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2020 Nissan LEAF

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Overview (Final Score: 83%)
The 2020 Nissan Leaf now comes in two flavors. The previous Leaf with a relatively short range of 149 miles, and a new version called Leaf Plus with a more competitive range of about 226 miles. Since iSeeCars recently reviewed the short-range Leaf, we will focus most of our commentary here on the newer Leaf Plus. We feel it is the Leaf that most shoppers will have interest in. Our test vehicle was a Leaf Plus SL with a price as tested of $44,825. Before you slam the laptop shut, be aware nobody will ever pay that for this vehicle. Incentives matter - a lot - in EV pricing. We would expect most Leaf Plus SL owners to end up with a cost after incentives of between $33K and $37K.

The Leaf is the original all-electric vehicle of the modern age. In the marketplace now for nearly a full decade, the Leaf has done well globally in the context of a battery-electric vehicle (BEV). However, sales remain very low in the American market by comparison to green cars in general. Were the Leaf not an important EV to Nissan to demonstrate a commitment to the mandates imposed by the State of California, it would be canceled immediately due to tiny sales.

Let's forget about the politics and marketing surrounding EVs for a bit and just look closely at what the Leaf is like once it arrives in your driveway and you begin to use it as a daily driver. We will, of course, circle back to the facts and figures of driving electric, but we will endeavor to tell readers what being in a Leaf is like.

What We Love About the 2020 Nissan Leaf Plus
- Fun to drive in all circumstances
- A realistic range for many shoppers
- Still qualifies for many incentives

What We Don't Love About the 2020 Nissan Leaf
- Seating position
- Outward view
- Practicality compromises compared to other family vehicle options


Exterior View (7/10)
The 2020 Nissan Leaf Plus Sure doesn't have the sexy look of a Tesla Model 3. Nor is it a crossover shaped vehicle. It is sort of a boxy hatchback. We like the look. In the same way a Prius looks modern and practical, it is obvious that the Leaf designers followed function and then did the best they could with the form.

The Leaf looks a lot like all Nissan products from the front. The grill has the signature Nissan vibe and the rear looks crossovery. From the side, it is not going to win any beauty contests, but it also isn't unappealing.


Interior Comfort, Quality, Ergonomics (8/10)
The Nissan Leaf is unusual inside. When you sit upon the seat the sensation, even with the seat lowered as far as it can go, is of being on a stool. You seem to be about six inches higher than you would be in a typical small car. The net effect of that is you are up higher with respect to the headliner than in most cars. So your outward view is restricted. Add to this chunky A-pillars and you seem to have a limited view out by comparison to any crossover, and also most sedans and hatchbacks. Every passenger we carried mentioned it.


Aside from the restricted outward view, the Nissan Leaf is very easy to live with inside. There is a convenient place for a phone, two cupholders, a real armrest, and center console, and the vehicle is no less spacious than most of its peers (Bolt, Prius Prime etc). However, the Kia Niro EV may be more practical. The dash is well laid out and the infotainment controls simple to operate.

We found the materials inside the Leaf Plus SL to be a mixed bag. The shiny hard black plastic on the A-Pillars lets the car down. The heated front seats were comfortable and "leather-trimmed." The heated steering wheel felt nice to hold and was covered in smooth leather.

The Leaf's cargo area is a generous 24 cubic feet, which can expand to 30 cu ft with the rear seats folded. That is much more than a conventional small sedan. Under the cargo floor, there is no spare tire.


Technology (10/10)
Our Leaf Plus SL had an impressive level of technology. Nissan's ProPilot driver assist system is one of our favorites. It is able to keep you centered in your lane, handle stop and go traffic, and even stop the car safely if you have a medical emergency. The Nissan safety nannies also never bugged us. We can't remember any false positive forward-collision warnings and the lane departure warnings didn't prompt us to search for the off button.

There is no head-up display in the Leaf Plus SL. At the $45K price point that seems like an omission. However, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are in the Plus SL trim. Not all Leafs have this, so if you shop other trims be aware of it. Like most manufacturers, Nissan's integration still requires a cord connection to use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.


Fuel Economy &Range (10/10)

The Nissan Leaf Plus is one of the world's most energy-efficient vehicles. Using only electricity, your fuel economy is dependent on your local utility's pricing. Ours is $0.24/kWhr. That means that the Leaf Plus has a very low price for energy on a per-mile basis. Only some hybrids do better, and only when the local electricity cost is high and gas is low (like right now).


Living Electric (9/10)
We found the Leaf Plus lived up to its range promises. We saw a fully-charge range as high as 243 miles. During our driving in 30F to 55F temperatures, the Leaf Plus also seemed to have a close match between the "range miles" and the actual miles driven.

Our Leaf Plus had a new-generation portable charger. It was the heaviest of any vehicle we have ever tested. So heavy, it cannot hang from the plug connection. You need to support it with a shelf or a bungee cord. The 120-Volt charging rate for us was about 4 miles for every hour it was plugged in. That's higher than we normally see. The portable charger also has a four-pronged 240-Volt plug end. So, you could possibly charge with 240V power if it was available for some reason. We actually do have a 240-Volt plug in our garage, but it has an older three-prong receptacle. Nissan says that its High Output Quick Charge Port allows charging to 80 percent capacity in 40 minutes at fast-charging stations. That doesn't sound very fast to us by comparison to fueling up a gasoline-powered plug-in hybrid.

One feature that Nissan Leaf Plus buyers will be interested in is the B-mode e-pedal. This allows a driver to select a very aggressive regenerative braking setting each time they enter the vehicle. It allows for "one-pedal" driving. You rarely need the brake pedal, even when coming to a full stop at a stop sign or intersection. The extra braking power also adds more power back into the battery. We see the value and would suggest making the braking power variable with paddles on the back of the steering wheel.


Predicted Reliability, Initial Quality Ratings (6/10)
The Nissan Leaf earns a predicted reliability of 3/5 at Consumer Reports. However, the prior years earned a 5/5 based on owner-reported reliability. In JD Power's most recent dependability study Nissan scored just below the industry average.

Safety (8/10)
The current-generation Nissan Leaf has not been fully-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Likely due to its very low sales rate. Given the Leaf's active driver assist systems, it seems safe for its size and weight. However, without objective, third-party testing we trust, it is hard to provide a final judgement. We will offer a score of 8/10 assuming the Leaf will do well if tested.


Performance (9/10)
The Leaf Plus has 250 lb-ft of torque and Nissan says the acceleration is about 13% better than the standard-range Leaf. We loved the zippy feel and instant electric torque. The Leaf can spin its front tires from a stop, so more torque is not going be useful in this quick car. Handling in normal driving is good as is road comfort. We could add some fancy language about the Leaf Plus's fun to drive nature, but trust us - if you test drive it you will like the way it feels. This is a fun car to drive.

Pricing and Value (8/10)
As we alluded to above, the pricing of all EVs is very dependent on the cost after incentives. Nissan still qualifies for the full $7,500 federal tax credit. Some states offer incentives such as rebates on the Leaf. In our state of Massachusetts, some utility companies have offered rebates of as much as $5,000. Your specific deals will depend on where you live.

Let us offer some real examples of Leaf pricing here in our headquarters state of Massachusetts. The Mass. Drive Green Program lists the after-incentive costs dealers are offering now to buyers for in-stock vehicles. Base Leafs are costing consumers $19,610. Top-trim Leaf Plus SL cars are costing $32,655. Do your homework if you plan to buy an EV. The incentives make these vehicles viable.


Total Score and Competitive Comparison (75/90, 83%)
Overall, the Nissan Leaf Plus is an enjoyable vehicle to drive in a practical package. Its price point is a bit higher than other green car options but will vary widely by location. The Nissan Leaf Plus has many worthy competitors. The Chevy Bolt offers a similar ownership experience at a similar cost. We feel the Kia Niro EV is a better vehicle at similar prices due to its size, shape and driving experience. The Toyota Prius Prime is a very good alternative that can offer lower energy costs per mile and a legacy of strong resale value. The Nissan Leaf Plus with its 200-mile-plus range is a reasonable alternative to some conventional cars, and in the running as a green vehicle for certain buyers.

Trim Engine Drive Train MSRP
S 4dr Hatchback FWD 31600
SV 4dr Hatchback FWD 34190
S PLUS 4dr Hatchback FWD 38200
SV PLUS 4dr Hatchback FWD 39750
SL PLUS 4dr Hatchback FWD 43900

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