2021 Nissan LEAF

By January 25, 2021

The Nissan Leaf is an all-electric hatchback that delivers quick acceleration, low-key styling, ample room for passengers and cargo, and good infotainment. It’s able to go from 149 to 226 miles on one charge depending on the version, standard Leaf or Leaf Plus.

The Leaf has a 40-kwh lithium-ion battery pack and an electric motor that combine for 147 hp and 187 lb-ft of torque; its EPA-rated range is 149 miles. The Leaf Plus uses a 62-kwh battery pack to make 214 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque; it gets from 215 to 226 miles depending on wheel size and power equipment in the cabin.

Keep in mind that these range estimates are in fair weather; cold weather can drop the range by a lot.

The Leaf Plus can pull an 80-percent recharge on a Level 2 240-volt charger in less than 12 hours. On 50-kw fast-charging, it can do the same in about 45 minutes.

Redesigned a few years ago, almost nothing has changed about the Leaf for 2021. It’s front-wheel drive with no available all-wheel drive.

The 2021 Leaf earns five stars in safety from the NHTSA, while the IIHS has yet to report scores. Standard safety equipment in every model includes automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and blind-spot monitors. Leaf SV and SL models add adaptive cruise control and Nissan ProPilot Assist, which helps stop, start, and steer the car in traffic.

Model Lineup

The 2021 Leaf comes as S, SV and SL. There’s also the Leaf Plus in SV and SL. The prices below don’t include any federal or local tax incentives.

The $32,545 Leaf S, with the 40-kwh battery, comes with cloth upholstery, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and 16-inch wheels. The 62-kwh battery pack that delivers more range is optional, for $6,600.

The $41,395 Leaf SV Plus adds fast-charging, adaptive cruise control, navigation, and 17-inch wheels. Options include a cold-weather package and upgraded headlights.

The $44,845 Leaf Plus SL adds leather upholstery, a power driver seat, LED headlights, a surround-view camera system, and ProPilot Assist.

The Leaf is covered by a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty and an 8-year/100,000-mile battery warranty.

Exterior

The Leaf sports a conventional shape. It has a deep V-shaped grille like other Nissans, and a black trim panel on the rear end that makes the roof appear to float, as on some other Nissans. Its “Zero Emissions” badge is the only indication that it’s an electric car.

Interior

The cabin also looks conventional, aside from the odd mushroom-like shifter that sprouts from the center console. With its upright seating position and upright dash, digital gauges, and touchscreen interface, it’s a bit like sitting at a workplace.

The interior materials are a cut above economy, as they should be for the price. The cloth front seats have firm padding and enough bolstering, but they lack support at the shoulders. There’s enough room in front for tall drivers, although the steering wheel doesn’t telescope.

Five adults can fit in the Leaf, but four will be happier, given the narrow rear seat. And they’ll have plenty of head room thanks to the tall roof. For their legs in the rear, they’ll have 33.5 inches of space.

Behind the rear seat, the Leaf provides a good 23.6 cubic feet of cargo space, and with the rear bench folded forward, there’s 30 cubic feet.

The Leaf is no luxury car, but it’s blessed with a quiet cabin thanks to its electric power.

Driving Impressions

The Leaf Plus, with 214 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque, is quick off the line and can reach 60 mph in less than seven seconds. It also gets the most range, up to 226 miles. You don’t have to get the Leaf Plus for that horsepower and range; you can simply pay $6,600 for the optional 62-kwh battery pack on the base Leaf.

The base Leaf has a 40-kwh lithium-ion battery pack and an electric motor that makes a combined 147 hp and 187 lb-ft of torque. It’s still reasonably swift, with better acceleration than most economy cars.

Instant torque, as in all electric cars, makes the Leaf feel especially perky. However its electric-car curb weight, combined with very light steering, sends another message. In normal drive mode it can spin its front tires, but its steering has almost no feel or feedback.

Leaf Plus models ride slightly higher and lean slightly more into curves. The suspension can smooth out ripples on the freeway, but the car’s weight amplifies bumps on city streets.

It can be challenging to drive the Leaf in its one-pedal drive mode that increases the regenerative braking, so that when you merely lift your foot off the accelerator pedal, the car behaves like you just put your foot down on the brake pedal.

ProPilot Assist enables the Leaf to start, stop and steer itself in traffic. It can be a helpful system, especially in stop-and-go freeway traffic jams. But when you’re in the mode and out there cruising, it beeps often when it detects lane changes and cars ahead in the lane.

Final Word

If you’re willing to bite the bullet and pay the price, the 2021 Nissan Leaf is a good choice among electric cars. We’d go with the bigger battery pack and fast charging, which will push you over $40,000 (before tax breaks). Life as a planet-conscious driver isn’t cheap.

 

—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection

 

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