Electric power, instant thrills
Base MSRP: From $31,670
- S – From $31,670
- SV – From $34,960
- SL – From $38,270
Tax credit: Up to $7,500
EPA Range: 149 -226 miles, pure electric
Battery: 40-62 kWh
Charging Acceptance Rate: 6.6 kW
Performance: Electric vehicle (EV); 40-kWh battery, 147 horsepower; 62-kWh battery, 214 horsepower
Mileage estimate: 97-118 mpge; 94-114 mpge
Price estimate: $31,670 to $38,270
Warranty: 3 years / 36,000 miles
Drivetrain warranty: 5 years / 60,000 miles
Roadside assistance: 3 years/ Unlimited miles
Corrosion warranty: 5 years / Unlimited miles
Reviews of the Nissan LEAF
Nissan’s technology flagship gets an update
It’s been a decade since the Nissan LEAF electric vehicle (EV) debuted in the U.S. with a modest range of 58 miles.
A compact electric hatchback, the LEAF came out in 2011 and was the first widely available EV produced by a mainstream automaker. People were a little turned off by its funky styling and the limited range provided little incentive for prospective buyers.
Still, there’s no question the LEAF was a trailblazer, establishing itself as the first all-electric vehicle priced and designed for typical car buyers. However, a decade later, and the EV landscape has dramatically changed. It seems like every auto manufacturer worldwide has an EV and in most cases they are planning for multiple offerings.
Flashy luxury brands such as Tesla, Jaguar, Audi, Jaguar, and BMW tend to dominate the headlines. But the LEAF certainly has a following, evidenced by more than 151,000 in overall sales. It has evolved over the years and has nearly tripled its range from the original, while also maintaining a modest price tag.
Even with its overall improvements and appealing price, the LEAF has struggled a bit in sales because the competition has gotten fierce. LEAF sales for 2020 were its worst in history – 9,564. That’s more than two-thirds less than its best year, when 30,200 were sold in 2014.
Although the LEAF has dramatically increased its range to 226 miles, it still can’t match multiple EV vehicles. All four Tesla models exceed 300 miles in range, while the Chevy Bolt (259 miles), Hyundai Kona (258 miles), Kia Niro (239 miles) and Jaguar I-Pace (234 miles) have better range than the 2021 Nissan LEAF, which is unchanged from the 2020 version.
But the more practical LEAF can still point to its sticker price – starting at around $31,700 – as an advantage over competitors. Note that this is the price of the standard LEAF that has only 149 miles of range. The upper-level LEAF Plus can run as high as $44,100.
Performance and Speed
If performance rates high on the list of priorities, the clear choice is the LEAF Plus. It has 214 horsepower and the power is instant, smooth and quick, allowing it to accelerate well in freeway situations. The Plus reportedly goes 0-60 mph in 6.8 seconds. The standard LEAF has 147 horsepower and travels 0-60 mph in 7.8 seconds. Depending on how it’s driven, the LEAF gets the equivalent of 94 to 118 mpge.
The LEAF provides a smooth, controlled and extremely quiet ride. While even the Plus isn’t overly sporty, either version of the LEAF handles well overall and is fun to drive. It’s comforting to know that braking can be handled by easing off the accelerator if one is engaged in e-Pedal mode.
Owners will find the Nissan LEAF to be a comfortable fit with four people aboard, including two adults in the back. But having three people in the rear seats takes away the comfort factor. Overall, leg and head room are fine in the front and back seat. The cargo area is fairly spacious at 23.6 cubic feet, and the space extends to 30 feet with the second row folded down. Annoyingly, the second seat doesn’t fold down flat.
All LEAF models come standard with an 8.0-inch infotainment display and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. There’s a large analog speedometer next to a 7.0-inch digital readout that has a variety of displays. A downside is most drivers don’t care for the LEAF’s peculiar mushroom-like shifter.
Standard safety features include automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, high beam assist, and rear cross traffic. Semi-autonomous driving mode is an option.
The regular LEAF has a 40-kWh battery and the Plus is much larger at 62-kWh. On a 240-volt connection, Nissan says both the standard battery and the larger one in the Plus can be totally charged in seven hours.
An EV pioneer, the Nissan LEAF still provides lots of upside. It has good range, an alluring sticker price, improved performance, and appeals to someone who is not looking for a luxury brand.