EV Review: 2017 Nissan Leaf

 In Electric Cars, EV Industry

The Nissan Leaf was introduced as one of the earliest mass-produced models of electric cars in North America. Since its introduction in the 2011 model year where it captured the World Car of the Year award, it’s been growing steadily in popularity. There are two things that may have hurt the Nissan Leaf initially: a lackluster, nearly non-existent media campaign to start its life, and a quirky shape that certainly polarizes today’s car shopper. Now in its seventh model year, the 2017 Nissan Leaf is beginning to show signs of its age with technology that could stand an upgrade and a design that surely could draw new clients with a facelift.

The 2017 Nissan Leaf carries forward the purpose it originally set out to accomplish: a fully-electric car that can serve the needs of the general public on a daily basis. Aside from Tesla, the Nissan Leaf was the best-selling electric car in the US in 2016. The release of the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV is sure to put a damper on sales, likely knocking the Leaf off its perch.

2017 Nissan Leaf White

Exterior Styling

If ‘different’ was the desired reaction to the design, Nissan hit it bang-on. The 2017 Leaf still maintains the unusual, bulgy hatchback shape that it received in 2011. The headlights are long, raking back nearly to the windshield along the crease between the hood and fender. It’s fine from the front but strange from the side profile, and the trade-off is that LED headlights are available. The overall profile is definitively aerodynamic although it requires curving body lines like you’d see in a futuristic 80’s movie. The hatch is definitely unique with a bump that ties in the rear wheel wells and opens tall for easy cargo access.

2017 Nissan Leaf Front2017 Nissan Leaf Back

 Fit and Finish Interior

The standard interior in the 2017 Nissan Leaf is almost what you’d expect in a midline conventional compact car – power windows, locks, cruise control, heated front seats, Bluetooth, and the like. It’s set up quite different than your usual car though. The gearshift is a palm-style shifter. The instrument cluster doesn’t have your speedometer in it at all – it’s an efficiency monitor for EV operation, including charge level and range indicator. The speedo is located above the cluster in an eyebrow-like display, viewable over the steering wheel for most drivers. That’s a good thing because it’s closer to your line of sight.

Upper trim levels have either bio-suede PET cloth trim or leather upholstery. Heated rear seats are available on SV and SL trims, and the NissanConnect 7-inch infotainment screen is available also.

On the other side of the coin, there’s an obvious lack of driver assist technology that you’d expect at this price point and with the Leaf’s advanced technology. Give us a few items like Lane Departure Warning and Adaptive Cruise Control to enhance the value. As well, the interior is overwhelmingly plastic with dull, uninspiring design in the cabin. At least it’s comfortable and spacious for all passengers.

2017 Nissan Leaf Interior

Driving Experience

There’s an expectation that the Nissan Leaf is extremely efficient yet underperforming. Its electric motor is just 80 kW, equivalent to 107hp, and much less than some other electric cars. But once you press the ‘Start’ button for the silent activation and start your drive, everything changes. The 2017 Nissan Leaf is actually quite fun to drive compared with a traditional hatchback or compact sedan. It’s by no means a race car but the Leaf’s acceleration is peppy. Like most electric cars and even conventional gas models with electric power steering, there’s not much to feel in the handling department. But that’s not what the Nissan Leaf is about.

2017 Nissan Leaf Road

The 2017 Nissan Leaf’s focus is on a smooth, comfortable drive. And that’s a task it absolutely nails. The drive is silent with just a slight whine and a bit of road noise as your speed increases. Cruising along on the highway or in a typical commuter city drive is where the Leaf belongs and excels. Be prepared for the braking too – regenerative braking can sneak up on you if you don’t expect it, slowing you down especially fast.

Features

MSRP $30,680 USD
Type BEV
Range 107 Miles / 170 Kms
Time to charge 6 Hours (Level 2)
Electric Motor 80 kW
Battery Capacity30  kWh
Top Speed 94 Mph / 150 Km/h
Warranty 3 Years / 36,000 Miles or 60,000 Kms New Vehicle Limited Warranty, 8 Years / 100,000 Miles or 160,000 km Lithium-Ion Battery Coverage

Conclusion

The 2017 Nissan Leaf is far from the worst performer and is one of the most efficient electric cars at an entry-level price. Its largest appeal is to city drivers who appreciate unique style and comfort for everyday driving. With its fast 240-volt charging time and spacious cabin, along with decent cargo space, the Leaf is a satisfying vehicle to own with minimal negatives (aside from the looks). It’s ranked high in reliability and backed wonderfully by Nissan’s warranty.

2017 Nissan Leaf Competitors

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