2019 Nissan LEAF Expert Review

Editor's Overview

The 2019 Nissan Leaf is an affordable electric car now available with two ranges: 150 or 226 miles. Both the standard Leaf and the new Leaf Plus boast loads of available high-tech driver assists, and both models have an enviable level of overall refinement.

You'll Like The 2019 Nissan LEAF If...

For the money, the 2019 Nissan Leaf EV is one of the best electric-car buys on the market. The standard model’s range of 150 miles is more than most people will need for an average commute, while the 226 miles of the new Plus model opens up the Leaf EV to a much greater number of potential buyers.

You May Not Like The 2019 Nissan LEAF If...

If this is going to be your only car, the ability to take long road trips is going to require extra time and planning. A plug-in hybrid like the Chevy Volt or Ford Fusion makes more sense. The Leaf, though fun to drive, isn’t as sporty as the VW e-Golf or Tesla Model 3.

What's New

The Leaf Plus model, with additional range and power, is new for 2019. Like the standard Leaf EV, it has Rear Door Alert, which reminds the driver to check the back seat before walking away from the vehicle.

Interior Features

Like all Nissan products, the 2019 Leaf EV has a modern, airy interior bordering on elegant. A gliding wing-shaped dash is dominated by a 7-inch touch-screen infotainment display showing navigation and audio. Just below the touch screen (which is an 8-inch unit in the Plus model) are hard button controls for the ventilation system, and below that, USB ports and the push-button starter. Directly ahead of the driver is a conventional instrument cluster featuring a large analog speedometer and supplemental digital display that can be configured to show the status of various vehicle systems such as range, battery level and outside temperature. Seating is for five, but four is a more comfortable configuration and seat trim can be either cloth or leather. The front seats are comfortable and spacious, but the rears might be a bit tight, with somewhat less foot room due to the position of the access panel for the battery pack.

Exterior Features

Once accused of looking more like an amphibian than a car, the 2019 Nissan Leaf casts aside any such aspersions with a sleek design as handsome as it is functional. The newest Leaf EV looks more like a conventional hatchback or crossover SUV, with a split rear C-pillar that gives it a floating-roof look similar to the larger Murano. The original bug-like headlights are gone, narrowed and dropped lower in the fenders and fitted with LED units in higher-trim models. The front sports Nissan’s signature V-motion chrome bar but instead of a grille, there’s a black panel with blue mesh-like highlights beneath. The large hatch covering the plug is cleverly integrated into the hood and front fascia cutlines. The plug panel itself sits at a 45-degree angle, making it easy to insert and remove the charging cord. While it looks more like a regular car, that fact that the design is unique to the Leaf will help identify it as an EV. Besides badging, the new Leaf Plus is distinguished by blue trim on the lower edge of its front bumper.

Driving Impressions

With its long range, on-board fast-charging system and extensive dealer network, Nissan’s 2019 Leaf EV may entice doubters to try an EV for the first time. What they will discover is instantaneous power delivery from the motor. The Leaf is snappy right off the line and has excellent mid-range passing power. The driving experience is best described as serene. There’s no engine noise, or for that matter, the whine associated with electric motors that you might have experienced with earlier electrics. You might hear some far-off wind and tire noise, but that’s about it. Unlike the first generation to bear the name, the 2019 Leaf feels more substantial. The steering is light, which is in keeping with the Leaf’s primary mission of urban and freeway commuting. The new Leaf Plus feels much the same, but with added power. Its larger battery is heavier, contributing to a low center of gravity that translates to driver confidence. The Leaf acts and drives like a real car, not some science project.

Pricing Notes

The 2019 Nissan Leaf S is priced at $29,990, plus a destination charge of $895. The SV model starts at $32,490, while the top-line Leaf SL goes for $36,200. With its larger battery and more power, new 2019 Nissan Leaf Plus starts at $36,550 for the S model, $38,510 for the SV, and $42,550 for the SL. 
Buyers are still eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit, plus any state and local incentives, which for the base S could push the price down to $23,385. That’s important to remember as both General Motors and Tesla are having their tax credits phased out during the course of this year and next. (Though Nissan isn't all that far behind.)

While the 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV offers longer range, it’s also more costly at $37,495 for the base model before the federal tax credit. Later in the model year, the new Leaf Plus will nearly match the Bolt EV in terms of range and is expected to carry a starting price around $35,000. Perhaps the Leaf's greater competitive threats are the new Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia Niro EV, each offering more range with tax credits good through the middle of the next decade.

If you decide to buy this car, do check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for the new Nissan Leaf. As for resale value, the Leaf lags behind both the Chevrolet Bolt EV and the Tesla Model 3. It is, however, expected to lead all electric cars in terms of low 5-year ownership costs, according to the KBB 2019 5-Year Cost-to-Own Awards.

OK, so what's next?
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Then again, maybe I should be thinking about a used car.

Notable Equipment

For 2019, the Nissan Leaf EV is available in S, SV and SL trims. Base models come with 16-inch wheels, 40-kWh battery, 6.6-kWh on-board charger, Rear Door Alert, ePedal technology and emergency automatic braking. SV models include 17-inch wheels, a quick-charge port, leather-wrapped steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, and NissanConnect with Navigation and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility. Top-line SL models include LED headlights, heated outside mirrors, leather seating, 8-way-power driver seat, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, premium 7-speaker Bose audio system, blind-spot monitoring, around-view camera, driver-attention alert and rear cross-traffic warning. Leaf Plus models are available in the same S, SV and SL levels of trim. 

Notable Options

On base S models, you can opt for a quick-charge port and portable-charge cable that has adapters for conventional 120- and 240-volt outlets. An All Weather Package on the S and SV includes heated seats and steering wheel, heated outside mirrors and rear heating ducts. The SV Tech option includes LED lighting, 8-way-power seats, the portable-charge cable, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning, electric parking brake, lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic warning and ProPilot and steering assist as well as full-speed range and hold on the adaptive cruise control. The SL Tech package includes ProPilot and Steering Assist, full-range adaptive cruise, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and Intelligent Lane Intervention.

Favorite Features

Thanks to an aggressive regenerative-braking setup (regenerative braking recaptures power for the battery via engine braking), the Leaf can be driven using only the accelerator pedal to make it go or stop. Simply removing one’s foot from the accelerator causes the car to begin deceleration and, if you don’t interfere, can even come to a complete stop all on its own.

Offered on SV and SL trims, Pro-Pilot Assist is part of Nissan’s semi-autonomous driving systems that allow you to let the car do the driving, albeit with your hand still on the wheel. Adaptive cruise control keeps a safe distance between the Leaf and traffic, while lane-keep assist will keep the car from drifting out of its lane. When Pro-Pilot is engaged, the car will steer itself in certain situations, not including sharp curves or 90-degree turns.

Under the Hood

Power for the 2019 Nissan Leaf EV comes from a 110-kW electric motor paired with a 40-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Powered by its front wheels, the Leaf has an EPA-estimated range of 150 miles, although that will vary depending on driving habits and outside temperatures. Recharging times vary according to method. A standard 110-volt household outlet requires about 35 hours to trickle charge, while a 220-volt Level 2 charger reduces that time to just eight hours. The standard Leaf’s 40-kWh battery can be charged to 80 percent in just 40 minutes with a DC fast charger. The 62-kWh battery in the Leaf Plus reaches 80 percent in one hour. With its 160-kW motor and larger battery, the new Leaf Plus has an EPA estimated range of 226 miles – an increase of 51 percent over a standard Leaf.

110-kW AC synchronous electric motor
40-kWh lithium-ion battery pack
147 horsepower
236 lb-ft of torque
EPA city/highway fuel-economy equivalent: 112 MPGe
EPA-estimated range per full charge: 150 miles

Leaf Plus
160-kW AC synchronous electric motor
62-kWh lithium-ion battery pack
214 horsepower
250 lb-ft of torque
EPA city/highway fuel-economy equivalent: NA
EPA-estimated range per full charge: 226 miles

Editors' Notes

The 2019 Nissan Leaf is a comfortable, roomy and stylish electric car with an impressive level of content and a price tag well within the average buyer’s reach. The standard Leaf, with a range of 150 miles, can’t go as far as the Chevy Bolt (238 miles) or the Tesla Model 3 (310 miles). However, there’s a new Leaf this year called the Leaf Plus, and it has a much more respectable EPA range of 226 miles. The new Leaf Plus, equipped with a 62-kWh battery and a higher output motor, hits 60 mph in about 7 seconds, a full second sooner than the standard Leaf. Both models of the Nissan Leaf qualify for a federal tax credit.

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