Since EVs need to maximize efficiency wherever possible, a couple of comfort features are unique. The climate control system is completely different from what you'd find on a car with an engine. While a typical heater relies on the engine warming up coolant and sending it through a core to create the heat blown into your cabin, Nissan's Leaf doesn’t have coolant or an engine to facilitate this process.
Similarly, most air conditioning systems rely on a belt-driven compressor that cools using refrigerant. EVs don’t have any belt-driven accessories, so the Leaf has to employ different solutions. Earlier models of the Leaf used electric heating and cooling systems, which put additional strain on the battery, resulting in lower range in hot or cold climates. That changed to a more efficient heat-pump system for the 2013 model year, though.
As with heat-pump systems in your house, the Leaf’s absorbs thermal energy from the outside air and compresses it to warm the cabin. Air conditioning works similarly, except the heat-pump takes hot air from inside the vehicle cabin and releases into the atmosphere to cool the interior. The system's benefit, of course, is energy savings. It takes a fraction of the electricity to run a heat-pump than the previous implementation. On the other hand, the heat-pump system doesn’t work as fast. Nissan’s workaround for warming you up more quickly is seat heaters on four of the five seats. The driver also gets a heated steering wheel.
If you're thinking ahead, the Nissan CarWings application lets you turn on the heater remotely. Or, you can set a climate control timer in the infotainment system, programming it to automatically turn on at a certain time. While this still consumes energy, the car can run its climate control system while the vehicle is plugged in, so it doesn’t affect your driving range.
The base model Leaf has standard halogen headlights that typically consume around 55W each. Optional on the SV and standard on the SL are LED headlights. But if you're expecting the super-bright elements seen on luxury vehicles, you'll be disappointed. Those higher-end solutions employ an array of LEDs and projectors to focus light. But Nissan uses LEDs to improve energy efficiency, so its solution isn't as sophisticated.
Instead, the Leaf LED headlights employ two LEDs per side with reflector housings to replace the halogen bulb. This casts a light that appears whiter than halogen, but not what most car enthusiasts would typically associate with an LED upgrade option.
Standard on the SL trim is a spoiler-mounted solar panel. The Nissan Leaf still has a standard 12V battery to run vehicle accessories and the heating system. Unlike cars with engines, which use a belt-driven alternator to keep the 12V battery topped off, the Leaf's EV battery system conditions the accessory battery. Naturally, the solar panel is too small to benefit the car's range. Instead, it just trickle-charges the 12V battery when you park outside.
Our test vehicle came with the premium package that includes Nissan’s Around View Monitor and Bose sound system. We love the 360-degree camera. Getting a complete view around the car makes parallel parking painless. And the Leaf's Around View Monitor is just as good as it was on the Infiniti JX35 we tested a couple of years ago.
The premium package's downside is the mandatory energy-efficient Bose sound system, which is simply terrible. I still haven't heard a Bose implementation that I like. The highs are alright, while mid- and low-range frequencies are barely there. There’s a subwoofer in the trunk, if you want to call it that, which more or less tries to trick you into thinking its mid-range output is bass.