Another thing I was eager to check out is the spoiler solar panel: this is an upgrade on the SL. The solar panel is little, about the size of a keyboard, but enough to power the car accessories (everything in the car short of the engine, external lights, and AC). As my final comment on the exterior, I do want to add that Nissan took a bold shaping approach with the lighting (LED low voltage) and bumpers of the Leaf, making it stand out as a very noticeable car.
Two things were particularly surprising: the amount of space and simplicity inside. The LEAF has an astounding amount of head room. My boyfriend who is 6’ also noticed the difference as compared to our Civic, this is much more spacious.
My test vehicle had a light gray interior with soft cloth seats. Everything felt tranquil and open, including the dashboard which is not over cluttered and follows a minimalist aesthetic. This is the result of thoughtful design: the car is void of excess buttons and controls even though it comes loaded with Bluetooth®, cruise control, USB, Back up Camera (in the SL), full sound system with satellite radio, and a very efficient HVAC package. The only potential down side is that the dashboard is relatively high in front of the driver and I can imagine my sister, at 5’2” needing to use a cushion in order to see over the dashboard since the Leaf doesn’t come with a manual seat height adjuster. For me at 5’5”, however, the height was perfect so I’m merely being a devil’s advocate here.
The LEAF is easy to drive, and it’s fun to use the palm shifter. I took the spunky EV through Noe Valley, a hilly residential neighborhood in San Francisco. This area has high foot traffic; folks jogging with babies or walking their dogs. Therefore, this is a great place to put any car’s brakes, acceleration, and steering to the test. The steering feels very light and at slow neighborhood speeds you feel as though you are gliding through the turns. I didn’t know what to expect with regard to stopping and going but this car responds well to both and is quite zippy.
I do have to comment on the LEAF’s range, which is quite impressive! The mileage range on this car is 80-100 miles per full charge (which I’ll shorten to mpc) depending on driver behavior. For example, for city or country-road driving where you aren’t accelerating an awful lot and you aren’t running too many accessories you can easily get 100 mpc with the car shifted into Eco mode. On the flip side, if you drive above 60 mph and spend your time lane-switching and revving up to pass other cars while running the AC you will see your mileage dwindle down closer to 80 mpc. Still, 80 mpc is amazing!