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Nissan Leaf: Better Range, More Power, Sportier Looks

By Arv Voss, February 2nd, 2019

The Nissan Leaf is a 100-percent plug-in electric five-passenger sedan based on a dedicated EV platform with zero emissions. It has no gas engine and is not a hybrid.

-- OVERVIEW

Nissan launched the Leaf back in 2011, boasting it was the world's first affordable, zero-emission car. In addition to having no gas tank or tailpipe, it doesn't a conventional transmission to complicate maintenance. The only real maintenance requirements are rotating the tires and replacing the windshield wiper blades.

Today's all-new Leaf features an aerodynamic design featuring dynamic proportions with a floating roofline and Nissan's signature "V-motion" grille with a Crystal Blue pyramid panel. Other signature design cues are "Boomerang" lamps and enhanced brand symbol. The Leaf is available in three trim levels: S, SV, and SL. A solar panel and rear backup camera are optional.

-- ELECTRIC POWER

Power comes from a 680-pound laminated lithium-ion manganese graphite battery pack mounted low in the vehicle floor for optimum weight distribution, and a high-response synchronous AC electric drive motor (110kW/147 horsepower and 236 lb.-ft. of torque) delivering energy to the front wheels. Top speed is 90 mph and the EPA estimated range capability is just more than 150 miles.

The battery pack consists of 192 cells, with eight laminated lithium-ion cells per module in 24 modules compared to the old four cells in 48 modules. Actual range varies depending upon driving/charging habits, speed, conditions, weather, temperature, and battery age. The battery has an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty, and is expected to retain 70 to 80 percent of its original storage capacity after 10 years.

The charging port is located in a forward compartment just below the hood. Recharging may be accomplished via a supplied 110-volt portable trickle charge cable plugged into any conventional household outlet; 240-volt charging is optional.

Three operational modes include a Normal drive mode; an Eco mode, which increases efficiency and delivers more range by reducing power output while increasing regenerative braking; and a B-mode, which aggressively engages regenerative braking during deceleration. Directional selection is accomplished via a center stack-mounted "palm shifter" operating on the principle of a computer mouse or joystick. The Eco button is mounted on steering wheel.

-- ATTRACTIVE STYLING

The exterior styling is distinctive, emphasized by a sharp, upright V-shaped front design featuring long, upward-slanting LED headlights with a blue internal reflective appearance. At the rear, the slim-type vertical LED taillight design and angular corners blend with the aerodynamic muffler-less rear bumper and rear diffuser managing the rear end's airflow without sacrificing rear interior space. The drag coefficient measures only 0.28.

-- CONNECTIVITY AND INFOTAINMENT

The interior includes navigation as standard fare, push-button start, a digital meter cluster, a remote charge status monitor, and advanced user interface for range management including connectivity through both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smart phone applications.

Information screens are provided for tracking energy flow in both the navigation system and driver info display. Audio, entertainment, and connectivity features have been upgraded with the addition of standard NissanConnect SM with mobile apps with a 5.0-inch color display for S models. The system includes Bluetooth hands-free phone system, streaming audio via Bluetooth, hands-free text messaging assistant, and USB audio connection port for compatible devices.

-- AS TESTED

My test 2019 Nissan LEAF came in SL trim with a base price of $36,200, while the as-tested price came to $38,215 after factoring in options along with the destination and handling charge, but before factoring in any applicable tax credits and rebates.

-- ONE PEDAL PERFORMANCE

Piloting the new Nissan Leaf is really not dramatically different from driving a conventional gas-powered or hybrid vehicle, except that it is eerily quiet and can be operated with just one pedal, thanks to the standard E-Pedal's advanced one pedal, which allows the driver the simplicity of accelerating, decelerating, and stopping the car by using the accelerator pedal alone. (The conventional brake pedal must still be used in aggressive braking situations.)

The ProPILOT Assist system is a "hands-on" semi-autonomous feature that performs as a steering assist for the driver with intelligent cruise control and electric power steering.

Acceleration is instantaneous and silent, and handling is nimble. The Nissan Leaf is fun, enjoyable, reliable, and most of all, efficient in both normal and Eco modes. The new Leaf delivers a 37 percent increase in horsepower along with a 26 percent in torque for enhanced performance, and has gone from a 30 kW to a 40 kW battery using the same footprint.

-- MY TAKE

In the final analysis, given all of its advantages, the Leaf makes good sense for purchase or lease for consumers with an average commute (60 miles or less each way -- more if mid-point charging is available).

Specifications

Base price $36,200 (as tested: $38,215)
Curb weight 3,508 lbs.
Driving range 150 miles
Epa mileage rating 125 mpgE city, 100 mpgE highway
Horsepower (net) 147 at 3282 rpm
Motor type 110-kW AC synchronous electric motor 40kWh lithium-ion battery
Overall length 176.4 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 236 at 0-3283 rpm
Transmission single-speed
Vehicle type 5-passenger compact hatchback
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