Lower priced LEAF to be available
Let me warn you now – if you want to learn about the changes to the 2013 LEAF you might as well grab a cup of coffee (or perhaps a stronger beverage of your choosing), and make yourself comfortable. We’re going to be here for awhile.
First up – there are no radical changes to the car. The body style remains the same although wheel styles have changed with 17 inch alloys served up as standard equipment on the SL model as can be seen above. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start with the general changes for the 2013 lineup, then we’ll take a closer look at the three trim levels – the new lower cost S trim level, SV, and SL.
Obviously, there is a new color – Nissan calls it Metallic Slate. This color can be seen on a 2012 Nissan Maxima. In addition, there will be another white available – Glacier White. The electric motor has been redesigned to improve efficiency. Horsepower remains the same at 107, but torque has been reduced from 207 lbs.-ft. of torque to 187 lbs.-ft. of torque for 2013. Just for review – horsepower gives you speed (as in top speed), torque gives you acceleration. Which means you probably just figured out for yourself that the 2013 is likely to be a bit slower off the line. The 2013 will be carrying around less weight than the 2012 did, but the offset is likely not enough to make up for a loss of 20 lbs.-ft. of torque. The final drive ratio remains unchanged for 2013. Top speed should remain the same.
The SV and SL receive 6.6 kilowatt onboard chargers halving charge time. The S receives a 3.6 kilowatt charger, with the option to upgrade to the faster unit. Whichever one you get, it has been moved to the front of the car under the hood creating more cargo room. The traction battery remains unchanged. Nissan expects a slight improvement in range based on the weight reduction (35 pounds for the SL and 75 pounds for the SV) and improved electric motor efficiency (press release found here). There is now a third drive mode in addition to Normal and Eco – B-mode engages regenerative braking more aggressively while decelerating. One can only hope that Nissan has provided a fair amount more regen than the current version. This change could make the LEAF much more fun to drive on windy mountain roads. We’re hoping for more Smart Electric Drive like regen, as opposed to Mini E seasickness inducing regen. The parking brake is now a traditional mechanical foot operated parking brake as opposed to the current electrically operated parking brake. Nissan includes remote operation of the charge door release, as well as a charge port light and lock. Small but important – sun visor extensions are now standard. The light gray interior color, long lamented by many LEAF owners due to its light shade, will be retained only on the SV. Black interior will be the only choice on the cloth S and leather SL interiors. Black interior will be a newly available choice on the SV also.
In order to offer a more attractive starting price Nissan has decontented the S trim level. No word on production mix of the three trim levels, but don’t expect to find very many S LEAFs on your local dealer’s lot. [UPDATE: According to early word, the S will be a big part of the initial mix.] What did Nissan leave out? The list isn’t too long, but it does contain some notable items. Rather than providing a list of what you get, (as you can find all of that on the Nissan website for the 2012 LEAF), we will give you the features that you will not find on the 2013 S trim level (that you will find on the 2013 SV):
- 6.6 kilowatt charger (optionally available, which also gets you the quick charge port and rear view monitor)
- B mode on the shift lever
- Cruise control
- Alloy wheels (Standard equipment includes 16 inch steel wheels with wheel covers)
- LED headlights (replaced with halogen units)
- Passenger seat map pockets
- Seven inch display (replaced with 4.3 inch display)
- Navigation system
- Auto dimming rear view mirror
- New heat pump heater system
Not a really long list, when you look at it. But there are some key items to assist with the weight and cost reduction program. Notably the navigation system is missing, along with its 7 inch display. Steel wheels reflect cost saving, rather than weight saving goals. While we expect perhaps a slight price reduction, or certainly no price increase on the SV and the SL with their improved content that we will see momentarily, we don’t expect the price of the S to be less than $30,000. One other cost saving move is the interior upholstery choice in the S. Nissan has moved away from the static electricity inducing recycled soda bottle seat fabric to less expensive cloth seat fabric (but only on the S). Heated seats front and rear are retained. We may be proved wrong when Nissan announces pricing (which would be fine with us), but we just don’t see that great a price reduction with the content elimination combined with domestic production. We’ll find out soon enough.
Next up – the middle SV trim level. Now we will talk about those features added to those found on the S.
All of those features that we listed above as being not available on the S? Add them to the SV, except for the LED headlights. For 2013 the SV loses the LED headlights which are replaced by halogen units.
There are two option packages available for the 2013 SV. First is the LED headlights and quick charge port. This package provides these two items in addition to auto on/off headlights, and fog lights. The second is a Premium Package that includes Nissan’s Around View Monitor and a seven speaker Bose audio system. If you are not familiar with the Around View Monitor, its name describes the feature well. There are four cameras mounted to the LEAF exterior (front logo, rear license plate hood, and both outside rearview mirrors). When the LEAF is placed in reverse, or driving forward at very low speed, the four camera views are stitched together to show a view all around the vehicle. Great for parking in tight spots, or checking for those pesky short parking lot stanchions.
The top line SL trim level remains pretty well equipped. The quick charge port is standard. New 17 inch alloy wheels with low 50 series Michelin Energy Savers are standard. LED headlights, auto on/off operation of said headlights, and fog lights are also standard. Nissan retains the gimmicky (and pricey) photovoltaic solar panel spoiler on the SL. One of the most notable changes is found on the inside – the move to standard black leather interior. And we hope you adhere to the Henry Ford school of thought regarding color (this time on the inside), as you can have any color you like as long as it’s black. Cargo area cover and HomeLink are retained as standard equipment. Again, the Premium Package is available with Bose and the Around View Monitor.
We wrote about several of these expected changes back in November, with the lauch of the 2013 LEAF in Japan, so we can’t say that we are surprised at most of them. It seems that the Japanese LEAF was able to shave more weight for some reason. The US 2013 LEAF S is 119 pounds lighter than the 2012 SL. The Japanese version announced a weight savings of 175 pounds. Based on this, we doubt that we will see a fuel economy improvement of 14 percent, as we projected in November. Still, we could see an improvement of eight to ten percent, which could put the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) range up to around 80 miles.
One other new addition this year is the instrumentation change to show the battery state of charge percentage as opposed to just having a coarse 12 bar display.
We hope that we haven’t put you to sleep with this long report, but we wanted to get all of the pertinant info out in one shot. According to a Nissan video, look for the 2013 LEAF to be on dealer lots as early as February. (Found here – Select Videos, then REPORT video). Personally we would be very surprised if that turns out to be the case. Look for pricing to be released by Nissan at the North American International Auto Show next week.