WHAT IT IS: The Leaf is Nissan’s compact sedan that is purely an electric vehicle. With no gasoline required, it provides between 150 and 226 miles of range, depending on which trim you choose. I drove the extended range version (that’s the Plus bit in the headline). You don’t just get a bigger battery with the Plus, you also get a big jump in horsepower from 147 to 215 ponies and 251 lb-ft of torque. The difference is immense, with the Plus trim pushing the Leaf from a stodgy accelerator to a car that is fun to drive. Being powered by electric motors, all of that torque is available from the instant you put your foot down, so it feels much faster than a car with a comparable power from an internal combustion engine.
One of the more unique features on the Leaf is what Nissan calls the “e-Pedal.” It’s a driver-selectable braking system that doesn’t require the driver to touch the brake pedal at all. When you take your foot off of the gas, the e-Pedal feature starts to slow the Leaf much like you are briefly touching the brakes. It will actually bring you to a full stop, but of course there is still a brake pedal if you need to stop quickly. The system is designed to recapture as much of the energy as possible and transfer it back into the batteries.
The batteries are actually the same size as the previous generation Leaf, but due to improvements in technology, take up the same amount of space while providing drastically more energy storage. You still have a full 24 cubic feet of storage space behind the rear seat, so you aren’t making much of a sacrifice.
Charging is relatively painless with both Leaf trims carrying an on-board Level 2 charger that will allow you to fully charge the Leaf Plus in 11.5 hours (versus 7.5 for the regular Leaf). The Leaf Plus does allow you to utilize a 100 kW quick charger which will bump you from 0 to 80 percent in only 45 minutes.
MPG: 104 combined/114 city/94 highway MPGe
PRICE: $37,445 base price for Leaf Plus.
UPSIDES: Incredible fuel economy, fun to drive and eco-friendly.
WRAP-UP: No, you probably won’t be buying an electric car to take on cross country journeys (unless you own a Tesla or have an adventurous spirit) but the winds of change are coming with networks of charging stations open to the public continue to grow tremendously. Even the base Leaf’s range of 150 miles is significantly more than most drivers will ever drive in a single typical day. The Leaf is a car that you can easily live with every day, and has dropped the eco-forward looks of the previous generation. It’s not a car that will work for everyone, but it’s still a great car.