If you’re in the market for a Nissan Leaf but haven’t yet pulled the trigger, we’re betting your biggest holdup isn’t with the car’s estimated 73-mile range. It’s with the Leaf’s $36,000 to $38,000 price. That’s a lot of money for a car no larger than a Nissan Versa.
But you’re in luck, Captain Planet, as Nissan is keen to offer an updated, upgraded version of its little electric car for 2013, complete with a bigger cargo area, quicker charger, longer range, and even a lower price.
In Japan, Nissan has released details about the 2013 Leaf, with a new base model Leaf S that slots beneath the Leaf X (our Leaf SV) and Leaf G (Leaf SL). For starters, the Leaf S will come standard with 16-inch steel wheels and hubcaps instead of the 16-inch aluminum wheels currently available on all models. The aluminum wheels will continue to be standard on the mid-level model, while the top-trim Nissan Leaf G gets 17-inch aluminum wheels.
Along the way, Nissan has also given the lower-trim Leaf standard halogen headlights, whereas all Leafs have had ultra-efficient LED headlights in the U.S. The new car will also have a revised, quicker charging station that moves its on-board charger to under the hood of the car instead of under its cargo hold. That allows for a significant increase in space, and it should help halve charging time from the current car’s six hours, if industry sources are to be believed.
Additional upgrades include more efficient regenerative brakes, improved steering response, a leather-seat option, more efficient Bose stereo option, an Around View monitor, a power-saving heating system that can include a heated steering wheel in its options, a 176-pound weight reduction owing to upgraded electronics, smart charging to help the car fill its battery pack at off-peak times, and a 40-percent reduction in use of rare earth metals.
At $51,500, the top-level Japanese-spec Nissan Leaf doesn’t line up well with the $38,000 Leaf SL we drove earlier this year. Nor does the mid-level model which comes in at $45,000 in Japan, which helps explain perfectly why Nissan is localizing production of the Leaf in Tennessee for the 2013 model year. But when you factor in that the base price of the entry-level Nissan Leaf S is 19-percent cheaper than the top model, it suggests that we could very quickly see a Leaf coming to the States at a base price of $30,000 before the $7,500 federal subsidy is included.
Is it possible we’ll see the Leaf start butting heads with smaller competitors like the upcoming Chevrolet Spark EV and Fiat 500E while offering the space of a much larger car? We’ll likely see next week at the Los Angeles Auto Show, when the 2013 Leaf is expected to be introduced.