Nissan Leaf Plus — More range, less anxiety

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Range and price may not be everything, but those components are usually the most important for electric vehicle (EV) buyers. When Nissan released its second generation Leaf in 2018 with a 150-mile range it was immediately at a disadvantage to such new entrants as the Chevrolet Bolt, which came in at 238 miles.

Nissan hustled to rectify its miscalculations introducing a 2019 Leaf Plus with a bigger battery and up to 226 miles range on a single charge. Along with the extra range comes more horsepower and better performance. It's a satisfying recipe for the world's most popular EV, which hit 400,000 sales worldwide a few months ago.

The high-capacity battery and more powerful 160 kW motor in the Nissan Leaf Plus combine to produce 214 horsepower — an increase of 45 percent — and 250 lb-ft of torque. The standard 2019 Nissan Leaf offers a 40 kWh battery pack.

The new powertrain allows faster acceleration when driving at moderate speeds, accelerating from 50 mph to 75 mph — a typical passing speed — is nearly 13 percent quicker than the standard Nissan Leaf, according to Nissan. This allows the Leaf Plus to confidently pass slower-moving vehicles, exit corners faster and more seamlessly, and merge easily with fast-moving traffic. If you don’t mind a faster battery drain getting off the line from a traffic stop is also acceptable, measured zero-to-60 in about 6.6 seconds.

Inside the Leaf Plus is pleasingly quiet, the cabin felt quite roomy, and more upscale and modern looking. We found the seats to be comfortable. Disappointingly, the inability to telescope the steering wheel did make a difference in driver comfort. It does, however, adjust up and down.

Nissan chose, for the most part, to stick with buttons and switches and a fairly responsive seven-inch touchscreen for operational controls.

Nissan made a strong point for the two new features they are most proud of — e-Pedal and ProPILOT Assist. Nissan’s e-Pedal is a one-pedal driving mode where regenerative engine braking can bring the car to a complete halt without using the brake pedal. Once stopped, in a feature unique to Nissan, the e-Pedal uses friction brakes to actually hold the car on an incline; no energy is lost in the process. It didn’t take long to get used to it.

ProPILOT Assist works like a mild form of autopilot. It works well, using painted lines on road surfaces to keep the car centered in the lane, using adaptive cruise control. One need only keep a light touch on the steering wheel for the system to detect your hands, which we think is counterintuitive for autonomous driving.

Taking your hands completely off the steering wheel will trigger an audible and haptic (steering wheel vibrates) warning to put your hands on the wheel. Failure to do so will cause the vehicle to slow and come to a complete stop. Also know that the system does not work well on winding roads and will not change lanes for you.

If you plan on buying any EV you will need a 240-volt outlet in your garage, but the Leaf can be charged on a standard 120-volt outlet if you don't need use of the car every day. Nissan says it will take seven hours to recharge on a 240. We left our test Leaf plugged into a 120 outlet virtually all the time it wasn't in use and we estimated it took 24-to-30 hours to completely recharge. Important to note that the base S model does not come with a DC fast-charging connection, but it's standard on all other trim levels.

The Leaf Plus comes in six trim levels — S, SV, SL, S Plus, SV Plus and SL Plus starting at a very reasonable $30,885. The S Plus, starting at $37,095, gets the most range, rated at 226 miles. The more optioned-out SV Plus ($39,405) and SL Plus ($43,445) have a 215-mile range.

If you opt for the S Plus with the longer range, it comes standard with such features as an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, automatic climate control, keyless entry with push-button start, automated emergency braking, automatic headlamps, and aluminum wheels. There are other options available.

Our SL Plus test car with virtually all of the good stuff with a full safety suite including a blindspot monitor goes out the door for $43,445. Note that there is still a $7,500 government rebate available on the Leaf Plus.

There's an 8-year/100,000 mile warranty on the EV battery to go along with a 5-year/60,000 mile warranty on the drivetrain.

Base price: $37,095; as driven, $43,445
Engine: Electric motor
Horsepower: 214 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 250 pound-feet @ 800 rpm
Transmission: single speed reducer
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Length: 176.4 inches
Curb weight: 3,853
Turning circle: 36.1 feet
Luggage capacity: 23.6 cubic feet
Fuel capacity (215-226 miles) electric
EPA rating: 114 city, 94 highway, 104 combined
0-60: 6.6 seconds (Car and Driver
Also consider: Chevrolet Bolt, Hyundai Kona EV, Kia Niro EV

The Good
• Competitive range
• Good performance
• Loaded with safety equipment

The Bad
• Over-hyped ProPilot Assist system

The Ugly
• Lacks telescoping steering wheel