Ok, let’s start with Good News, Bad News.
The Good News – for 2019 there’s a new LEAF PLUS model with more power, enhanced tech and improved range.
The Bad News – There wasn’t one in the fleet to test, so we go the current 40 KWH battery model.
Actually, it’s not that bad, in fact after spending a week with our LEAF, we’re not sure most buyers will need that new PLUS model.
A new LEAF
Introduced as a 2018 model, the all-new builds on the goodness that made the previous – and continues to be – the world’s best-selling EV.
The new model looks more like a member of the Nissan family. Smart, contemporary, stylish. Like the Kicks we recently tested, the LEAF features Nissan staples like the signature V-Motion grille, the boomerang lights, and the “floating” roof.
Letting it stand out from its siblings, there’s a clear-blue 3D mesh pattern with a “freezing” motif, and projector-beam headlights with dual, direct-lens low and high beams – a first for Nissan. At the rear, there are signature combination lamps that show from a distance, and a rear spoiler for those that get up close.
Overall, a handsome design, and with an 0.28 coefficient of drag, it’s sleek and efficient. Sitting on standard 17-inch alloy wheels, with our tester’s optional Scarlet Ember Tintcoat. Our LEAF looked Classy.
Bet you never give much thought to charging angle when plugging in – or filling up for that matter. But Nissan did, and points out that ergonomic testing shows that the 45-degree angle allows drivers of all heights to easily and comfortably connect the charger.
Inside the LEAF looks modern without going overboard into “futuristic”. Having come from the Kicks before testing the LEAF, everything felt pretty much at home. There’s no learning curve here to use the EV.
Like Kicks, there’s ultra-comfy Zero-Gravity front seats, and the rear seats are roomy for adults. A nice plus – since the LEAF is designed from scratch as an EV, the battery pack is well designed and out of the way, so cargo space is good, too.
Our SL trim tester felt extra plush too, with soft standard leather seats, sporty D-shaped leather steering wheel (heated too!), and a nice two-tone interior. Controls are clear, concise, and easy to use. We especially liked the shift nub (not knob) that feels a little like a mouse, a little like a game controller – but falls easily to hand.
Instrumentation reminds us of the Kicks as well, with an analog speedo on the right and customizable screens projected on the 7-inch driver info display. There’s also a 7-inch touch screen tablet-style display in the center, with the easy to use NissanConnect system, including navigation that will point you to the nearest charge, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You’ve got all the goodies, too, including a sweet-sounding Bose Audio system, heated front seats, and rear seat heater ducts on the SL.
An Electrifying Drive
One of the nicest surprises with the LEAF is how much fun it is to drive. Ok, it’s not a sports car, but even our 40KWH battery car felt crisp and quick – and with no gears, 100% instant torque, and no engine noise, it’s fun to watch the speedometer swing up as you whoosh along.
It also feels luxurious. The lack of noise, and good sound control makes the LEAF an ultra-quiet cruising companion. All the better to enjoy the Bose audio system, or just glide along in silence and enjoy the vibe.
If you want more fun, reach down and hit the e-pedal switch, and you go into one-pedal driving. Kind of like a bumper car, stepping down gives you power, holding the pedal lets you keep a steady pace, and letting up slows the vehicle and comes to a stop. Clever.
One piece of tech that we got a lot of use from was the ProPILOT Assist, Nissan’s combo of adaptive cruise control that can come to a complete stop – and start up again – and lane centering technology. Stop and go is cake, as the LEAF handles the tedious stuff, and the instant torque of the EV means there’s no lag with it keeping up. Awesome.
Tech is also looking out for you in a big way. Our well-optioned tester included Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Intelligent lane intervention, Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Parking was made simple with Intelligent Around View Monitor, serving up a 360-degree view, and the ability to get a front, rear, and curbside views. Moving Object Detection made backing out of crowded mall spaces a snap.
Range always comes into the conversation with an EV, and we found our 150-mile range to be fine. If you pine for the longer range of a Chevy Bolt (238 miles), the new LEAF PLUS is estimated to go around 226 miles. You’ll also get some more punch with a 215 hp electric motor, vs. our tester’s 147 hp.
Along with range comes charging, and LEAF makes it easy. With a DC quick charger, you can get 90 miles in just 30 minutes. Using a 240-volt hookup, a full charge will take about 7.5 hours – a convenient workday or overnight. You can even plug into a 120-volt outlet in a pinch, but figure on a 35-hour commitment.
What’s the charge?
Nissan doesn’t zap you for driving an EV like some others. The LEAF S starts at $29,990. The SV is the sweet spot in the line-up at $32,490, and adds 17-inch alloys, Navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Nissan’s suite of services with enhanced smartphone interactivity called NissanConnect EV.
Our SL started at $36,200, and Leather seats, Bose Premium Audio, Blind Spot Warning and Intelligent Around View Monitor. There’s even a Portable Charge Cable that lets you use a 240-V wall outlet without need a charging box.
We also had the Technology Package ($650), which gives you ProPilot Assist, Pedestrian Detection added to the Auto Braking, Intelligent Lane Intervention, High Beam Assist and an electronic parking break. A bargain. Add in Scarlet Ember Tintcoat ($395), some other small stuff and Destination ($895), and our tester rang the bell at $38,610.
There are also attractive rebates for EV buyers. There’s a federal kickback of between $5-7,000, and in our state of California, there’s an additional $2,500.
The most direct competitor is Chevy’s Bolt EV, and comparably-equipped it came in at $43,590. If you can get away with the LEAF’s 150-mile range, it comes across as a bargain. Or wait for the LEAF PLUS, which will probably be closer to the Bolt in price.
While we can’t wait to test the more powerful, longer range LEAF PLUS – we’d be plenty happy to own the 40 KWH model.
The 2019 Nissan LEAF is full of good news. A great drive, loads of tech, comfortable and safe. And a great price, too.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.