2018 Nissan Leaf review: Return of the king

    The Nissan Leaf won’t be the EV that is all the time within the information, however these little hatchbacks are all over the place. With out hype, drama or a charismatic billionaire constantly drawing consideration to it, the Leaf has quietly endured as a stable, inexpensive EV alternative, crossing the 300,000-unit sales mark (globally) earlier this 12 months. It’s arguably the king of inexpensive electric cars.

    For the 2018 mannequin 12 months, the Leaf will get the primary full redesign since its 2010 launch. The brand new mannequin nonetheless has a superb steadiness of vary and value however steps its sport up the place it counts. You now get much more vary, a a lot much less frog-like exterior design and considerably higher security tech to bear on a brand new era of opponents.

    Electrical efficiency

    The brand new Leaf is powered by a 110-kilowatt electrical motor that sends 147 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque to the entrance wheels through a single-speed discount gear transmission. I’ve grown to like the sleek, instantaneous approach that EVs generate torque and ship acceleration, and the Leaf isn’t any exception. Zero-to-60 blows by in a decent 7.5-ish seconds, not dangerous in any respect for an eco-car.

    The motor’s conduct and output might be personalized through drive modes (regular or Eco), transmission settings (D or B) or the e-pedal toggle. No matter mode I selected — even the Eco mode — the Leaf feels peppy with remarkably responsive acceleration.

    Underpinning the EV is a strut entrance suspension and a torsion beam on the rear. The Leaf will not win any dealing with contests, but it surely feels nimble sufficient round city. The heavy battery pack hidden beneath the ground retains the mass good and low, making the automobile really feel planted round corners and secure on the freeway. The trade-off, in fact, is that the Leaf is a really heavy little hatchback, which you discover when driving dynamically. Steering and journey emphasize consolation over “really feel,” which is OK given the modest efficiency targets.

    Battery pack, charging, vary

    Probably the most essential numbers on any EV’s spec sheet is vary, and the Leaf makes a stable exhibiting at 151 miles per cost. That will not appear to be quite a bit in a world the place a Bolt or Model 3 can roll for over 220 miles, however the Leaf strikes a pleasant steadiness between value and vary that is within the candy spot for a lot of city e-motorists. 151 miles is sufficient vary for a commute of first rate size with a bit additional for errands and emergencies earlier than recharging.

    Probably the most refined elements of the Leaf’s redesign is the location of the charging ports. The charging door higher integrates into the hood and entrance bumper’s traces and the ports behind it are actually angled upward for simpler entry with out you having to bend over. It is small issues like this that make an enormous distinction.

    Most 2018 Nissan Leaf fashions supply two methods to cost their 40-kWh lithium-ion battery packs: SAE or ChaDeMo. An SAE J1772 charging port is commonplace with a 6.6-kW onboard charger. At a 240-volt charging station, this connection can juice a useless battery in about eight hours.

    An non-obligatory 240-volt transportable charging cable is accessible and undoubtedly price contemplating. With the beefier cable, the Leaf can plug immediately right into a 240-volt wall outlet, giving a full-speed cost anyplace you possibly can plug in a dryer. This additionally means you do not essentially have to purchase and set up a devoted EV charging wall field when you have a free 240-socket in your storage.

    SL and SV fashions add the ChaDeMo DC fast charging port. Connecting the Leaf to a appropriate public charger permits a high-voltage fast cost to 90 miles of vary in 30 minutes. In case your native DC charger does not kick you off at 30 minutes like many do, you possibly can push the quick cost to 120 miles (an 80-percent cost) in 40 minutes earlier than the charging slows approach down to guard the battery.

    The e-pedal

    New to the Leaf is the e-pedal, one-foot driving mode — one thing different EVs already use, however with completely different names. When activated, the e-pedal mode engages robust regenerative braking when the motive force lifts their foot from the accelerator, slowing the automobile immediately. With observe, this driving mode permits for very easy acceleration and deceleration whereas boosting cruising vary through regeneration.

    Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

    Nissan’s system prompts the brake lights when slowing dramatically and may interact the hydraulic friction brakes when the automobile is stopped to carry the Leaf in place at a cease signal or site visitors gentle. Actually, it’s extremely doable to drive the automobile for days with out ever touching the brake pedal — other than while you flip the automobile on.

    Nonetheless, the e-pedal takes quite a lot of getting used to. The quantity of deceleration tends to fluctuate relying on the battery’s cost stage. A completely charged battery cannot use power gathered from a powerful regen, so the automobile slows much less dramatically. Because the battery stage drops, the quantity of regen turns into extra pronounced. This could make getting a really feel for the e-pedal tough over the primary few journeys, but it surely’s simple to get used to and I discovered to take pleasure in it after only a single weekend of working errands.

    NissanConnect cabin tech

    The Leaf’s cabin is pretty plain. It does not really feel low cost or poorly made, however the Leaf’s financial system automobile roots are most clear within the boring dashboard supplies and useful, however uninspired cockpit design. Contemplating the beginning value, I am all proper with this.

    The very best tech choices come on-line on the SV or SL trim stage. Right here, the Leaf steps as much as a 7-inch NissanConnect touchscreen infotainment setup. Whereas this method ticks quite a lot of the precise function containers and definitely will get the job executed, it is nonetheless removed from finest in its class.

    There are some very helpful related features accessible that enable drivers to remotely monitor their Leaf, schedule charging occasions and extra through smartphone, smartwatch and even Amazon Alexa. Nonetheless, the dashboard software program itself is pretty simplistic with dim, low-resolution graphics.

    Onboard navigation is first rate, however not noteworthy. It does function a search operate for close by charging stations with restricted availability and pricing information for some networks and areas. Nonetheless, I discover that smartphone apps normally outperform the onboard system, displaying extra station areas and extra correct, up-to-the-minute charger availability info. I used a mix of Chargepoint or EVgo — Nissan’s app of alternative — throughout my testing.

    Android Auto and Apple Carplay are commonplace with the 7-inch system and make up for the simplistic OEM software program, bringing higher navigation, added audio apps and extra to the dashboard with a single USB connection.

    Accessible ProPilot Help

    All Leaf fashions function an ordinary rear digicam and automated emergency braking. An non-obligatory improve can add pedestrian detection to the auto-brake system. The mid-tier SV trim stage provides adaptive cruise management that works throughout the complete pace vary and in stop-and-go site visitors. The highest SL mannequin provides blind-spot monitoring and a 360-degree encompass view digicam to the function set.

    Optionally available ProPilot Help, accessible to SV and SL fashions, is certainly price contemplating. ProPilot combines adaptive cruise management with superior lane-keeping steering help and driver alertness monitoring. When the system is lively, the Leaf will use energy steering help to actively hold it centered in its lane on the freeway. ProPilot is a “single-lane, hands-on system” in Nissan’s phrases, which means it is not “autonomous” tech. It could’t change lanes for you and requires the motive force’s fingers on the wheel always to function.

    2018 Nissan Leaf2018 Nissan Leaf

    Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

    I examined what occurs while you go hands-off with ProPilot when lately evaluating the system in Nissan’s Rogue. After a second, it should ask you to place your fingers again on the wheel — first gently with a chime after which firmly by pulsing the brakes. Maintain ignoring it and the ProPilot will try to securely carry the automobile to a cease, slowing in its lane and activating the hazard lights. I discover this preferable and far safer than the straightforward “shut off” that some competing lane-keeping programs use, because it does not ship incapacitated drivers careening off the highway.

    The tech bundle that provides ProPilot additionally brings automated excessive beams to the security dance. Given the Leaf’s city mission, this is not essentially the most important system, but it surely’s a great get contemplating many drivers do not correctly use their excessive beams, if even in any respect.

    How I might spec it

    The 2018 Nissan Leaf is accessible in three trims: The $30,875 S (together with $885 vacation spot cost) is the entry level and essentially the most inexpensive. The $37,735 SL with Tech bundle comes fully-loaded with all the bells and whistles.

    The candy spot is the SV mannequin. For $33,375, you get many of the essential stuff: DC fast charging, NissanConnect with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and adaptive cruise. Add the $2,200 SV Tech bundle to spherical out the function set with ProPilot Help, the upgraded 240-volt house charging cable and pedestrian detection. As I might spec it, you are taking a look at a really useful $35,575 for the SV with Tech bundle earlier than EV incentives or rebates.

    2018 Nissan Leaf2018 Nissan Leaf

    Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

    That is within the ballpark with Hyundai’s 120-mile Ioniq Electric Limited ($36,885), which I additionally like. The Leaf can also be quite a bit cheaper than a comparably-equipped Chevy Bolt ($43,905) or Tesla Mannequin three ($55,00zero), although these two stand a category above the Leaf on the subject of vary, efficiency and tech. (A rumored extra highly effective, and dearer, Leaf “E-Plus” with over 225-miles is anticipated in 2019, and that could be price maintaining a tally of.)

    As is, the standard Leaf affords simply sufficient of every little thing — a snug quantity of vary, acceptably good cabin tech and an excellent security suite — with out breaking the financial institution and with out all of the hype. On the lookout for an inexpensive, good, no-nonsense electrical automobile? Hail to the king.

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