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Nissan Leaf: Second generation raises the bar

Photo courtesy of Nissan

This hatchback could change your mind about electric cars.

Introduced in 2010, the Leaf underwent a major redesign for 2018. And despite competition from recently released EVs, the new Leaf stays near the top of the heap. The exterior and interior styling are now more mainstream and “normal” looking. The cabin is larger, with good headroom in the front; a cleanly designed, easy-to-read instrument panel; and a number of thoughtful touches, such as the window-switch panel on the driver’s door that’s angled toward the driver for easier use. 

Power comes from a 147-hp electric motor and a 40-kWh lithium-ion battery, providing the Leaf with an EPA-estimated range of 151 miles. The Leaf’s steering is responsive, with decent feel. The ride is comfortable, particularly for a small car, and handling is very good, but not as sporty as the original’s.

Acceleration is fine, although the Leaf doesn’t have as much low-end punch as most EVs. Using the standard e-Pedal feature, drivers can slow or stop the Leaf via regenerative braking without having to touch the brake pedal.

Available advanced safety features include forward-collision warning, forward automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic warning, and adaptive cruise control. Anything not to like? Backseat legroom is a little tight, and there’s not much cargo space.

In 2019, Nissan introduced the Leaf Plus, with a 214-hp engine, a 62-kWh battery, and 226 miles of range. It supplements rather than replaces the standard Leaf.

With the Auto Club’s free Car Buying Service, members can enjoy a no-hassle experience when purchasing a new or used vehicle. Get estimated pricing and access to online inventory before visiting a AAA-recommended dealer near you. For details, go to AAA.com/auto or call 800-709-7222.

Model years: 2018-2019
Vehicle layout: Compact 4-door hatchback, 147-hp electric motor, single-speed transmission, FWD
MSRP: $29,990 (base), $36,851 (well-equipped)
MPGe, city/hwy/combined: 125/110/112 
Crash-test ratings: NHTSA: not yet rated. IIHS: good (all ratings)
Basic warranty: 36 months/36,000 miles
Spare tire: Tire-inflator kit
Final assembly: United States
Range: 151 miles

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