I just drove a $44,000 Nissan Leaf Plus and I don't understand why everybody isn't buying this car
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 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.
The Nissan Leaf was basically the first modern, mass-market, all-electric vehicle, beating the Tesla Model S to market by a few years.
When it launched, the Leaf had limited range and was sort of unimpressively designed, but there was a lot of buzz around EVs then. The Leaf was the cornerstone of a Nissan "Zero Emission" strategy.
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 more than 200 miles on a single charge.
That 200-mile number is magical; it eliminates much of the "range anxiety" that consumers suffer from because it adds a 50-mile 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. Here's now it went:
Photos by Crystal Cox.
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.
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.
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 Leaf is still with us.
Our SL Plus trim level does indeed have a 62 kilowatt-hour battery. The larger pack adds roughly 70 miles of range compared the standard Leaf's 151-mile battery.
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.
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.
And of course the Leaf wears its Nissan badge proudly.
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
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.
The Leaf is all-American, however — build with pride in Smyrna, Tennessee.
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.
The Leaf has regenerative braking. And when the e-Pedal feature is engaged, it's possible to drive the car using motor braking almost alone, putting power back into the battery. The 17-inch alloy wheels on my tester were an attractive feature.
Charging is unchanged from the Leaf we tested last year, 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.
There's also an onboard charge cable "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, if a bit shy of premium. The seats were comfy, and there was a reasonable amount of space to stow small items.
The back seat was about average, space-wise, for the segment.
The Leaf has always received criticism for its "tweener" nature. It's not a luxury car, but it's also not barebones. I've always thought it hits a sweet-spot for customers who aren't wealthy but who have the means to invest in an EV.
The toggle-button shifter has a slight learning curve.
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.
So what's the verdict?
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