2018 Nissan Leaf: Video Review and Road Test
While Tesla certainly gobbles up more than its share of headlines when it comes to electric vehicles, EV pioneer Nissan Leaf has been toiling quietly in the background attracting converts to the technology among people whose rides usually cost less than $50,000. Expect that trend to continue with the all-new 2018 Nissan Leaf. It now boasts a usuable range of about 150 miles, keeps its affordability in check and has a look that is decidedly more mainstream than its odd-looking predecessor. Micah Muzio assesses the Leaf’s attributes in this Video Review and Road Test.
2018 Nissan Leaf Video Transcript
So, you want an electric car but you do not want to spend Tesla money? No worries, you've got choices. Believe it or not, the market is filled with accessibly-priced electric cars. Among the most prominent is the Nissan Leaf. Introduced in 2011, the Leaf helped make electric cars ever so slightly more mainstream.
With version 2.0 Nissan, hopes to continue that momentum. Like the original Leaf, the second generation has a practical hatchback design but that shape has been wisely sculpted to better mesh with the rest of Nissan's lineup. Look close and the zero emission badges and 3D grill treatment hint at the Leaf's electrified nature but overall it no longer screams I'm electric. These days it's more of a whisper.
Like a proper hatchback, the Leaf offers a hearty blast of practicality. Cargo space is a generous 23.6 cubic feet behind the rear seats, which can also be folded, though the transition is anything but flat. I mean your kid's favorite figurine could base jump off this ledge, if so inclined.
Plop down in the second row and you'll notice that the seats sit high stadium-style, giving the backseat passengers an excellent view of the world ahead. At the same time because they sit high, if you are tall enough and your hair is cool enough it might hit the headliner. I'm not cool enough but just barely.
Another interesting element is a conspicuous center tunnel that minimizes foot space for whoever's sitting in the middle position. What could possibly be there in a car that doesn't have a drive shaft or an exhaust system? The answer is nothing. Nissan has said the Leaf will be offered with a larger battery pack in the future. Perhaps some of that battery will cram in here. Regardless the tunnel is a minor imposition for occupants.
Overall the interior is thoughtfully arranged and outfitted. Nissan softened prime touch points and if you're sitting up front headroom is fantastic. That said, for my 5’10” frame, with the seat adjusted so my legs are comfortable, it's a long reach to the steering wheel because it does not telescope. Also, I've noticed that with my hands on the steering wheel there's no way for me to use either of the armrests. Then again who drives with two hands on the steering wheel these days? I barely even look.
Other random interior observations include sun visors that do extend but not quite enough, surprisingly deep glovebox, massive windows permitting a nearly unobstructed view out, and an infotainment system that works well enough but stretches the icons of my beloved Apple CarPlay...at least at the time this video was filmed.
Moving on, many of the Leaf's most compelling qualities emerge in motion. I talk all the time about the joy of instant electric motor torque. The Nissan Leaf springs off the line with enough gusto to occasionally spin the tires and, time permitting, also accelerate. Electric cars sometimes struggle at higher speeds but not the Nissan Leaf. When you hit its accelerator the electric motor immediately kicks in with passing power. For dangerously darting through narrow gaps in freeway traffic this is a fine tool.
Beyond sprightly acceleration, ride quality is really quite good. Road impacts are absorbed without drama, the chassis handles quicker than necessary corners without losing its composure, and the steering feels tight and responsive with just the right amount of heft. At high speeds there's a bit of wind noise, but then again, engine noise is non-existent.
For slowing down, the Leaf has regenerative brakes for converting motion into electricity instead of heat. It's great for efficiency, but like countless electric and hybrid cars through history a side effect is utterly unnatural brake feel. Press the brake pedal and the response is artificial, rubbery feedback, making it hard to stop smoothly.
No worries, Nissan has a solution. It's called E-pedal mode, a nifty feature activated by pulling this lever. Lift off the accelerator and the Leaf slows just like you have your foot on the brake except my foot is not on the brake. For more serious deceleration, like if a child were to jump out in front of me, I'd have to actually use the brake pedal but with a little forethought one pedal operation is completely possible. And it's almost fun. E-pedal mode comes standard and is smart enough to activate the brake lights when needed and even hold the vehicle in a stopped position on steep hills.
Exhaust the Leaf's estimated 150-mile range and you've got choices. While it's possible to charge the 40-kilowatt hour lithium ion battery pack with a regular 3-prong outlet, that could take several days. A more realistic choice is a 3.3-kilowatt home charger that tops off the battery in about 16 hours. Even better, higher trims can utilize a fast charger, shortening the wait time to eight hours. For ultimate speediness, Nissan also offers a DC quick charge option allowing an 80-percent charge in only 40 minutes, provided you have access to a DC charging station. However you juice up the charge, ports are angled at a convenient 45 degrees, so you won't have to squat to plug-in.
For around $31,000, including destination charges, the Nissan Leaf S includes automatic climate control, a 7-inch touchscreen, and automatic emergency braking. Keep in mind there's also a $7,500 federal tax incentive that cuts a healthy chunk off that asking price.
Among the Leaf's added-cost features are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, leather-trimmed seats, blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, Nissan's nifty around view monitor, LED headlights, Bose premium audio with a less than ideally placed subwoofer, and Pro Pilot Assist that combines active steering with dynamic cruise control to alleviate driver stress during commutes. In action you still have to as the driver, maintain complete attention at all times but the dynamic cruise function works really well, maintaining tight proximity with the vehicle ahead, instead of letting a big gap form where unscrupulous drivers can pour in like ice zombies past a non-functioning wall. Winter is coming!
As mentioned in the beginning, the Nissan Leaf has a ton of electric car contenders but the 800-pound gorilla is the Chevrolet Bolt. Yes, the Bolt's base price is thousands higher but its 240-mile range heartily trumps the Leaf's 150-mile range.
If a gasoline-powered security blanket doesn't offend your sensibilities a plug-in hybrid might make sense, the Chevrolet Volt, Hyundai Ioniq plug-in, Honda Clarity plug-in, and the Toyota Prius Prime each offer varying degrees of electric range along with a gasoline engine backup, ensuring you'll never be stranded for lack of electrons. Nonetheless, some people are drawn to the gas-free life. If you're ready to take the electric car plunge the Nissan Leaf is one of the most accessible ways to do so.