Drivetrain: A 107-horsepower electric motor is attached to a single-speed controller that sends the torque to the front wheels.
As good and green as it is, the Leaf is no match for sliding gasoline prices. It and other electrics and hybrids have seen their sales severely affected as shortsighted buyers swarm all over larger vehicles with equally larger (and thirstier) engines. Although not exactly a looker, the cute-in-its-own-way five-passenger Leaf hatchback is easy to spot. The inside is pleasing, however, 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 smart-phone command and a remote-controlled timer can be preset to begin recharging the lithium-ion battery cells located beneath the passenger compartment. The Leaf’s 80-kilowatt electric motor produces the equivalent of 107 horsepower and 187 pound-feet of torque. Fully charged, top speed is 90 mph with a maximum range — not the likely range — of 84 miles. Optional for 2016 is a more energy-dense battery system that pushes that maximum to 107 miles. Either range might be sufficient for most typical commutes, but a full recharge using a standard 110-volt outlet takes 16 hours. A 220-volt home charging station cuts the time in half, so you will likely be opting for that. Quick top-ups via high-voltage DC (direct-current) public charging stations will 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 and a navigation system (helpful for finding the nearest charging port). The SL adds a rear-view monitor, 17-inch wheels, a universal remote and a photovoltaic solar panel spoiler that can supply energy to the Leaf’s 12-volt battery that runs headlights and fog lights. The pack is warranted for eight years or 100,000 miles.