2018 Nissan LEAF

Styling

Nissan toned down the styling of the redesigned 2018 version of the LEAF. The first-generation model’s bulging headlights and wide rear-end were replaced with a style in keeping with the rest of Nissan mainstream line-up. There are some design flourishes—like a rising beltline and blacked-out back pillar to give a sense of a floating roof—but they are restrained. Rounded and soft lines in the previous model were made crisp for a slightly sportier feel.

The headlights are now integrated into the body—wrapping around the edges of the car. The taillights also wrap around. The grille and front fascia are similar to a Sentra. The rear gets a stylish new tailgate that carries the lines from the window treatment. The new LEAF became more aerodynamic without resorting to the Prius-like curved roof that you see on other models including the Tesla Model 3 and Model X.

The mainstreaming of the LEAF’s design is not a bad thing. It was a conscious decision by Nissan to make its popular EV as accessible as possible to mainstream drivers. You can see the slightest carryover from the first-generation model but mostly as a token of continuity.

By and large, you could place the new LEAF’s design in the generic category of small hatchbacks. In fact, the Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Bolt are not entirely dissimilar in appearance, with the Bolt feeling more narrow and upright with its wheels pushed to the corners—and the new LEAF slightly more streamlined. Both models are more affordable and capable than models like the Fiat 500e or BMW i3, which have more curb appeal.

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Performance

The new LEAF is more powerful than its predecessor—increasing its power output from 107 horsepower to 147 horses, while its torque jumps from 187 pound-feet to 236 lb-ft. Nissan says that its more powerful inverter and improved control software also boost performance.

All electric cars are known for high-torque from zero rpm—a gearhead way to say that pulling away from a stoplight is a lot of fun. The combination of quietness and quick lift-off makes the LEAF a zippy good time in urban driving.

While the size of the new LEAF’s electric motor is nearly identical to the Bolt’s motor, Nissan says that its EV accelerates from zero-to-60 miles per hour in 8.5 seconds—compared to the Chevy Bolt’s quicker 6.3 seconds. This is probably based on software controls—although both cars possess plenty of oomph for easy highway merging and very quick moves from zero-to-40 mph.

The LEAF's battery pack is located under the floor beneath the seats, which helps it to feel stable and steady when taking corners. Overall, the excellent performance and handling of the LEAF—and its high-tech interior—give the Nissan EV a premium feel. The 2018 Nissan LEAF is quieter than its predecessor, thanks to noise-reducing strategies, such as acoustic windshield glass and improved insulation designed to eliminate any whine from the electric motor reaching the cabin.

Efficiency & Range

The new version of the world’s best-selling all-electric car gets a bump in driving range to about 150 miles (from 107 miles). The so-called LEAF 2.0 is equipped with a 40-kilowatt battery that enables the car to travel further on a single charge—beating out all other EVs except the 60-kWh 238-mile Chevrolet Bolt and vehicles offered by Tesla Motors. While the LEAF offers less range than those models, most buyers can expect to pay several thousands of dollars less for a LEAF than for a Bolt or Tesla Model 3.

2018 Nissan LEAF

The official EPA range numbers are not yet available but based on our rule of thumb—that a single kilowatt-hour yields about 3.5 miles of range—everyday drivers could easily achieve a real-world range of 140 miles in the 2018 LEAF. Careful drivers wanting to push efficiency to the limits of efficiency should have no problems exceeding 150 miles of driving on a single charge.

One of the pleasures of driving an EV with larger battery is the lack of concern about range. With the new LEAF’s 40 kilowatt-hour pack providing about 150 miles of range, everyday commuters will eliminate the “range anxiety” experienced in previous generations of EVs.

Charging

2018 Nissan LEAF

As found in competing models, the charging time for the 2018 LEAF is about eight hours via a 240-volt charging station or about 40 minutes to go from empty to 80-percent when using a public fast charger.

To use the public DC Quick Chargers that are becoming increasingly prevalent throughout the United States, you’ll need to purchase the LEAF with a CHAdeMO Quick Charge port.

Nearly every public quick charger uses the CHAdeMO standard, which is the same standard found in the LEAF’s fast-charging port. Very few drivers rely on quick charging on a regular basis, but it’s good to know that in a pinch on longer trips you could recharge to about 80-percent from empty in about 30 minutes.

Passenger & Cargo Room

The lower price tag arguably comes at the expense of class-leading range and a high-quality interior. Early reviews say the new LEAF lacks amenities such as a telescoping steering wheel and comes with abundant use of hard plastics. However, the 2018 LEAF does employ high-tech driver-assist features, such as ProPilot Assist, Nissan's lane-centering intelligent cruise control.

The LEAF seats five adults comfortably, even if without luxury features. Passengers in the back seat sit slightly higher than those in the front. Given its range, the LEAF is not intended as a long-distance highway cruiser—so the level of space and comfort is quite good for short and mid-distance trips, even when loaded with five passengers.

The new LEAF’s interior specs are a close match with its predecessor. On the outside, it’s 1.4 inches longer, nearly an inch wider, and a half-inch taller. The LEAF has decent cargo space—about what you would expect from a small hatchback. The cabin storage spaces, door pockets, center console and glove box are well designed and generous.

We expect standard infotainment features of the LEAF to include Bluetooth phone connectivity, automatic climate control, a four-speaker stereo, satellite radio and a USB port. Optional features include navigation, a seven-speaker Bose stereo, Pandora Internet radio capability, a backup camera, and Nissan’s Around View Monitor.

Safety

The 2018 Nissan LEAF has not yet been tested for safety. The outgoing model earned a respectable four stars for the four major scores given by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: overall rating, frontal crash, side crash, and rollover.

In its similar tests, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Nissan LEAF a “Good” rating, its top score. IIHS named the Nissan LEAF a “Top Safety Pick.”

2018 Nissan LEAF

Price

The price for the second-generation Nissan LEAF is $29,990 ($30,875 including destination). That represents a $700 drop—even as the range increases to 150 miles, with a similar bump in power. That’s the base price for the S trim. The price increased to $32,490 for the SV, which includes the S trim’s long list of standard features, adding Intelligent Cruise Control, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.

The new LEAF tops out at $36,200 for the SL. The more expensive trim brings luxury and high-tech features like heated seats, premium audio, blind-spot warning, and rear-cross traffic alert, and around-view monitor.

Purchase Process

Customers can go to www.nissanusa.com to reserve a 2018 LEAF from their EV certified Nissan dealer. It will become available in early 2018.

Nissan LEAF specifications

Availability: Now
Base MSRP: $29900
Est. tax credit: $7500
Technology: Electric Vehicle
Body type: Sedan
Seats: 5
EPA Range: 150 miles pure electric
Battery size: 40 kWh
Charging rate: 6.6 kW

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