We drove a new $38,000 Nissan Leaf to see how it stacks up against Tesla and the Chevy Bolt -- here's the verdict

Hollis Johnson/Business InsiderThe new 2018 Nissan Leaf.
  • The Nissan Leaf is all new for 2018.
  • Since its introduction in 2010, Nissan has sold more than 300,000 Leafs, making it the best-selling electric vehicle in the world.
  • The second-generation Leaf is powered by a 40 kWh lithium-ion battery with a range of 151 miles on a single charge.
  • Our test car came with Nissan’s optional ProPilot Assist semiautonomous-driving tech.
  • We found the Leaf to be a pleasant and capable EV, but the 151 miles of range is lacking when compared to its rivals.
  • The Nissan Leaf starts at $US29,990 while our top-spec test car carried an as-tested-price of $US37,865.

The Nissan Leaf is a true pioneer in the electric-car game. The Leaf’s combination of perky performance, 100 miles of range, and easy-to-use demeanour made it a popular choice for those looking for pure electric mobility. Generous government incentives also helped move cars off dealer lots. Since its introduction in 2010, Nissan has sold more than 320,000 Leafs globally, making it the best-selling electric car in the world.

But alas, time and tide wait for no man.

Since 2010, the benchmark for EV performance has changed drastically. For consumers, 100 miles of range is no longer enough, especially after the release of the comparably priced 238-mile Chevrolet Bolt and the 220-mile Tesla Model 3.

(Note: Tesla’s 220-mile Model 3 has not yet reached production. The company is only producing the longer-range 310-mile version, which retails for upwards of $US55,000.)

The Tesla Model S and Model X have set new standards for speed and utility, albeit at a much higher price.

So for 2018, Nissan introduced an all-new second-generation Leaf, one that’s better equipped to handle this latest wave of competition.

“This is the car of the future, today,” Nissan North America chairman Denis Le Vot told Business Insider in an interview at the 2018 New York Auto Show. “In that sense, it is a flagship of the company’s technology.” In addition to the Leaf, Nissan plans to launch eight fully electric models by 2022, Le Vot said.

Earlier this year, Nissan dropped off a blue 2018 Leaf for us to check out. It starts at $US29,990 while our top-specced SL tester started at $US36,200. With options, our Tennessee-built car carried an as-tested-price of $US37,865. It should be noted that EV tax incentives could knock thousands of dollars off the sticker price depending on where you live.

Here’s a closer look at the 2018 Nissan Leaf:


From 2010 to 2017, the Nissan Leaf sold at an unprecedented rate for an electric car.

Nissan2017 Nissan LEAF.

But with the advent of new, higher-mileage models likes the Chevrolet Bolt and …

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Tesla Model 3, it was time for Nissan to update its stalwart EV.

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For 2018, Nissan is back with the second-generation Leaf EV.

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Aesthetically, there’s a lot more to like about the new Leaf than its predecessor. Gone are the soft curves and funky bug-eye headlights. In their place, is a more aggressive and chiselled look.

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Overall, we found the Leaf’s styling to be handsome and modern.

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Even though the new Leaf looks and feels larger, its length, width, height, and weight remain virtually unchanged from its predecessor. Even the 0.28 drag coefficient remains the same.

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Inside, the Leaf effortlessly blends tech with familiar Nissan touches. It’s modern without feeling too futuristic or weird.

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And the tech features are abundant. Leading the way is Nissan’s new ProPilot Assist semiautonomous-driving system.

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ProPilot is a camera-based system that stitches together input from the car’s steering assistance and intelligent cruise control tech to create a semiautonomous-driving experience.

The system works pretty well and will keep you from swerving out of your lane. But ProPilot is purely an assistance feature, so you’ll need to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times. This is something Nissan has been very clear about.


Nissan has also been working on single-pedal operation for the Leaf. Using the new e-Pedal, Leaf owners can effectively drive without using the brake pedal.

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All you’d need to do is take your foot off the gas and the regenerative braking system would stop the car while recharging the battery.

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In front of the driver is a beautifully rendered configurable TFT display coupled with a traditional analogue gauge.

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The seven-inch touchscreen in the center stack is less impressive. Nissan’s infotainment system feels dated in design and presentation.

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However, the system was fairly easy to use. The availability of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto also helps improve the user experience.

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Our test car came with an energy-efficient, seven-speaker Bose premium sound system. We found the sound quality to be solid, but far from industry-leading.

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The Leaf boasts room for five passengers.

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And 23 cubic feet of cargo. Incredibly, both cargo and passenger volumes remain unchanged from the outgoing model.

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But the biggest change happened under the hood.

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The old Leaf’s 80 kW electric motor has been replaced by a more powerful 110 kW unit that produces 147 horsepower. The new car also gets a larger 40 kWh lithium-ion battery.

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The result is a major improvement in range and acceleration. Car and Driver reported 0-60 mph time of just 7.4 seconds. That’s a significant improvement over the first-gen car’s 10.4 second time.

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Range has also improved to 151 miles from 107.

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According to Nissan, the Leaf’s battery can be replenished in 7.5 hours using a 220v charger. A quick charge that takes 40 minutes to deliver an 80% charge is also possible.

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Overall, the Nissan Leaf delivered a very impressive driving experience. It was comfortable, quiet, and ultra-smooth. As with every EV we’ve tested, acceleration is punchy off the line with maximum torque available on demand.

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The verdict.

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The new Leaf is a solid second effort from Nissan. The Leaf looks terrific while its interior fit and finish convey an almost premium air. It’s also packed with infotainment and driver’s-assistance technology.

However, there remains one glaring fault with the Leaf, and it’s the range. At 151 miles, it’s certainly a major improvement over the outgoing model. But range anxiety is still a problem, and anything less than 200 miles on a single charge is no longer competitive. As a result, both Tesla’s Model 3 and Chevy’s Bolt have aimed for 220 and 238, respectively. Both offer comparably priced models. Although the Model 3 tends to live at the higher end of the pricing spectrum.

A larger 60 kWh battery pack with 225 miles of range is rumoured to be on the way. If that’s the case, it’s an option that can’t come quickly enough.

Regardless, Nissan has built a very good car, and even with its decided lack of range, deserves a close look if you’re in the market for an EV.

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