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2013 Nissan Leaf: Spy Shots Of New, Less-Expensive Model

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With the first 2013 Nissan Leaf electric car expected to roll out of the Smyrna, Tennessee, plant in mid-December, many rumors have been flying about what changes the updated Leaf will have.

Now we have the first spy shots showing some of the modifications Nissan has made to create a new, less expensive Leaf model.

Taken just this morning by notorious spy photographer Brenda Priddy, the prototype 2013 Leaf shows many subtle but unmistakable signs of the changes Nissan has made to cut costs.

Most visible are the revised headlights, which dispense with the current Leaf's light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and use more conventional high-intensity discharge headlamp bulbs.

Also on the outside, Nissan has deleted the current alloy wheels and replaced them with black-painted steel wheels and dark grey plastic wheel covers.

We suspect the black-painted covers shown on the test car may be silver once they reach production, and with luck the black steel wheels underneath will be silver too.

Inside, the Leaf's current light-grey fabric upholstery--made of partially recycled fibers----has been replaced by less expensive black cloth.

The various interior trim and dashboard moldings are uniformly black plastic as well--probably less expensive, though perhaps more heat-absorbing for those in hot and sunny climates.

It also appears that Nissan has deleted the cruise control from the steering wheel, with a silver blanking plate on its right-hand side where those controls are now sited.

While the place where the center display screen sits is covered over with cloth on the test car, Nissan may be fitting a smaller or less expensive screen, or eliminating some capabilities of the current system.

It's unclear whether the company would go as far as deleting the navigation system, since most observers suggest that at this early stage, electric cars need to offer the ability for drivers to locate the nearest public charging station if range is getting low.

Other modifications, invisible in these photos, are said to integrate some of the power electronics and other elements of the running gear into components with fewer parts.

While a 6.6-kilowatt onboard charger has been confirmed as an option on some 2013 Leafs, this new low-cost model will undoubtedly stick with the slower 3.3-kW charger.

The 2013 Nissan Leaf will hit showrooms early next year, by March at the latest.

Production of lithium-ion cells for its battery starts this month at a brand-new fabrication plant adjacent to the Smyrna vehicle assembly plant.

2013 Nissan Leaf Spy Shots

2013 Nissan Leaf Spy Shots

Enlarge Photo

It's possible the new model might be called the 2013 Nissan Leaf S, following the company's nomenclature for other model lineups, which run from S through SV to SL.

While not all U.S.-built 2013 Nissan Leafs will carry this low trim level, it gives the company a much lower base price for the new model year.

Nissan says that most Leaf buyers today order the higher-spec SL trim, as against the base SV model, and that may continue for the 2013 model.

But if the current year Leaf carries a base price of $35,200 (including delivery), then with the pricey Japanese yen largely removed from the equation--and less standard equipment--how low could the Leaf really go?

Leave us your thoughts--and anything else you notice about the prototype car in the spy shots--in the Comments below.

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Comments (11)
  1. I love that they covered up the badges, as if there was any doubt this was a Nissan LEAF.
     
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  2. Leaf S ~ LeafS ~ Leafs

    Hmmm...

    Neil
     
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  3. Like the charcoal interior. A mix of flat charcoal/gray & glosy back accents should look nice together.

    Biggest visual change is head lights. No apparent external shape changes to clear cover, but the internal reflectors & lighting sources have been reworked & turn signal lights repositioned.

    Not seeing changes to physical appearance of the instrument panel gauges. Updates must be mostly software related?

    Are those environmental control knobs under the navigation panel cover?
     
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  4. I can't imagine those things will drop the price by $5k.

    But let us it does, there is probably a "marketing" push to low the starting price below $29,995. At that price, Nissan can Claim that Leaf is below $30k (the magic line) And combined with $10k in various federal and state incentives (CA), it will be a sub $20k car or $19,995 car.

    At that price, the Leaf should sell a lot... or it will at least put it at direct price competition against Prius C, Honda Insight and various econ box.
     
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  5. I am should proof read my own comment before I post... We need an "editing" feature on GCR.

    "But let us ASSUME it does, there is probably a "marketing" push to lowER the starting price TO $29,995."
     
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  6. Hmmm, I see a backup camera and a heated steering wheel wrapped in leather. The USB radio input is still there, too. Losing cruise would be a drag but they might not sell many S models since even SV's like mine sell in much lower numbers than the higher SL. I ended up picking the demo 2011 SV since it was $5K cheaper than the 2012 SL I ordered. I didn't need the extra SL equipment.
     
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  7. Don't really need cruise control on a car with a 73 mile range. I can hold my foot to the pedal for the short time it would take for the battery to run out. Smart choice for cost cutting.

    Would be nice to see it slot in under 30K bf subsidies.
     
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  8. The items deleted do not reduce cost by much. They bring much on the other side of the balance when offered and ordered as oprions.
    Small detail: when you use see through wheel covers in silver, the wheels themselves must be black tu suggest a void and let you see the design of the covers instead of creating just a silver blur.
     
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  9. calling it the "S" would be confusing. i opt for "SE"
     
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  10. somewhere I "think" i heard a suggested price of $31,000? does anyone else remember that or was i dreaming?
     
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  11. US production is a huge step forward, as vehicles imported from Japan are significantly more expensive than they could be if they were produced domestically. My guess? It will be under $30k, not including dealership delivery charges, and that package will be VERY hard to find at your local dealer.
     
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