We drove a $44,000 Nissan Leaf Plus to figure out if this 2019 Car of the Year runner-up is ready to take on Tesla
Crystal Cox/Business Insider
- The 2019 Nissan Leaf SL Plus is the fanciest version of the vehicle that first appeared in 2010.
- Although over 300,000 Leafs have been sold worldwide, the electric car has always been held back by its range.
- The Leaf Plus, however, serves up 214 miles on a single charge and has a more powerful motor.
- At $44,000, the Leaf SL Plus is a bit pricey, but you can opt for a cheaper trim level.
- Overall, the Leaf SL Plus is a dandy EV; it's well worth a look if you're shopping for a new car.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Editor's note: Business Insider will name its 2019 Car of the Year on November 23. Each day this week, we're taking another look at the five vehicles that were runners-up selected from a pool of 16 finalists. The second vehicle is the 2019 Nissan Leaf SL Plus.The Nissan Leaf was basically the first modern, mass-market, all-electric vehicle, beating the Tesla Model S to market by a few years.
Market reality hasn't quite lived up to expectations, but Nissan has continued to improve the Leaf. The second-generation arrived for the 2018 model year, with an updated design. For 2019, Nissan rolled out the Leaf Plus, a version of the EV that could achieve up to 226 miles on a single charge.Generally, a baseline 200-mile number is magical; it eliminates much of the "range anxiety" that consumers suffer from because it adds a decent buffer and reduces the need to frequently recharge the Leaf.
I tested the Leaf Plus for a week in the New Jersey suburbs and even took a ride to Brooklyn. I concluded that the Leaf Plus was very good, and thus we have named it a 2019 Car of the Year runner-up.Here's now my test went:Photos by Crystal Cox unless otherwise indicated.
Good day, 2019 Nissan Leaf SL Plus! Looking sharp in "Deep Pearl Blue."
Pretty much the same Deep Pearl Blue as the Leaf that was a Business Insider Car of the Year finalist in 2018. That car had a single electric motor, producing 147 horsepower, a 40-kWh battery pack, and delivered 151 miles of range on a full charge.Advertisement
The Leaf is the top-selling EV globally, which makes sense as the car has been around since 2010. Over 300,000 have been sold.
Our SL Plus trim level has a 62 kilowatt-hour battery. The larger pack adds roughly 70 miles of range compared to the standard Leaf's 151-mile battery.Advertisement
The 2019 Leaf, like the second-generation 2018 car, is much sleeker than the original. However, we're talking about a practical hatchback here, so let's not get too excited. Aerodynamics play a role in increasing EV range, so while the hatch design favors utility, the Leaf's front end has been engineered for airflow: the car has a 0.28 drag coefficient
The goal when the Leaf was launched was for the Japanese automaker to embrace a "zero emission" future. It hasn't quite worked out that way, but the company is making progress, and the Leaf is still with us.Advertisement
Hatchback silhouettes aren't typically associated with automotive aggression, and EVs tend to project a mostly virtuous vibe. But the Leaf's fascia is rather bold. The LED headlights are a standout feature.
Overall, the Leaf projects a fairly European identity. That perhaps has turned off some US customers, who have basically abandoned small vehicles in favor of large SUVs and pickups.Advertisement
The Leaf's cargo area is an excellent 24 cubic feet, expandable to 30 with the rear seats dropped. The hatch's opening is a tad awkward, with a sort of oval shape.
Charging is unchanged from the Leaf we tested in 2018, at least as far as the ports go. There are two, one for 240V "Level 2" charging and one for fast DC charging. Our Leaf SL Plus had a 160 kWh electric motor, making a juicy 214 horsepower with 250 pound-feet of torque.Advertisement
There's also an onboard charge cable for "trickle" top-offs using a regular wall outlet for 120V power. Using 240V, the Leaf Plus is back to 100% in 11.5 hours. Fast DC charging, however, can achieve 80% in 45 minutes.
The Leaf's "Light Gray" interior was pleasant.Advertisement
The back seat was about average, space-wise, for the segment.
The Leaf's eight-inch color infotainment display looks good, but we aren't the biggest fans of the system's layout. It is easy to use, and Bluetooth device-pairing is a snap. You also have available Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.Advertisement
So what's the verdict on this 2019 Car of the Year runner-up?
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