Driving Impressions of the 2020 Nissan Leaf Plus: An Electric Vehicle That Continues to Excel

    The Nissan Leaf: Is It Still a Viable Electric Option?

    When the Nissan Leaf first hit the market, it was praised as a pioneer in the world of electric vehicles. With its modest range of 73 miles, it was one of the first mass-market EVs available in the US and played a key role in introducing consumers to the world of electrification. However, as more companies have entered the market with better alternatives, such as Chevrolet, Ford, Tesla, Polestar, and others, the Leaf has struggled to maintain the same level of attention and market share it once enjoyed.

    That being said, the Leaf has seen some improvements since its 2017 facelift, particularly in terms of range and aesthetics. The base version now offers up to 149 miles of range with its standard 40-kilowatt-hour battery pack. For those looking for even more range, the Leaf Plus is equipped with a 62-kWh battery, providing a range of up to 226 miles in its light, frill-free S trim. Recently, three of us had the opportunity to spend time with a Leaf Plus, specifically the SV model with a 215-mile range. While it may no longer be our top choice, it remains a solid option in this rapidly growing segment.

    It’s important to note that while the Leaf’s range may fall behind that of its competitors, such as the Chevrolet Bolt EV, which offers nearly 45 extra miles of range, it is still more than sufficient for the average consumer. In reality, most people do not cover more than 75 miles in a day, let alone 200. For the majority of shoppers, the Leaf’s 215-mile range is more than enough. Even in colder conditions, where the range might be slightly reduced, the Leaf can still fulfill the needs of most individuals, especially if they have access to a home charging solution that is more efficient than a standard 110-volt outlet.

    However, the main drawback of the Leaf, as well as the Bolt, is its somewhat lackluster design. While the hatchback shape is practical and the overall styling is more conventional, the Leaf still possesses a sense of geekiness that may not appeal to all drivers. In a market where newer EVs are promising more excitement, improved range, and faster charging speeds, the Leaf remains a vehicle that appeals to a narrower segment of the market.

    Moving beyond the range and design aspects, there are other features of the Leaf that deserve recognition. One of its standout qualities is its overall driving experience. The Leaf is not just a good electric vehicle; it is also a great hatchback, regardless of its power source. It offers ample interior space, responsive steering, a comfortable ride, and excellent soundproofing due to the absence of a loud combustion engine. These qualities make the Leaf a pleasure to drive in all respects.

    Additionally, the Leaf SV Plus comes equipped with a 160-kilowatt electric motor and a 62-kWh battery pack, providing adequate power of 214 horsepower and a range of up to 215 miles. The Leaf also boasts a comprehensive safety suite, including Nissan ProPilot driver assistance, which offers lane centering, adaptive cruise control, and various collision warning and emergency braking systems.

    However, one major issue remains with the Leaf, and that is its thermal management system. Unlike most other EVs that use a liquid thermal management system to regulate battery temperatures, the Leaf continues to rely on ambient air cooling, which can be insufficient in warm climates. This flaw was evident in the first generation of the vehicle and, unfortunately, has not been fully addressed in the current model. This can present challenges for those relying solely on public charging infrastructure, as the limited availability and functionality of charging stations can make road-tripping with the Leaf a stressful experience.

    In conclusion, the Nissan Leaf remains a viable electric option for many consumers. Its improved range, solid driving experience, and comprehensive safety features make it a respectable choice in the EV market. However, the Leaf’s dorky design, as well as its ongoing thermal management issues, may deter some potential buyers. As the electric vehicle market continues to evolve and offer more exciting alternatives, the Leaf will need to address these concerns in order to remain competitive.

    Despite its shortcomings, the Leaf is still a commendable vehicle and demonstrates the progress that has been made in the world of electric transportation. For those who primarily use their vehicle for daily commuting and have access to private charging solutions, the Leaf can meet their needs with ease. However, for those who rely heavily on public charging infrastructure or desire a more stylish and exhilarating driving experience, it may be worth exploring the alternatives that the market has to offer.

    In the end, the decision to choose the Nissan Leaf ultimately comes down to individual priorities and circumstances. With a growing number of EV options available, consumers have the opportunity to carefully consider their specific needs and preferences before making a final decision. As the electric vehicle industry continues to advance, it will be interesting to see how Nissan and other manufacturers adapt to the ever-changing demands of consumers and further shape the future of sustainable transportation.

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