The Leaf represents a risky move for Nissan: the company could be taking the lead on an entirely new automotive market, or impracticalities of range and recharging could lead to a flop. But current sales interest in the Leaf, along with industry development, points to the former.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
The Leaf is certainly a unique-looking car; its funky headlights and low nose help it stand out from the pack. The design mixes aerodynamic engineering and general practicality.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
The Leaf's headlights, sure to be a sore point for some, stick up high to channel air around the side view mirrors. Nissan found in testing that the side mirrors not only caused a lot of drag, but also produced a lot of noise as they cut through the air. In gasoline cars, that noise is masked by the sound of the engine.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
A hatch at the front of the car covers two charging ports. One port works with standard 110 and 220 volt outlets, and uses a J1772 standard plug, while the other works with DC rapid chargers, and is a proprietary Nissan design.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
What looks like a little four-cylinder engine under the hood is actually the power control module for the lithium ion battery pack and electric motor. Below it sits an 80 kilowatt motor that turns the front wheels.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
Although the front looks funky, the rear of the car shows classic hatchback style. This practical design allows comfortable space for passengers and a decent cargo area in back.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
As a pure electric car, there is, of course, not tailpipe. The suspension is very firm, which some people might find uncomfortable.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
With no tailpipe, the Nissan Leaf earns its zero emission label. However, emissions may be associated with generating the electricity that runs the Leaf. In the U.S., electricity generation varies greatly by region, but overall, coal plants generate the most, at just under 50 percent. Nuclear comes in second, at about 20 percent, with natural gas in third. All of these generation means are domestically sourced.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
The rear design of the Leaf is an intriguing as the front, with long taillights embedded into the rear pillars. In this SL-E trim car, a solar panel embedded in the roof, near the spoiler, helps recharge the car's 12 volt accessory battery.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
The cargo area has a deep well, creating a good amount of space for luggage, groceries, or other gear. The rear seats also fold down, but there is not a flat load floor.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
Included with the Leaf is this little bag containing an adapter cable. The end that plugs into the Leaf is a J1772 standard connector, while the other end is a simple three-prong grounded plug.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
Much of the interior is made from recycled materials. The seats are very cushy, and offer a lot of room. The rear seating area is also very accessible, with similarly comfortable seats.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
There is no wood trim or much leather in the cabin. Nissan went for modern materials such as soft plastics, as the Leaf is supposed to be a step forward.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
Steering is necessarily run through an electric power steering unit. It turns easily, but the feel is numb, without much road feedback. However, as the Leaf is far from a sports car, a very responsive wheel is not all that necessary.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
There are two instrument displays, with this top one showing a digital speed readout at the base of the windshield. A power gauge on the left grows virtual trees as a reward for efficient driving.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
This lower instrument display is more information laden. Its most relevant part is the battery level on the right, with the car's remaining range inset.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
This little puck is the drive mode selector. It does not have a fixed gate, as in most cars. Instead, after pulling the puck back to put the Leaf in drive, the puck moves back to a center position.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
The Leaf offers a standard suite of cabin tech, with typical Nissan controls on the steering wheel for the audio system and voice command.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
This navigation system comes standard with the car. The climate control buttons show a unique design, but using it shaves miles off the car's range.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
The main infotainment menu shows these simple buttons. The Car Wings buttons links to Nissan's telematics service.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
The information menu offers a variety of choices, from navigation to traffic to energy usage.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
The energy economy screen shows remaining range and efficiency expressed as miles per kilowatt hour. During our driving, it ranged from 4.4 to 4.6.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
The main energy menu shows driving range and the charging station database, and lets you set when the car should start charging up or turn on the climate control.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
The Car Wings menu shows such items as destinations found on Google maps and sent to the car from a PC.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
The hard-drive-based navigation system shows standard Nissan maps, and includes traffic. However, the Leaf does very well in traffic and gets the most range at low speeds.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
Under the destination menu are the usual options, with an added button for charging stations. The car saves any location where it happened to get charged up into its database.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
The navigation system shows a list of nearby traffic incidents, and route guidance can automatically avoid the worst jams.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
The voice command system offers full control over the phone, but is limited otherwise. It does not control the audio system, and only lets you enter saved destinations into the navigation system.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
The iPod menu, as with other audio sources, uses an attractive screen design. iPods connect to a USB port at the front of the console.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
The main iPod menu offers the usual means of navigating a music library, with categories for albums, artists, and genres.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
Satellite radio is also included in the Leaf. Along with music, it is also the conduit for traffic information into the car.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
The CD slot is hidden behind the LCD, not the best arrangement for easy access. But most people will probably use the iPod hookup or satellite radio.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
Bluetooth audio streaming is another convenient audio source for the car.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
The Bluetooth phone system lets you dial numbers with this onscreen keyboard or through voice command.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
The phone system downloads contacts from a paired cell phone, but also has a vehicle phone book, where you can keep numbers that need to be available for every driver of the car.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
The SL-E version of the Leaf includes this back-up camera, which shows distance lines and trajectory.

Back to review.

Updated:
Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET / Caption by:
Hot Galleries

CNET's Holiday Gift Guide

'Tis the season for a gadget upgrade

Check out these 8 tablets you'll want to bring home for the holidays.

Hot Products