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2019 Nissan Leaf: New Car Review

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author photo by Autotrader January 2019

As the inevitable march toward an all-electric car society moves forward, EVs (electric vehicle) like the 2019 Nissan Leaf continue to prove the skeptics wrong, providing an impressive range and all the creature comforts of a gasoline powered car, but at a price that is actually lower than the national average. With the buy-in -- including factory delivery charge -- for a new Leaf pegged at $30,875, the Leaf not only undercuts the $33,000 average new car price, it handily tops competitors like $37,495 Chevrolet Bolt EV or the $44,000-plus Tesla Model 3 Long Range. In fairness, both the Bolt and the Tesla Model 3 have far greater range on a single charge, something to consider if your commutes take you outside the city limits. And, because Nissan has not yet reached the government mandated cut off of 200,000 EV and Plug-in EV sales, the full $7,500 tax credit still applies to the Leaf. If Congress fails to act, by the end of 2019, both Tesla and GM will see their tax credit significantly reduced or phased out completely.

Further bolstering the Leaf's desirability is the integration of Nissan Intelligent Mobility that lays the groundwork for the future of self-driving cars. Intelligent Mobility is composed of three systems: Intelligent Driving, Intelligent Power and Intelligent Integration. With an estimated range of 150 miles, the Leaf instills a sense of confidence previous limited-range version did not. Nissan designers gave this hatchback some personality, and dare we say it's somewhat stylish. Add to that some new standard-across-the-board equipment like automatic emergency braking, a more conveniently located charge port, LED taillights and e-Pedal technology, as well as available ProPILOT Assist, and you've got quite a value package.

What's New for 2019

The 2019 Nissan Leaf carries over with no major changes of note.

What We Like

Decent range; low price; standard equipment; ePedal; handsome styling and user-friendly cabin

What We Don't

Range still relegates it to basically an around-town commuter; most safety/driver-assist technologies aren't available on the entry-level trim

How Much?

$30,875-$37,085

Fuel Economy

The 2019 Nissan Leaf's hybrid system not only delivers more range than the first generation Leaf, it produces 37 percent more horsepower and 26 percent more torque, rated at 147 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. A CVT transfers motor output to the front wheels.

The length of recharging time the battery requires depends on the type of system. Using the 110-volt cable supplied with the car takes about 35 hours. That's why it's called trickle charging. Using a 220-volt Level 2 charger (optional on the S and standard on the SV and the SL) reduces charging time to less than 8 hours. Using a DC quick or fast charge system can add an 80 percent charge in about 40 minutes.

Calculating fuel economy differently for EVs, the EPA rates the Leaf's mileage at 125 MPGe city/100 MPGe highway with an annual electricity cost of $600. The battery pack comes with an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty.

Standard Features & Options

The S ($30,875) comes standard with hill-start assist, e-Pedal, 16-in steel wheels, power outboard mirrors, a 6-way manually adjusted driver's seat, a trip computer, cruise control, push-button start, power windows, power door locks, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 12-volt power outlet, automatic climate control, a backup camera, hands-free text messaging, six airbags, a security system with immobilizer, automatic emergency braking and a 4-speaker audio system with a USB port, a 5-in color display, Bluetooth connectivity and satellite radio capability. Options include heated outboard mirrors, a quick charge port, front heated seats and cargo cover.

The SV ($33,375) builds on the S-grade content, adding the quick charge port, 17-in alloy wheels, fog lights, an upgraded 6-speaker audio system with an HD radio, NissanConnect EV remote vehicle connection, intelligent cruise control and Nissan ConnectSM with navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a 7-in color display and voice recognition. Options include an electronic parking brake, a rear cargo cover, a heated steering wheel, heated outboard mirrors, LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, high beam assist, an 8-way power driver's seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, HomeLink Universal Transceiver, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, ProPILOT Assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and intelligent lane intervention.

The SL ($37,085) adds standard features like a heated steering wheel, heated outboard mirrors with integrated turn signals, LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, an 8-way power driver's seat, leather seats, front heated seats, a 6-speaker Bose Premium audio system with a 7-in color display, rear cargo cover, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 360-degree around-view monitor, rear cross-traffic alert and Intelligent Driver Alertness. Options include SV safety/driver assistance options not made standard, plus an electronic parking brake.

Safety

IIHS has only posted crash-test results for head restraints and seats, moderate front overlap and side impact crash tests in which the Leaf received its top rating of Good. The government has yet to crash test it. Every Leaf comes with the e-Pedal that automatically brings the car to a stop simply by releasing pressure on the accelerator. In addition to six airbags, backup camera and forward emergency braking, every new Leaf comes with the usual suspects of stability control, traction control and so forth.

Optional on the SV and the SVL are automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and intelligent lane intervention. Optional on the SV, but standard on the SVL are blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and Intelligent Driver Alertness that alerts the driver when it senses the driver isn't paying attention or is getting drowsy. Also optional on SV and SVL is Nissan's ProPilot Assist that can be engaged with the adaptive cruise control to help keep the Leaf in the middle of its lane, among other things.

Behind the Wheel

The Leaf's cockpit is a nice blend of comfort and high tech. It's not so futuristic as to be distracting, but its mushroom cap-like shifter and upright touchscreen in the center of the dash lets you know something different is going on. An eerily quiet passenger space and smooth ride make for a pleasant environment.

The linear acceleration of the electric motor means smooth, quick starts. All of the torque comes alive the instant your foot gooses the accelerator. This is the ideal platform for a CVT, because there's no constant screaming of an internal combustion engine at the peak of its rev range. Acceleration, even hard acceleration, is chaos free. And we love the e-Pedal feature.

Other Cars to Consider

2019 Hyundai Ioniq -- With an estimated range of up to 124 miles and the highest EV fuel economy in the industry (150 MPGe city/122 MPGe highway), this car is an ideal inner-city commuter.

2019 Volkswagen e-Golf -- With an entry-level price close to the Leaf's, this EV has less estimated range (125 miles), but is classified as a compact rather than a midsize as the Leaf is. But it offers VW driving dynamics in an EV.

2019 Chevrolet Bolt -- You can't have an EV discussion and not mention the Bolt. Bigger than the Leaf with a buy-in price measurably higher than the Leaf's, it has an estimated range of 238 miles.

2019 Tesla Model 3 Long Range -- After a rough start, the Tesla Model 3 is gaining ground quickly, becoming one of the best-selling sedan in the later half of 2018. The Tesla 3 Long Range does post an estimated range of 310 miles, but at a starting price about $15,000 more than the Leaf. The federal tax credit for the Model 3 has also been reduced to $3,750, and will drop to $1,875 after July 1.

Autotrader's Advice

In terms of basics, for the price, we think the 2019 Nissan Leaf S grade is nicely equipped. Most of the standard gear added by moving up to the SL, though, has to do with entertainment and connectivity. If these things are important to you, the SL is the better choice. Plus, you can then opt for another couple of driver-assist technologies that you just can't get on the entry-level car. If you do go with the S, however, we strongly advise opting for the Fast Charge package that comes standard on the SV and SL grades.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2019 Nissan Leaf: New Car Review - Autotrader