan did this in two ways: 1) it cut the price of existing models by up to $3,380 and 2) introduced a new entry-level model with a starting price of less than $30,000 (a savings of about $6,000 over a base 2012 Leaf). The car itself saw several upgrades for 2013. Aerodynamic enhancements were designed to lower wind resistance, thereby contributing to increased range. Nissan added a “hybrid heater” system to certain models, which was designed to provide greater warmth with reduced energy consumption; in an all-electric car, the heater is a greater drain on the battery than the air conditioner. An updated and relocated charger was designed to reduce charging times up to 50 percent while increasing usable cargo space. The available navigation system now included “Eco route” guidance that could help calculate the most efficient route to a given destination. It also incorporated Google Places that helped locate restaurants, shops, and other points of interest.
2014 Leaf
For 2014, a rearview camera was now standard equipment on all Leaf models. The only other change of note was the addition of one new exterior color.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

“Pure” electric Leafs used a 107-horsepower electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack. Charging can take place at 110, 220, or 440 volts. Nissan claimed a maximum driving range of 100 miles before the battery would be depleted.

electric electric
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) NA
Engine HP 107
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 206
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested



Road Test

Instantaneous torque from a stop means the Leaf accelerates about as well as its gas-powered competition, with better low-end throttle response than most. Merging and passing response are on par with most four-cylinder compact cars. The single-speed transmission means you feel no shifting. That seems a bit odd at first, but you quickly get used to it.

Nissan has claimed a maximum full-charge range of 100 miles for the Leaf, a number that proved slightly optimistic based on our experience. In Consumer Guide testing, we averaged 73 to 88 miles on a single charge, though some of that driving was in high-temperature conditions that may reduce battery efficiency. Using a 240-volt charging station, full charges ran 7 to 8 hours for a depleted battery. This is in line with Nissan’s estimates. Note: Charging on a standard household 110-volt outlet requires a 20-amp circuit, a configuration common in the garages of single-family homes, but less so in condominiums and other multi-family buildings.

Leaf rides well, thanks in part to the battery pack, which is mounted low and in the middle of the vehicle. Although it’s no luxury sedan, by any means, the Leaf is more composed on the road than the majority of its compact rivals.

Sporty it is not, but a Leaf handles competently. Ultra-low-rolling-resistance tires limit grip in fast turns, and the electric power-steering system doesn’t have great road feel. Again, the low-mounted battery pack is helpful, preventing the car from feeling top-heavy in turns.

A little road and wind noise at highway speeds are the only sounds that taint Leaf’s serene driving experience. With no gasoline engine to mask them, sources of noise that you might not otherwise hear are noticeable. Nothing is overly bothersome, though.

Leaf’s two-tier gauge layout is reminiscent of the Honda Civic. That setup works well here. While a few displays in the binnacle below the speedometer are unconventional, they’re easy to understand and read at a glance. Climate controls are self-evident, and the navigation system is fairly easy to program. Better yet, it can help locate charging stations and includes a helpful energy-usage meter.

Interior trim is comprised mostly of uninspired, budget-grade plastic. Given Leaf’s new-car price and high technology level, that’s not entirely inappropriate here.

A tall build and no available sunroof mean Leaf has ample headroom up front. Legroom is good as well, and seats are quite comfortable. On the downside, thick rear roof pillars and tall rear-seat headrests compromise rear visibility.

Backseat space is adequate all-around. Where the location of the battery pack hurts Leaf is in overall rear-seat comfort. Passengers back there sit slightly higher than those in front; however, the position of the battery pack forces riders to sit in a slightly knees-up position. This is fine for short trips, but it will likely be uncomfortable for adults during longer journeys.

Though Leaf is a hatchback, its cargo capacity is not as flexible as rival conventional compacts. For one thing, there’s a bar between the back of the cargo floor and the rear seatbacks. Those seatbacks fold but rest above the floor, which complicates loading bulky items. Cabin storage is fine for the class and includes moderately-sized door pockets, a center console, and a glovebox.


Model Tested: 2011 Nissan Leaf SL

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 5
Fuel Economy - 10
Ride Quality - 7
Steering/Handling - 5
Quietness - 4


Controls/Materials - 5
Room/Comfort Front - 7
Room/Comfort Rear - 4
Cargo Room - 4


Value - 7

Total: 58


4-door hatchback
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
106.3 175 69.7 61
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
24 NA 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
41.2 37.3 42.1 31.1
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2011 Nissan Leaf 4-door hatchback


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
Front Passenger Injury - 4

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Rear Passenger Injury - 5


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Description: The brakes may feel overly sensitive (grabby) below 15 mph and the intelligent brake control unit can be reprogrammed for better feel. (2011-13)
Keyless entry
Description: If owners have more than one Juke or Leaf (or both), the car may not run or the doors may not operate when both intelligent keys are present requiring replacement of the body control computer. (2011)

Recall History

2013-14 Leaf
Description: Certain 2013 and 2014 model Nissan Leaf vehicles may have an occupant classification system (OCS) control unit that can fail to recognize the front seat is occupied. This can result in the air bag failing to deploy during a collision.
2014 Leaf
Description: Certain 2014 model Nissan Leaf vehicles made between April 15, 2014 and April 24, 2014 may have have a problem with the motor control circuit board that can cause the inverter to fail and the vehicle to shut down.
2014 Leaf
Description: Certain 2014 model Nissan Leaf vehicles made between February 28, 2014 and March 12, 2014 may have a front structural member that is missing welds.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


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