The Nissan Leaf has been on the market since 2010, and this year, there’s an all-new Leaf to entice electric car fans. At its introduction, electric vehicles were a novelty, but they’re becoming increasingly popular for their efficiency, features, and environmental friendliness.
One of the big challenges facing electric vehicles is mindset. EVs are not the same as good, old, gas-powered vehicles. You need to plug them in rather than gas them up, and charging stations aren’t plentiful everywhere.
That leads to the dreaded range anxiety, or the worry that you’ll run out of juice before finding somewhere to charge. The 2018 Nissan Leaf tries to assuage that fear with a larger capacity 40-kWh battery that increases the range up to 150 miles. For most people, that’s more than enough to manage the daily commute and then some.
Nissan also addressed the need for this efficient little electric to drive with a bit more verve. The Leaf now has 147 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque from an all-new e-powertrain. Electric cars deliver all their torque at once, so acceleration will surprise you. Don’t let that low horsepower number fool you into thinking this car doesn’t move.
It’s a spirited drive that’s plenty fun, and it has good handling. It feels like simply a fun compact car and only reminds you it’s an electric with the notable absence of engine noise and its unique e-Pedal feature. Still, you won’t find yourself thinking about the fact that you’re driving an electric.
The e-Pedal allows for driving with only the accelerator pedal. Yes, it sounds odd because you need to stop at some point and that usually means using the brakes, but you don’t need to press the brake pedal in the Leaf to engage them.
As soon as you lift your foot off the gas, the e-Pedal activates regenerative braking, slowing the car and bringing it to a complete stop. It will even hold the car at a stop on a hill, so you don’t need to keep your foot on the brake pedal. The only time you need to use the brake is for aggressive braking, which is only about 10 percent of the time.
It seems weird — and when you first try driving with the e-Pedal, it is, but only at first. It doesn’t take long to get accustomed to the way the e-Pedal slows the car. After that brief learning curve, driving with only the accelerator is more relaxing.
Of course, Nissan realizes the e-Pedal might not be for everyone. There’s a simple toggle switch that lets you switch back and forth from e-Pedal driving to the usual two-pedal driving depending on your preference.
Nissan added plenty of available safety features into the new Leaf, including ProPilot assist, which is available on all but the base model. This feature maintains the distance to the car ahead using a speed and distance preset by the driver. It also has steering assistance to keep the Leaf in its lane and even applies the brakes to bring the car to a full stop and keep it there until the driver presses the gas pedal.
Another key improvement for the 2018 Leaf is enhanced connectivity, which now features available NissanConnect Services along with the existing NissanConnect EV telematics. These features let you remotely access select vehicle functions through your smartphone, wearable, and even through Alexa. You can monitor your Leaf’s charging status, activate charging, and even turn on the HVAC system. The addition of NissanConnect Services adds features including automatic collision notification, parked car finder, stolen vehicle locator, remote horn and lights, speed alert, and remote lock and unlock.
The 2018 Nissan Leaf is available in three trim levels starting with the S at $29,990 and topping out with the SL at $36,200. You can reserve your Nissan Leaf now with deliveries expected in January.