The Nissan LEAF has been around since the 2010 model year. It got a complete makeover from top to bottom last year and alongside the new looks, it also got bigger batteries and a much-improved range – making it far more useful than ever before. Although I’d never driven one, it was firmly on our list as possibly the next car in our driveway when our present lease was up. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one for a week, but now I have. One thing for sure is – it didn’t disappoint.
- 2nd generation fully electric LEAF Plus
- Bestselling EV in the world
- 4 Trims Available (SV, S PLUS, SV PLUS, SL PLUS)
- Base models (SV) get a 40 kwh battery 110 kW electric motor and a range of 240 kms
- PLUS models (S, SV, SL) features a larger 62 kwh battery and a 160 kW electric motor
- Test vehicle is the top of the range SL PLUS
- Range up to 363 kms (226 miles)
- The LEAF SV (base model, 40 kWh) starts at $44,298, but for only $2,600 you get a ton of features in the PLUS, such as a bigger motor and battery, higher charging and Sat Nav to name just a few extras. It’s a no-brainer – jump to the PLUS and ignore the SV
- Nissan Safety Shield® 360 now standard on all models: Intelligent Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Rear Intelligent Emergency Braking, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning and High Beam Assist, Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, Intelligent Lane Intervention and Blind Spot Intervention
- It’s quirky without being too weird-looking – I really like it
- Significantly better looking than the outgoing model
- The test car was a Scarlet Ember colour – I don’t recall ever seeing a Leaf in anything other than white or blue to be honest
- Surprisingly spacious – I was thinking it was going to be a lot smaller than it actually is
- The speedometer is located next to a 7.0-inch digital readout that can be reconfigured to show a variety of useful and useless menus
- The “Vibrant Blue” contrast stitching for the steering wheel, seats and instrument panel makes for a nice aesthetic throughout the car
- Leather-trimmed seats, heated front and rear
- The driver gets a 6-way power driver and manual passenger seat
- The seats are quite comfortable – set and forget
- Heated Leather Wrapped Steering Wheel
- Unfortunately, no driver’s seat & mirror memory – or heads up display
- I really liked the shifter. Thanks to everything being electronic and drive by wire, the manufacturers can get creative and get rid of the cumbersome shifters that take up so much room
- Full-colour 8-inch infotainment system with navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability – not the easiest and intuitive to use, especially while driving
- The door-to-door navigation system syncs the vehicle’s navigation system with a compatible smartphone for seamless driving and walking directions
- Bose Premium Audio with seven speakers – nice clean sounds, a little short on bass though
- An abundance of knee and legroom for rear passengers – there’s a tunnel on the floor running between the passenger’s feet
- The rear seat folds 60/40, but doesn’t fold flat to the floor – the cushion is fixed and doesn’t flip forward to allow the back to fold flat – I’m assuming that’s because of the battery
- Cargo space is 23.6 cu.ft (668 L) or with rear seatbacks folded sort-of flat its 30 cu.ft (850 L) of total space
- Maximum Towing Capacity – 907 kg (2,000 lbs)
- The information for charging and scheduling is not prominent in the large screen (you have to swipe the main screen to find it) and even then, it’s not as intuitive or easy to navigate as other EV’s I’ve driven
- It’s also available in the screen in front of the driver where you use arrow buttons and OK to get it to do what you want/need it to do
- e-Pedal allows the driver to start, accelerate, decelerate and stop using only the accelerator pedal – the braking is very abrupt, but it takes a bit of getting used to
- One big issue I have it that the charging plug is not locked in place while you charge the leaf – someone can come along and unplug you at any time. The Chevy Bolt has a lock on the plug when you lock the car, therefore no one can unplug (or steal) the cord while you’re charging
- SV models using the 40 kwh battery are limited to 50kW Quick Charging stations
- PLUS models feature a 62 kwh battery and allow 70-100 kW Quick Charge usage – far more useful while travelling
- 80% charge in 60 minutes – 50kW DC Quick Charging – Full charge in 8 hours
- At home, full charge in 11.5 Hours using 240-V
- Level 1 Charging (120V) 2.5 days
- Level 2 Charging (240V) 11.5 hours
- DC Fast Charging (CHAdeMO connector) 80% in 45 minutes (100 kW charger) – good luck finding one of these!
- You can plug into the same outlet as a conventional clothes dryer with available 120V/240V cord – no special wall box necessary!!
- The federal government kicks in $5,000 to lower the cost
- In some provinces you get even more money – Quebec grants another $8,000 to the purchase price
So How Quick Is It & How Does It Handle?
- With instant torque – how can you not love that!
- The 80-120 km/h is exhilarating – just stomp on the go pedal and whoosh, silently and effortlessly you’re passing slower-moving vehicles or easily merging onto the highway
- Off-the-line it’s pretty quick too. As with most EV’s, it’s a blast to just stomp on the gas when the light turns green
- The e-Pedal allows you to start, accelerate, decelerate and stop using only the accelerator pedal (it has to be switched on every time you enter the car) – not sure if that’s a good thing or bad
- There’s no way of adjusting how aggressive you can program the regenerative braking (unlike other EV’s, there are no paddles behind the steering wheel) – I could only find with or without the e-Pedal. When using the ePedal, the braking ‘feel’ changes significantly and the slowing/stopping when lifting off the gas pedal is quite dramatic. It works in forward or reverse – it’s very odd when it first happens in reverse, until you get used to it
- There is NO Sport mode to give you even more oomph, but… if you press the ECO button to switch it off… turbo power!!! Everything gets better and the go pedal really goes. You take a big hit in the range though, but that’s the price you pay for a ton of fun
- Like all EV’s the interior is very quiet and hushed, but if you’re driving slow with the windows down you can hear the tone (known as Canto) for forward movement under 30 km/h and a pulsing chime when reversing – it really bothered my wife, she hated hearing it. I just turned the stereo up – problem solved. Nissan added a speaker inside the cabin so the driver can hear it, but I never heard it
- Steering input is very good and the brakes are superb
- ProPILOT Assist with Intelligent Cruise Control offers a single lane highway driving assist technology to help keep the vehicle centered in its lane. If the car in front stops, ProPILOT Assist can automatically apply the brakes to bring the vehicle to a full stop. After coming to a full stop, the vehicle can remain in place even if the driver’s foot is off the brake. If traffic restarts, the car will resume driving when the driver touches the steering wheel-mounted ProPILOT Assist switch again or lightly presses the accelerator to activate the system
Top Speed: 158 km/h / 98 mph
0-60 mph (sec): 6.5 // (7.4 base model, 147 hp)
Here’s a great video from Nissan that highlights the LEAF’s many features…
The 2020 Nissan LEAF SV starts at: $44,298
PLUS starts at: $46,898
As Tested: $53,198
- Rated at (Le/100 km): 20 kW/100kms
- City – 2.1 / Highway – 2.5 / Combined – 2.2
- Energuide Annual fuel cost – $520 (Estimate based on the combined fuel consumption rating – 20,000 km driven, and the fuel price of $0.13 per litre)
- (U.S.) MPGe 108 combined
- Battery: 8 years /160,000 kms (100,000 miles)
- Basic: 3 years/60,000 km
- Powertrain: 5 years/100,000 km
- Roadside Assistance: 3 years + 3 years Travel Planning Service
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
- The Good: The longer-range puts the Leaf up there much closer to the Chevy Bolt, Kona, Soul and even the Tesla3
- The Bad: The only thing I would change is the charging information – it’s not easy to find and use. Also, the infotainment screen and options is much better in the Maxima
- The Ugly: The charge plug isn’t locked to the car while charging – this could be a big issue in the city – or even your driveway if someone wants to be an idiot.
- More Ugly: The 110v plug is so big you can’t plug it into a regular wet proof outlet… unless you remove the cover thereby letting rain/water into the socket!
What’s The Verdict?
I can’t say this enough: if you haven’t driven an EV, you are missing out on an incredible experience while driving. It takes the mundane and dials it up to make driving fun again. The great thing is it’s like driving for free. I’ve never seen an increase in my electrical bill after using a couple of EV’s back to back. On the other hand, my credit card takes a hit of $50-100 over a 2 week period driving a regular ICE vehicle.
The LEAF is a blast to drive and it does so comfortably. Thanks to the longer-range in the 2nd generation it’s a much more useful car than the outgoing model. Yes, 80% of our driving is usually less than 100 kms round trip, but having a bit more range makes it less of a worry should you need to go further afield. Most EV owners will never have an issue with range – or recharging because you just plug it in at night and you’ve got a full tank the next morning.
There’s plenty of charge points around, so you won’t get stuck when you venture further afield, but you’ll wait a while if you need a lot of kilometres to recharge for your return trip if you use most of the available 360 kms range – you have to plan for that. If you have to take that one vacation trip a year that makes an EV impractical – rent a vehicle.
Copyright © 2020 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland