Affordable efficiency. Coming up on a decade in existence, the 2019 Nissan Leaf is no longer the only EV on the block. In addition to the premium offerings from Tesla, it’s up against the likes of the Chevrolet Bolt and the Hyundai Kona Electric.
What the Leaf has over them all is affordability. Even after destination fees, the Leaf starts at less than $31,000. That’s thousands less than either the Bolt or the Kona Electric, let alone a Tesla. And that’s before federal incentives, which, in the Leaf's case, should be substantial.
The trim range extends into the low $40,000 range, including the longer-range Leaf Plus.
Extra power and range. New for 2019 is the Nissan Leaf Plus, which adds some welcome oomph to the lineup. The Leaf Plus gets a 62-kWh battery pack instead of the regular 40-kWh version.
The extra batteries add some weight, but more importantly, they add range. The EPA estimates the maximum range of the Leaf Plus at 226 miles. That’s less than the Bolt and Kona Electric, but not by much. The Plus also gets a fast-charging system that can charge the batteries to 80 percent in 40 minutes.
The Plus gets a power boost, too. The Leaf Plus gets 214 horsepower, which is more than both the regular Leaf and the competition. The power boost is particularly noticeable at passing speeds, but it helps around town, too.
Comfortable and versatile. It’s not just the powertrain that shows attention to detail. The interior is thoughtful as well, with supportive seats and pleasant design accents.
Features are plentiful, and the Leaf is fairly good value across the board. Safety features like automatic emergency braking and driver alertness monitors are standard, but Nissan also offers an optional active ProPilot Assist.
In the back, the Leaf has space like any other hatchback. It has 23.6 cubic feet of capacity behind the rear seats, which is solid for the class and more than either the Bolt or the Kona. The Leaf’s seats don’t fold down as cleanly, though, which means just 30 cubic feet with the second row folded.
Our only other nit to pick is that the rear middle seat is a little narrow, but the Leaf is comfortable enough for four adults.
Electric, but not exciting. After last year’s redesign, the Leaf is now much less distinctive. It doesn’t advertise its green credentials, sticking to a tasteful badge or two. Depending on who you talk to, that may be a good thing. Either way, clever blackout panels give the new Leaf a modern if restrained look.
Although the numbers on the Leaf Plus are impressive, neither Leaf is engaging to drive. Tracking isn’t easy at highway speeds, and the Leaf can get unsettled over rough pavement. Still, the batteries keep the center of gravity low enough that, in most cases, the Leaf is stable and competent.
Final thoughts. Electric vehicles move ever closer to practicality with longer ranges and faster charge times. The 2019 Nissan Leaf has both, plus a dose of affordability.
With a flexible feature set, the Leaf can be anything from an urban commuter to a road-trip machine. If you’ve been thinking of making the switch to electric power, the Leaf makes a more compelling case than ever.