2018 Nissan LEAF

Styling

Nissan toned down the styling of the redesigned second-generation 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 the 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. 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 LEAF slightly more streamlined. Both models are more affordable and capable than models like the Fiat 500e or BMW i3, which have more appealing yet polarizing designs.

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Performance

The LEAF Plus, which went on sale in March 2019, has an impressive 50-percent increase in range. But there’s also a 46-percent increase in power from its motor. The jump from 147 horsepower to 214-hp can be felt on the road, especially when making passing maneuvers on the highway.

The extra acceleration is less palpable in city driving. Perhaps the 300 pounds of weight in the long-range version puts some limit on performance—even with an electric motor that is nominally more powerful.

Nissan officials said the LEAF Plus’s zero-to-60 time is about 7 seconds, a one-second advantage over the standard LEAF. For comparison, the Chevy Bolt reaches 60-mph in 6.3 seconds.

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 Nissan LEAF is very quiet, 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 base-level second-generation LEAF upped its range to 151 miles in 2018. But these days, 200 miles is pretty much the bogey for a real EV. Fortunately, the 62 kilowatt-hour 2019 LEAF Plus is rated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for 226 miles of range.

2018 Nissan LEAF

Jeff Wandell, manager of EV communications for Nissan, said, “We’re in the game now.” For most daily purposes, the Nissan LEAF Plus offers the same amount of practical range as the 238-mile Bolt or 239-mile Kia Niro EV. The leader of the pack for affordable range is the 258-mile Hyundai Kona Electric.

If you’re on a tight budget and don’t expect to take frequently long-distance EV trips, the base version of the LEAF—rather than the LEAF Plus—can provide 151 miles of range via a 40-kilowatt battery.

The official EPA efficiency numbers put the standard LEAF at 112 MPGe, which breaks down to 99 MPGe on the highway and an impressive 124 miles per gallon equivalent in the city. Careful drivers wanting to push efficiency to the limits of efficiency should have no problems exceeding EPA estimates. With that kind of range, everyday commuters will eliminate the so-called range anxiety experienced in previous generations of the Nissan EV.

Charging

2018 Nissan LEAF

Using a 240-volt home charging station, you can add about 20 miles of range in one hour. The bigger-battery Nissan LEAF Plus has the advantage of offering nearly 80 more miles of range compared to the standard version. The 6.6-kW home charging rate—again about 20 miles added per hour— is the same for both models. So, of course, the estimated 7.5 hours it takes to fully charge the lower-range model is quicker than the 11 or so hours to fill up the 237-mile Plus version.

However, keep in mind that the vast majority of drivers will ever return home with a battery at zero state-of-charge.

Take note that the LEAF Plus’s standard portable charging unit—stowed away in the hatch— can now handle Level 2 240-volt charging. So purchasing a separate home charger is not entirely necessary.

When using a public quick-charger, you might very well need to recharge as fast as possible. Most public highway quick-chargers these days have a limit of 50 kilowatts. So expect to need about 40 minutes to charge the standard range LEAF from empty to 80 percent. The Nissan LEAF Plus will take 60 minutes to go from empty to 80-percent capacity—leaving you with about 180 miles of range before needing another electric pit stop.

Fortunately, the new Nissan LEAF Plus can handle a 100-kW jolt of power from a quick charger. That reduces the 80-percent refill back down to 40 minutes. Nissan essentially future-proofed the Plus version for when those 100-kW CHAdeMO chargers become available. The rollout could be slow at first, but those higher-capacity quick-chargers will become increasingly available.

Nissan remains committed to the CHAdeMO standard and the use of passive air cooling of the battery (rather than liquid-cooling). The company stands by these technologies to adequately protect the longevity of the battery—even in scorching conditions.

Passenger & Cargo Room

The LEAF's attractive price tag arguably comes at the expense of a high-quality interior. Nissan does a decent job of combining hard and soft plastics into a pleasant cabin experience. The LEAF uses a racing-style steering wheel, which is nicer than what’s used in the Chevy Bolt. The LEAF’s seats provide more support than the Bolt’s thin cushions. The Plus’s larger 8-inch screen, now with pinch-and-zoom gestures, is a nice upgrade.

Reviewers say the LEAF lacks amenities such as a telescoping steering wheel. However, the LEAF is available with 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 snug and slightly higher than those in the front. The LEAF is not necessarily the most comfortable highway cruiser, but the level of space and comfort is quite good for short and mid-distance trips, even when loaded with five passengers.

The LEAF has decent cargo space—23.6 cubic feet of available stowage— 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. Still, the LEAF is not as spacious as the competition. The Nissan EV provides 92.4 cubic feet of passenger volume—compared to the 94.1 cubes in the Hyundai Kona EV; 94.4 in the Chevy Bolt; and 96.6 cubic feet offered by the Kia Niro EV.

Tall drivers should take a thorough test drive to make sure they are comfortable in the driver’s seat, which doesn’t have a lot of travel for stretching long legs. The seating position is also relatively high, potentially limiting visibility forward.

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 2019 Nissan LEAF has not yet been crash tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The IIHS gave the 2018 model the highest possible “Good” scores in the moderate overlap front, side, and head restraints and seats.

The LEAF offers a long list of standard safety features, including a rearview camera and automatic emergency braking. Available features include rear cross traffic alert, high-beam assist, driver drowsiness monitoring, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, pedestrian detection, and a 360-degree parking camera. ProPilot Assist semiautonomous technology is also available.

2018 Nissan LEAF

Price

The Nissan LEAF, with the 40kWh battery and up to 150 miles of range is $29,990 ($30,875 including destination). That’s the base price for the S trim. The price increases 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 Standard 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.

Pricing for the new, 229-mile LEAF Plus starts at $36,550 for the S trim. The upgrade to the SV and SL versions bring similar features as found in the Standard LEAF. The SV starts at $38,510, with the loaded SL version reaching $42,550. The destination charge is $895.

Nissan offers a 8-year/100,000 mile warranty on lithium-ion battery pack which also includes battery capacity loss protection.

Nissan LEAF specifications

Availability: Now
Base MSRP: $29900
Est. tax credit: $7500
Technology: Electric Vehicle
Body type: Sedan
Seats: 5
EPA Range: 226 miles pure electric
Battery size: 62 kWh
Charging rate: 6.6 kW

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