2015 Nissan Leaf

What's new for 2015? For 2015, the Nissan Leaf adds a more aggressive regenerative braking mode to the base model, and voice-to-text messaging and navigation voice command to SV and SL models. The SV also now gets 17-inch wheels.

Nissan introduced the Leaf back in the 2011 model year, an epoch relative to modern technology's timeline. In that span, electric vehicles have evolved from auto show novelty to mainstream business case, largely thanks to the Leaf. It pioneered the segment by driving like a regular compact car but with the affordability of a family sedan and persuaded thousands of shoppers to make the EV leap. Short of spending three times as much for a Tesla Model S, shoppers looking for a capable all-electric car will be pleased with the 2015 Nissan Leaf.

How long it takes to recharge the battery depends on the Leaf trim level. The base S trim comes with the slower 3.3 kW onboard charger, but all others have the quicker 6.6 kW charger. With this upgraded charger hooked to a 240-volt station, a full charge takes about four hours. The Leaf also features an optional quick-charge port. Together with a special high-capacity power source, it allows you to charge the battery to 80 percent capacity in a claimed 30 minutes.

Part of the Leaf's charm -- and success -- comes from its comfortable cabin with cutting-edge technology that doesn't intimidate. You won't need a computer science background to operate the Leaf's various bells and whistles, and the cabin is pleasant and roomy. There's also impressive space for cargo and, of course, hatchback utility.

Exterior Highlights
Electric four door hatchback available in S, SV, SL trim levels

The all-electric 2015 Nissan Leaf is a four-door hatchback available in three trim levels: S, SV and SL.

Standard features for the base S model include a 3.6 kW onboard charger, 16-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors, full power accessories, keyless ignition and entry, automatic climate control, a trip computer, heated front and rear seats, cloth upholstery, a six-way manually adjustable driver seat (four-way passenger seat), 60/40-split-folding rear seats, a tilt-only heated steering wheel, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a 4.3-inch color touchscreen, a rearview camera and a four-speaker CD player with iPod/USB input and satellite radio.

Stepping up to the SV trim gets you a 6.6 kW charger, 17-inch alloy wheels, a navigation system with a 7-inch touchscreen, Nissan's Carwings telematics to remotely monitor and manage charging and climate control, a more efficient heating system for better range in cold weather, cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, partially recycled cloth upholstery and a six-speaker audio system with Pandora integration for smartphones.

The range-topping SL trim adds automatic LED headlights, foglights, a quick-charger port, a solar panel mounted on the rear spoiler to help power accessories, leather upholstery and a cargo cover.

Options are sparse and grouped into packages. The S model can add the 6.6 kW charger with the quick-charge port, and the SV can be upgraded with the automatic LED headlights, foglights and quick-charge port. Both the SV and SL model are eligible for the Premium package, which adds a seven-speaker Bose stereo and a 360-degree parking camera system.

Battery pack located beneath the seats, airy cabin, logical menus in central touchscreen, physical buttons for climate control

The 2015 Nissan Leaf's battery pack is located under the floor beneath the seats, a design that contributes to the car's airy cabin and rear seats roomy enough even for tall passengers. There's no shortage of headroom in the first row, though taller drivers may find their legs a bit cramped. Cargo room behind the rear seats is generous, at 24 cubic feet. Folding them flat increases maximum capacity to 30 cubes.

Despite the Leaf's economy car roots, the interior is surprisingly pleasant. There's a strong emphasis on modern design, with a large center stack in the middle of the dash housing most of the car's system controls. Split-level instrument panels reinforce the high-tech feel with sharp graphics that relay key information. Interior materials are also slightly above average for an EV in this price range.

Logical menus in the central touchscreen and physical buttons for the climate control make operating the Leaf's many systems a snap. With this display and the Carwings telematics, owners can schedule charging times during off-peak hours for more favorable utility rates. Plugging into a standard 110-volt household outlet is best reserved for when you can park the Leaf overnight. For most owners, a 240-volt home charging station is almost a necessity.

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