2012 Green Car Buyer’s Guide, Nissan

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The Ultimate Green Car Buyer’s Guide > Nissan

2012 Green Car Buyer’s Guide, Nissan

2012 model year highlights from Nissan: the Leaf and Versa.


Compiled by Megan E. Phelps, John Rockhold,
Hannah Kincaid, Emily Glover,
Bradley Berman and Zach McDonald

See “What the Numbers Mean” in The Ultimate Green Car Buyer’s Guide, 2012 for a full description of the metrics we collected for each model.

Nissan Leaf

Electric, Compact Hatchback

Price Range: $36,000 – $38,000
City/Hwy/Combined MPGe: 106/92/99
Annual Fuel Cost: $600
Air Pollution Score: 10
Greenhouse Gas Score: 10
ACEEE Green Score and Class Ranking: 55/Superior
Safety Ratings: IIHS Top Safety Pick; 5-star NHTSA rating
Space: N/A/seats 5
Drive Score: 4
Similar Used: 2011

Good to Know:

  • The Leaf earns high marks for its driving characteristics — gentle handling, solid feel and quasi-luxury features.
  • The battery range of the Leaf is estimated at 100 miles.
  • A full charge can take seven hours on a 240-volt outlet and 20 hours on a standard 120-volt outlet. The quick charge port does not come standard.
  • The dashboard state-of-charge estimate is called a “guess-o-meter” by some Leaf owners because it can mislead drivers about the amount of remaining range.

What the Press Says:

  • “Nissan has done a spectacular job in creating what’s frankly the world’s first quasi-affordable, smooth-riding, solid, quiet, comfortable and well-made electric commuter car.” — Motor Trend
  • “If there’s any overarching sense from being behind the wheel, it’s that the electric Leaf is simply a car. … Few things stand out and that’s exactly its point. Nissan isn’t out to change the driving experience.” — Autoblog

What Drivers Say:

  • The Leaf drivers we heard from love their vehicles, and especially love never buying gas. Two Leaf drivers, Jill Garabedian and Alice Cantelow, both of California, gave us reports on their experiences with vehicle range and charging. Garabedian notes that charging the car at home has led to no appreciable difference in her electric bill. And there’s an emerging etiquette for using charging stations, Cantelow notes. Some drivers will leave a card on their dash, saying when their cars can be unplugged. Read their full reports in Real-World Green Car Reports.

Nissan Versa

Gasoline, Compact or Hatchback

Price Range:
$11,800 – $15,600
City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 30/38/33
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,700
Air Pollution Score: 5
Greenhouse Gas Score: 8
ACEEE Green Score and Class Ranking: 49/Above Average
Safety Ratings: IIHS Top Safety Pick (sedans); 4-star NHTSA rating
Space: 90 cu. ft. p.v./seats 5
Drive Score: 3
Similar Used: Sedan redesigned for 2012; hatchback: 2010, 2011

Good to Know:

  • In 2010, the Versa was the best-selling small car in the United States, with nearly 100,000 units sold.
  • Updated for 2012, the Versa’s fuel economy has increased 3 to 4 mpg across the board, placing it in a position to compete with a number of new, affordable small cars that had recently surged ahead of the Versa in efficiency.
  • The lowest-trim Versa is one of the most inexpensive cars on the market. Unfortunately, the manual transmission that accompanies the $11,000 entry-level Versa gets 10 percent lower fuel economy than the $13,100 automatic.
  • Winner of a Kelley Blue Book Total Cost of Ownership Award for a “real-world bottom line” that’s the best in its class.

What the Press Says:

  • “It’s tough to argue with the idea that the Versa could convincingly stand in for cars with larger footprints. There’s plenty of space, a useful hatchback body style, and it’s rather comfortable.” — Autoblog
  • “The Nissan Versa exemplifies the ways in which compacts have evolved beyond just being cheap and fuel efficient. Like other vehicles in this growing segment, the Versa combines excellent fuel economy, solid build quality and space-efficient interior design while remaining very affordable.” — Edmunds.com
  • “The Versa’s best assets are its low price, decent steering, comfortable ride and fields of legroom.” — Automobile
  • “The car drones as it gathers speed, and the continuously variable transmission accentuates engine noise. Handling, though secure, lacks agility.” — Consumer Reports

More 2012 green cars: Find details about many more green cars from other automakers in The Ultimate Green Car Buyer’s Guide, 2012.

Photos from Nissan