Nissan LEAF
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The only purely electric car that’s sold pretty much everywhere is also the most useful; a $6,400 base-price reduction in 2013 added to the Leaf’s appeal.


A 107-horsepower electric motor is fitted inside the 3,500-pound Leaf; remove the lead from your foot and you might get up to 100 miles between charges.

The Nissan Leaf is doing a great job of convincing families that it would serve as a daily driver, and for 2014 has made the package even more appealing. New standard features include a rear-view monitor, while a full around-view monitor that shows a top-down view of what’s around you is now an option. Size-wise, the Leaf is somewhat larger than the Nissan’s compact Versa and, for comparison sake, nearly identical in size to Hyundai’s Elantra GT hatchack. That makes it big enough to comfortably transport up to five people and/or carry a respectable amount of cargo. Although not exactly a looker, the cute-in-its-own-way Leaf is definitely easy to spot, although it’s likely that you’ve never seen one in the flesh as they’re as rare as Ferraris. The inside is more pleasing and the control panel provides some unique operating functions, including connection to a “global data center” that allows drivers to receive assistance that ranges from technical support to entertainment selections. A dash-mounted display shows the level of battery power (or range) remaining and also indicates the location of the closest charging stations. Yet another optional system can remotely switch on the air conditioning through a cell-phone command and a remote-controlled timer can be preset to begin recharging the 192 lithium-ion battery cells located beneath the passenger compartment. The Leaf’s 80-kilowatt electric motor, which operates through a single-speed controller, produces the equivalent of 107 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. Fully charged, the Leaf’s top speed is 90 mph with a maximum range — not average range — of about 100 miles. The range might be sufficient, but if using a standard 110-volt outlet a full recharge takes 16 hours, while a 220-volt home charging station that comes standard with the up-level SL model cuts the time in half. However, 2014 models can get a special 6.6-kilowatt charger that reduces time by half again to about four hours. Quick refills using a special high-voltage DC (direct-current) fast charger will still restore the batteries to 80 percent of capacity in about 30 minutes. Base S models come with a trip computer, air conditioning, push-button start, power windows and locks, and 16-inch wheels. The SV comes with climate control, navigation system (helpful for finding the nearest charging port) and Bluetooth hands-free communications. The Leaf SL adds a rear-view monitor, universal remote and a photovoltaic solar panel spoiler that can supply energy to the Leaf’s 12-volt battery that runs head and fog lights. The pack is warranted for eight years or 100,000 miles.

Base price (incl. destination): $29,700 (before tax credit, 2013)
Type: Four-door compact hatchback
Base engine (hp): 80-kilowatt electric motor (107)
Layout: Front-motor, front-wheel-drive
Transmissions: Single-speed controller
MPG (city/hwy): 99 MPG equivalency
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags (std. sedan); anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
Weight (lb.): 3,370