The all-new 2018 Nissan Leaf gets points for a much-improved design, well-packaged and better-looking interior, longer driving range, and the availability of advanced safety features. But it remains bland behind the wheel, cold weather affects its range, and the fast charging network is spotty, at best.

Best Value

Pricing for the 2018 Leaf, before incentives, starts at $30,875 for the S, and rises to $38,380 for the SL trim finished in two-tone pearl white and black and equipped with the Technology Package. The standard feature set includes the usual power bits plus a five-inch display screen, automatic climate control, keyless push-button start, a rearview camera, pre-collision warning, and automatic emergency braking.

At a $2,500 premium over the S, we'd opt for the SV that adds larger 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, a seven-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, adaptive cruise control, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, along with access to a number of additional advanced safety features. Here's how we'd build it:

  • Model: 2018 Nissan Leaf SV
  • Engine: 110-kW AC synchronous
  • Output: 147 hp / 236 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Single-speed direct drive
  • Battery Pack: 40-kWh lithium ion
  • Range: EPA-estimated 151 miles
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
  • MPG: 125 MPGe City / 100 MPGe Hwy
  • Options: SV Technology Package ($2,200, 120 V/240 V portable charge cable, electronic parking brake, LED headlights and signature daytime running lights, ProPILOT Assist [adaptive cruise control with lane keeping assist], automatic high beams, auto-dimming rearview mirror, power driver's seat, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert)
  • Base Price: $33,375 (including a $885 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price: $35,575

Performance

Nissan Leaf

With a larger electric motor and 40 more horsepower, the 2018 Leaf accelerates smartly and offers punchier acceleration above 50 miles per hour. The ride is smooth, handling is predictable, and road-holding is decent – courtesy of its low-mounted batteries. In addition, Eco mode is less annoying than its peers and extends around-town battery range by five to nine percent. Nissan's "e-Pedal" system, which offers "one-pedal driving" for increased regenerative braking and is gentler than the systems found on the Chevrolet Bolt and BMW i3, is standard.

On the other hand, steering feel is slightly numb with weak on-center feel, Eco mode makes the Leaf feel a little sluggish. Not surprisingly, charging times and cold weather is its Achilles heel. Fully depleted, a normal 120-volt outlet charge takes 16 hours. Installing a 240-volt outlet at home (a portable charging cord that handles either 120-volt or 240-volt current is optional on the S and SV and standard on the SL) cuts the time to eight hours. Finally, a 50-kw CHAdeMO DC fast charger – provided you have access to one – recharges the battery to 80 percent in about 40 minutes. Winter driving also takes a toll. In temperatures ranging from 40 to 45 degrees, we experienced a test Leaf using 108 predicted miles to travel just 66 miles at highway speeds.

Style

The Leaf's latest design is an improvement in every way – losing its predecessor's bug-eyed look with a new V-shaped grille pattern, while appropriating a number of styling cues from the handsome Murano. The new look is wrapped around a stylish and updated interior that's comfortable enough for long-distance travel and a step above Nissan's typical smaller offerings. Soft-touch materials have replaced much of the previous model's hard plastics, with the suede two-tone look found in the SL an especially nice touch.

At the same time, the back seat isn't nearly as accommodating as those up front. The rear seat cushions feel thinner, while the backrest is reclined at more of an angle than some may find comfortable.

The Best and Worst Things

The Leaf's slick design, stylish interior, and 151-mile range make it an obvious choice for many. We just wish the steering wasn't quite as numb and it offered sportier handling characteristics.

Right For? Wrong For?

Nissan Leaf

Normal styling, interior upgrades, the availability of active safety features, and a 151-mile range make the new Leaf a compelling choice for eco-conscious buyers concerned with safety.

At the same time, enthusiasts are sure to be turned off by its numb steering and mundane handling.

The Bottom Line

Despite the typical charging issues along with mediocre handling, the 2018 Nissan Leaf is a solid competitor in its class thanks to its more conventional design, more upscale interior, advanced safety features, and longer 151-mile range.