First launched in 2010, the all-electric Nissan Leaf became one of the first mass-market full-EVs available for purchase. Nine years on, the Leaf has become the best-selling electric car in the world. The original Leaf was truly a cutting edge piece of technology at the time, but it also highlighted the problem with the developing segment of electric cars. With an original range of 73ish miles, the Nissan Leaf couldn’t do much more than short commuting duty.
Fast forward to February 2018, and the launch of the second-generation Nissan Leaf. The new Leaf debuted with a 40kWh battery pack and a 151-mile range, over double the original Leaf’s range. While this went a long way in solving the range anxiety problem for most, those of us who live in sprawling places like Texas still need a bit more range to feel comfortable.
Enter the new for 2019 longer-range Leaf variant, the Nissan Leaf Plus.
Powered by a 62kWh lithium-ion battery, the Leaf Plus generates 214 horsepower and 250lb-ft of torque through a single-speed transmission to the front wheels. All this torque is available instantly, and the Leaf Plus accelerates away from a stop with a sense of urgency. Be clear though that there is no chance of lighting up the front tires and doing a burnout at the stoplight. Nissan says that the Plus takes roughly 7 seconds to reach 60 miles per hour. While not exactly the rocket that a Tesla Performance model is, the Leaf Plus is plenty fast for day to day driving and merging duty in traffic. The instant torque is especially great for passing duty on the highway. Nail the throttle and you are greeted with a visceral rush of acceleration from all that instant torque.
For those interested in squeezing every mile of range out of the Leaf Plus, Nissan offers a very aggressive Eco mode. Eco mode fights to limit accelerator input at the lowest levels necessary to keep the vehicle moving in order to reduce battery drain. I personally find the Eco mode to be extremely intrusive, as throttle response practically non-existent. Instead, I preferred driving the Leaf Plus without Eco mode, and with the drive mode set to B which allows aggressive battery regeneration while coasting or slowing down. There is also an e-Pedal feature that allows for single-pedal driving, which I tried once and decided it wasn’t for me. It’s an interesting concept, but again, forces a relearning of driving style with an EV. As I’ve said before, I wanted to mimic the driving style of a normal ICE car with the Leaf Plus.
Otherwise, I drove the Leaf Plus just as I would any other car. My commute loop is 27 miles each way, with about 10 of those on city roads and the rest on 80+ mile per hour Texas highways. Over 200 miles of driving, I averaged a very respectable consumption of 4.0 miles/kWh without really doing anything differently than I would in a normal ICE vehicle. The kicker is the recharging aspect of any EV. Forget trying to own an EV with only a standard 120v outlet at your disposal. You are looking at a charge time of 30+ hours from empty, and even 18 hours with only 40% battery used. EV buyers MUST opt to install a 240v dedicated outlet for EV charging purposes to even remotely have reasonable charge times.
Normal is exactly how I’d describe the rest of the Nissan Leaf Plus experience. It looks like a completely normal but stylish hatchback. The interior is one of the best in Nissan’s lineup, with slightly futuristic-looking seats and fairly nice materials throughout. Being a hatchback, the Nissan Leaf Plus also wins points for practicality. With the rear seats up, the Leaf Plus yields 23.6 cubic feet of cargo space and 30 cubic feet with the seats folded down.
The Leaf Plus also features lots of standard technology, including an 8-inch touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a seven-speaker Bose stereo system, and a digital instrument cluster. There aren’t any quirky features or displays that constantly remind you that you are driving an EV either. Instead, the Nissan Leaf Plus provides buyers the traditional driving experience they are used to, relying on the magic to happen behind the scenes.
Standard driver assistance features on the Leaf Plus are limited to automatic emergency braking, but our tester was equipped with Nissan’s semi-autonomous ProPilot system, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, and a 360-degree Around View Monitor.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time with the Nissan Leaf Plus. It’s a sharp-looking car by any standard, with the added benefit of being environmentally friendly. Better yet, the Leaf Plus accomplishes this without feeling like they’ve compromised the driving experience. Buyers don’t have to give up a normal driving experience with a normal driving range in exchange for being responsible.
It’s worth noting, however, that there are several more competitors on the market aimed squarely at the Nissan Leaf. There’s the Chevy Bolt with a higher range, but with far less technology and a more spartan interior. There’s also the Korean duo of the Kia Nero EV and Hyundai Kona Electric. Both offer slightly higher range than the Leaf Plus, and a slightly more robust technology suite at a similar price. The catch is both are only available in limited markets, whereas the Leaf Plus is on sale nationally. The point is, the Leaf Plus is a fantastic vehicle, but it must continue to evolve to stay competitive.
The improvements Nissan has made to the Leaf Plus make it an extremely compelling package, and will certainly attract ICE converts to the EV lifestyle. In fact, if I were in the market for an EV for myself, the Leaf Plus is the one I’d buy right now. Time will tell though if the Leaf Plus has the staying power to remain the best-selling EV of all time, or if it will fall to the newer players in the EV marketplace. Competition is good for innovation though, and I can’t wait to see what Nissan continues to do to evolve the Leaf into the future.
2019 Nissan Leaf Plus
Base Price – $42,550
Price as-Tested – No Additional Major Options
Warranty – 3 Year/36,000 miles bumper-to-bumper, 5 Year/60,000 mile powertrain and electric vehicle system, 8 Year/100,000 mile Lithium-ion battery warranty
EPA EV Range Rating – 215 miles / 104 MPGe
Vehicle provided to Speed:Sport:Life with a fullly charged battery by Nissan for the purpose of review
Photos courtesy Nissan