Since the Nissan Leaf was first unveiled way back in 2009, the Versa-based EV proved a capable heir apparent to the hype being diminished by normalization of hybrid offerings. Granted, it wasn’t available stateside quite yet, but it managed to throw some ripples in the pond, generating domestic excitement enough to hold everyone over until it was ready for release. A 110 hp/210 lb-ft of torque rating wasn’t anything to get too excited about, but those interested in making the jump to an all-electric offering probably couldn’t care less. The appeal came in its 109-mile range and tech-centric design. For those who prioritize sustainability in their shopping checklist, it ticked all the right boxes.
And for eight model years, the first-gen Leaf continued, albeit with some snags in terms of real-world performance. For example, the official range (as reported by the EPA) is close to 73 miles, and studies showed that the range provided by a single charge could vary by as much as 40%. This perception of disparity was furthered when subsequent testing failed to duplicate the same conditions or even utilize the same charging modes. And if that’s the case, was the Leaf really all it was cracked up to be?
Well, recognizing that their claims of unfair comparison placed the burden of proof on their own shoulders, Nissan did anything but rest on their laurels. Based on the EPA numbers, the 2013 Leaf achieved improved fuel economy to the tune of 15% and continued to bump those numbers up through the 2015 model year. For 2016 Nissan increased the battery capacity allowing for up to a 107-mile range, proving that they could bridge the gap of disparity that had been pointed out to them six years prior.
As an added perk, the Leaf had also earned acclaim over any other examples of advanced automotive technology. It does so by proving to have the most modest environmental footprint of any other North American vehicle with a minimum occupancy of four people (driver included). High praise indeed.
But where does the Nissan Leaf stand as of 2019? Well, let’s take a closer look.
Getting to Know the 2019 Nissan Leaf
In case we haven’t mentioned it yet, the Nissan Leaf earns the distinction of being named the ‘World’s Best-Selling Electric Car”. Whether you opt for the core Leaf or the Leaf Plus (with added range), Nissan has provided a worthwhile offering deserving of serious consideration.
First, it’s worth pointing out that (aside from the sustainability-minded) an ever-growing segment of the car buying public are taking favor of modestly-sized hatchbacks. Offering nimble maneuvering, the convenience of accessibility and the option of favoring passengers or cargo (as needed) the Leaf ticks many of the boxes present on the car-buying checklist of younger car buyers. Pleasing to the eye, it manages to make a distinctive impression without sacrificing a sense of refinement which conveys its ‘less is more’ mentality with a quiet confidence. Even the exterior color options are refined, limited to Glacier White, Silver Metallic, Gun Metallic, and Black with only a Deep Pearl Blue to ease the Leaf beyond its reserved image.
Noting the two variants offered, each comes in a total of three trim levels (S, SV, and SL). The traditional Leaf is priced to start around $29,900 MSRP while the Leaf Plus begins at around $36,550.
The core version of the Leaf comes powered by a 40 kWh battery paired with a 110 kW engine, capable of 147 hp. The Plus upgrades the battery capacity to 62 kWh and the engine to 160 kW, earning an impressive 214 hp.
In addition, there’s the inclusion of Nissan Intelligent Mobility, a suite of advanced driver assist features that encourage both safety, confidence, and the enjoyment of driving. Features include ProPilot Assist, Automatic Emergency Braking, Pedestrian Detection, Surround View, Blind Spot Warning, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. These features, combined with the e-Pedal which doubles as accelerator and decelerator (assisted by the traditional brake pedal) create a refreshed interpretation of the driving experience.
The Intelligent Cloud
But the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi platform upon which the Leaf is built is approaching the next stage of the continual evolution it has enjoyed since its introduction back in 2016. The automaker’s alliance with Microsoft has produced the Azure cloud computing platform that enables certain vehicles with the Alliance Intelligent Cloud (AIC) a feature that serves multiple roles. First (and most accessible by today’s standards) is that it acts as an internet hotspot. Second, it provides a means of receiving remote diagnostics on the vehicle, as well as real-time updates/communication. But it also plays a role in collecting data related to driving and performance, which is then transmitted to Nissan for utilization in the development of self-driving autonomous technology.
While such transparency might prove discomforting to some, it speaks to the kind of innovation we (especially younger consumers) expect to see in today’s automotive marketplace. Always a hub of forward-thinking design and engineering, the industry has never been more future-focused in terms of technology than it is today; and we shouldn’t expect that to change any time soon. The race towards autonomy is very much that (a race), and automakers who aspire to integrate and standardize constructive technologies, making them affordable and allowing consumers to acclimate to such changes, are likely to prove most successful as we begin to dip our toes in the pool of self-driving vehicles.
In that sense, the soon-to-be incorporation of AIC makes good sense. It creates the opportunity for the average consumer to develop a sense of comfort and confidence in new technologies that might otherwise be intimidating to them. It allows for more consumer-based testing, helping OEMs to create products better designed for real-world conditions. While it remains to be seen how widely, quickly or efficiently we can expect to see this kind of gradual approach used in the industry as a whole, Nissan is setting a wise precedent.
While other automakers are still biding their time, dipping their toes in the waters of EV offerings the Nissan Leaf has already passed a decade of continual development and evolution, and that kind of long game is evident in where it stands. It’s really no surprise that over 400,000 units have been sold to-date with the aggressive projection of passing the half-million mark by 2020.
And while the relative familiarity of the Leaf might limit the excitement generated by Nissan when compared to the likes of Tesla, it goes without saying that they’re ahead of the game when compared to the majority in-segment competitors. And if that doesn’t make the Nissan Leaf deserving of the hype it receives, well, what does?
What do you think of the Nissan Leaf, both in terms of where it came from and where it seems to be heading? In our mind, it’s an understated offering that manages to achieve far more than some might give it credit for.
Having been celebrated as a “Best of Innovation’ winner at the Consumer Electronics Show, Nissan’s Executive VP Daniele Schillaci might have said it best when she stated, “This award recognizes products and technologies that benefit people and the planet, so it is fitting that the new LEAF has been honored. It is more than just a car. It is the icon of Nissan Intelligent Mobility, our vision to move people to a better world.”