Step Inside The Cabin
Step inside the Nissan Leaf and you’re treated to an interior appropriate for an economy car, albeit one that sells for almost $38,000. Fit and finish are good, though the materials leave a lot to be desired. The dashboard is devoid of soft-touch surfaces; it's rock-hard. Nissan does dress it up nicely with a nice texture. Still, it's not in the same league as some of the fully-loaded mid-size sedans out there.
The driver's seat is surfaced in leather, and offers great side bolster support. Nissan uses manually-adjustable seats to reduce weight (and cost, we imagine). They do lack a lumbar adjustment, but the seats really aren't bad as-is. The doors do feature soft-touch surfaces in the arm rest area, likely so your elbow doesn't hurt after hours of driving. The center armrest is soft as well.
I'm far less fond of the gloss black center stack, center console and window switch areas. Nissan seems to like dressing up the most-touched surfaces with glossy materials that make fingerprints apparent. Annoyingly, the base Leaf S has a matte black center stack and center console that doesn’t suffer this same issue. It's a lot easier to keep clean.
The steering wheel is covered in leather, similar to many other Nissan vehicles. It has an extra bit of girth for your thumbs at the 10 and two o’clock positions for added comfort.
Nissan's instrument cluster might give you flashbacks to the '80s, when vehicles had VFD digital clusters. Nissan opts for a two-tier dash layout similar to the current- and previous-generation Honda Civic. The top display shows a digital speedometer, clock, ambient temperature readout and eco meter. We like the digital speedometer; it’s placed nice and high so you don’t have to take your eyes too far off the road to check your speed.
I get annoyed when vehicles don't include digital clocks for telling the time easily. The Leaf has one though, and it's placed next to the speedometer. The eco gauge “builds trees” depending on how conservatively you drive, and I find it to be useless. It serves mostly as a guilt meter that I ignored it most of the time. It'd be preferable to get a battery temperature or charge indicator in its place.
Separate from the speedometer display is an instrument cluster directly in front of the steering wheel. It's purely digital, without a single analog gauge in sight. Typically, this is not my preference. But for some reason, the glow of Nissan's cluster brings back fond memories of my '90s childhood and driving dashboard toys.
Nissan packs plenty of useful information in the Leaf’s instrument cluster. There’s a battery temperature indicator on the left so you can keep an eye on the air-cooled pack. Regen and power use meters, battery charge, battery capacity and estimated range indicators allow you to monitor power consumption, available power and total capacity.
In the middle of the instrument cluster is a small display that serves as an extensive trip computer. There are actually two trip meters, but the important information conveyed is the battery percentage, energy economy (miles/kWh) and charge time estimation. That latter metric tells you how long it’d take to charge the vehicle to 100 percent on 120V (Level 1) or 240V (Level 2). When I first started driving the Leaf, this was the default display I used so I'd know how much downtime I was looking at. After a week, however, I just used the battery percentage indicator.