The 2019 Nissan Leaf brings choice to the table. The bestselling electric car in the world is now offered in a choice of two battery packs with substantially different ranges (150 miles for the base Leaf and 226 for the new Leaf Plus). Buyers can choose which is a better fit for their driving demands and budget. After all, if you only go a handful of miles to work and back every day, why plunk down extra cash for range you don't need? At the same time, the availability of a longer-range model better aligns the Leaf with the Chevy Bolt, Hyundai Kona Electric, Kia Niro EV and Tesla Model 3. As for the car itself, the Leaf is a comfortable, well-equipped hatchback that can be more practical than many of the EVs with which it competes.
What's new with the Leaf for 2019?For 2019, there are now two versions of the Nissan Leaf. While it was completely redesigned last year boasting a longer 150-mile electric range, this year sees a second Leaf Plus model good for 226 miles. This model gets a new, larger battery pack, a tweaked electric motor and some slight appearance updates to differentiate itself from the normal Leaf.
An updated infotainment system with an 8-inch display also finds its way into the Leaf Plus for 2019, but the normal Leaf keeps the old 7-inch unit. The menus look a little different, a few new features are added and it supports multi-touch inputs, but it still feels dated in actual use.
What's the Leaf's interior and in-car technology like?Nissan positions the Leaf and Leaf Plus as budget options in the EV world, which means the interior feels a bit cheap. Hard black plastics dominate most surfaces, and the seats are cloth except for the most expensive SL that gets leather. This interior was totally revamped for the 2018 redesign, making sure it feels modern with a big infotainment display and a digital screen with lots of information in the instrument cluster.
The biggest difference between the Leaf and Leaf Plus on the interior is that big center screen. While the standard Leaf gets either a 5-inch (S trim level) or a 7-inch screen (all other trims), the Leaf Plus gets that updated 8-inch screen pictured above with more features. That includes a new graphics package that uses a customizable icon interface, multi-touch gestures like pinch-to-zoom and the capability of software updates over WiFi. Every Leaf except the most basic S trim includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the touchscreens themselves are pretty easy to use.
Nissan doesn't go above and beyond with other interior features, but there are some niceties worth mentioning. An eight-way power driver's seat is optional, as are heated seats. A Bose seven-speaker stereo comes standard with the SL trim. Automatic climate control is also a standard feature.
How big is the Leaf?The Nissan Leaf is a hatchback, predictably making it super practical for its size. Compared to its closest competition, the Chevrolet Bolt and Hyundai Kona Electric, it's just about average for passenger interior space. Nissan wins by a couple inches when it comes to front headroom and legroom, but gives those inches back up when it comes to rear space. There's plenty of headroom in every seat for passengers over 6 feet tall, too.
It's considerably longer than its competitors, both overall and in wheelbase, which could contribute to the Leaf's supple ride. With all the seats in their upright position, this extra length contributes to more cargo space in the hatch than others, at 23.6 cu-ft. The seats do fold down, but the Bolt's cargo area ends up becoming far more expansive in full luggage capacity position. A base Nissan Leaf weighs as little as 3,433 pounds, but a top-trim Leaf Plus balloons all the way up to 3,853 pounds. A few hundred pounds is a noticeable difference, but the extra range and power are the upsides.
What's the Leaf's performance and electric range?The Leaf has a single permanent magnet electric motor powering the front wheels, making 147 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, which Nissan says is good for 0-60 mph in about 8 seconds. Base range for this 40-kWh version is 150 miles.
Nissan made a few tweaks to the electric motor for the big-battery Leaf Plus, which pumps its output up to 214 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. All that extra power brings the 0-60 mph time down to about 7 seconds. Top speed is limited to 98 mph. Range for the Leaf Plus and its 62-kWh battery pack is 226 miles, which is consistent with its top competitors. The Leaf Plus is also capable of charging faster than the normal Leaf, providing 100 kW DC fast charging. Nissan says that in ideal conditions, you'll be able to get 180 miles of charge in 45 minutes with the Plus. That compares with the 40 minutes needed to recoup 120 miles of range in the base Leaf.
What's the Leaf like to drive?We've driven both the normal Leaf and Leaf Plus, and both are super comfortable commuter cars. Neither are particularly quick, but the Plus steps it up a level beyond the regular Leaf. There's a much stronger shove into the seat from the more powerful electric motor, which explains the 1-second reduction in acceleration times.
While many EVs can be shockingly fun to drive, the Leaf merely handles at an acceptable level. A lack of steering feel is the car's true Achilles heel, and it's a little less agile than its competition when put through its paces. It's clear Nissan hasn't aimed the driving feel at enthusiasts, but rather those who prioritize a smooth, comfortable ride. It succeeds in spades around town, soaking up potholes and road imperfections with ease, never jarring the passengers inside. Electric versions of the Kona and Niro aren't exactly loud and uncomfortable, but the Leaf offers more refinement for daily driving activities. Less road noise seeps into the Leaf's cabin, and the Kona/Niro twins feel a bit stiffer over rough roads.
What more can I read about the Nissan Leaf?
2019 Nissan Leaf Plus First Drive Review"The 2019 Nissan Leaf Plus is one of those "ask and you shall receive" situations. The company has lagged behind in the range discussion for too long — the redesigned 2018 Leaf has only a 150-mile range, after all. This is plenty for some people, but the competition offers more. Nissan heard the cries, and now we have the Leaf Plus. Hallelujah, right?"
2018 Nissan Leaf First Drive "The new Leaf is far better looking than the car it replaces. It's sleeker, with a more planted stance, futuristic but more mainstream. Its floating roof projects lightness, and its swept-back shape gives it a sense of motion."
How does the Leaf compare to other compact EVs?
2019 Nissan Leaf Plus vs. Chevy Bolt, Hyundai Kona Electric: How they compare on paperBuying an EV once meant choosing either a reasonably priced model with paltry range and weak power, or a massively expensive one with a decent range. But today we have not one, but three options with reasonable prices and healthy ranges of over 200 miles. The latest of which is the 2019 Nissan Leaf Plus, which brings a bigger battery and a more powerful motor over its entry-level counterpart.
What features are available and what's the Leaf's price?Pricing for the 2019 Nissan Leaf starts at $30,885 including the $895 destination charge for the base S trim. Step up to the long-range Plus, and the base price pops up to $37,445. That's a $6,560 price increase for the extra range and power.
You can read a full breakdown of Nissan Leaf features, specs and local pricing here on Autoblog.
Standard equipment for the S includes 16-inch steel wheels, automatic halogen lights, cloth seats, 5-inch center infotainment screen, 7-inch instrument cluster display, push-button start and a USB port. The S Plus swaps the steel wheels for a 16-inch aluminum-alloy set, adds a portable charge cable, an 8-inch touchscreen and automatic climate control.
Stepping up to the $33,385 SV adds 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, adaptive cruise control, automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, NissanConnect EV Services for three years, 7-inch touchscreen (base Leaf), integrated navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The SV Plus moves the price up to $39,405.
Opting for the $37,095 top-trim SL brings even more premium features into the fold. Those include LED headlights and running lights blind-spot warning, 360-degree view parking camera, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an eight-way power driver's seat, heated steering wheel, rear seat heater ducts, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a Bose premium audio system.
The SL Plus is a pricey $43,445 but makes all the aforementioned standard plus ProPilot Assist, which in turn includes all the driver assistance and safety systems that go with it (see safety section below). ProPilot Assist is optional on the SV trim of both the regular Leaf and Plus — it's rolled up in a Technology package that costs $2,200.
What's the Leaf's safety equipment and crash ratings?Nissan has equipped the 2019 Nissan Leaf with the typical array of airbags including front, side and curtain-mounted airbags. To take advantage of any of Nissan's active safety tech you'll need to upgrade to the SV or SL trim and check the box for ProPilot Assist if it isn't already standard. The only active safety technology standard on the S is automatic emergency braking. Higher trims add AEB with pedestrian detection, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, a driver inattention monitor and ProPilot Assist, which includes an advanced adaptive cruise control and lane-centering.
ProPilot Assist is one of the better driving aids on offer out there. The lane centering keeps it in the lane around bends on the highway, and the adaptive cruise is traffic jam friendly, coming to a stop then starting on its own if you're stationary for three seconds or less.
NHTSA has not tested the Nissan Leaf since its last redesign, but the IIHS has tested a 2018 model. Not every test was performed, but the Leaf received "Good" ratings in the moderate front overlap and side crash tests. It received a "Moderate" for its rear child LATCH ease of use.