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Nissan Updates Leaf for 2013

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author photo by Jeffrey Archer March 2012
  • Updated Leaf gets a more efficient heater
  • Buyers can now opt for dark cloth interior
  • Optional leather upholstery could be controversial

Nissan is making several changes to its fully-electric Leaf hatchback for 2013 - and one revision might cause some controversy. The automaker recently announced that the 2013 Leaf will include a more efficient heater, a new dark cloth interior option and for the first time, available leather seats. But could that last change cause a flap among some groups who might object to the use of animal products in a vehicle touted for its environmental responsibility?

For Leaf owners, the addition of a more efficient heater and a dark cloth interior option will be welcome updates to the electric vehicle. Today's model is only offered with a light cloth interior, which isn't favored by all drivers and shows stains more easily than a darker interior. And since the heater requires energy to operate, it can be a large drain on the hatchback's battery during cold winter months. Although the automaker already improved the hatchback's heating system by adding a battery warmer to the 2012 Leaf, the latest upgrade is designed to improve the heater's efficiency even further.

The optional leather seating is expected to appeal to many potential buyers. That's because a large number of car shoppers considering the hatchback are used to driving more luxurious vehicles, but are wooed by the Leaf's status as the first mass-produced electric vehicle available in the U.S. It's also an important addition considering the Leaf's base price can reach as high as $40,000 depending on options.

But since leather upholstery comes from cowhides, could the new option cause the Leaf's "green" status to be called into question? Not so, says the Vegan Bits blog, written by Californians Jane and Lane Wright. After USA Today ran a story that said the new leather option could alienate Nissan's vegan customers, the blog announced that "just because the car manufacturer is offering leather seats as an option doesn't mean you need to disregard the vehicle as an option," further noting that the story is an example of "the media looking to drum up controversy where there really isn't any." Indeed, vegans interested in the car can still pick the standard cloth seats, which don't use any animal products and thus align with vegan beliefs.

Nissan has yet to announce an on-sale date for the 2013 Leaf, but we expect the revised hatchback to arrive in dealerships later this year. Pricing is expected to increase only slightly from the current base price of around $38,000 including destination.

What it means to you: With its updates for 2013, the Leaf becomes even more appealing than before.

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Nissan Updates Leaf for 2013 - Autotrader