2018 Nissan LEAF Test Drive Review

electric vehicle sales


2018 Nissan LEAF

Nissan’s second-generation LEAF EV is an improvement in every way.

– Yountville, California

The state of the electric vehicle union is strong.

Proof of this claim can be found in the new, second-generation 2018 Nissan Leaf, which is finally coming to market in the U.S. at the end of January. When the first-gen launched in late 2010, Nissan had the lower-cost, all-electric segment to itself. Since then, dozens of plug-in vehicles have launched around the world, and Nissan is ready for round two. But this isn’t the same kind of competition that the rest of the auto industry is familiar with.

Nissan representatives – both at a drive event in Napa last week and in numerous ways during the six-month media rollout for the new Leaf – have repeatedly said that the EV pie is big enough for everyone to have a slice, and the success of other, competing EVs is not a problem. The more EVs that are on the road, the better, they say. Whether it’s about building out a charging infrastructure or getting people to think about switching from gas, Nissan knows there’s more to electric mobility than any one model or company.

2018 Nissan LEAF

That said, Nissan has made the Leaf a great option for anyone who wants to drive emission-free, finding a mid-ground in the eternal struggle between lower cost and higher range.

We’ll get to that discussion later. For now, let’s start with the vehicle as a whole. It’s difficult to say anything really bad about the new Nissan Leaf. It’s an improvement in every way from the last model. Better looks, more range, more power, and newer safety and infotainment technology.

2018 Nissan LEAF

The design of the original Leaf was, at best, an acquired taste. It did what it was supposed to do – stand out from the crowd as an EV while also minimizing interior noise and aerodynamic drag thanks to its frog-faced headlights. Nissan has either hired better designers in the intervening years or the team there has boned up on their skills, because the new Leaf manages to keep its EV cool without looking like an outcast. The company’s V-Motion grille is a good fit for the somewhat busy front end, while the floating roofline makes the EV fit right in on today’s dealer lot. The rear end – cool boomerang taillights excepted – is the car’s worst angle, but compared to the way the Leaf used to look, the second-gen model is a visual delight.

2018 Nissan LEAF

Inside, the Leaf keeps its low-cost-but-not-cheap feel, with the upper trim levels actually approaching impressive. Controls and buttons are where you want them to be (all powertrain and driving options are centered down low near the shifter, for example), and the in-dash seven-inch screen provides the driver with information clearly, even if you have to cycle through a few menus to get to everything. The front seats felt comfortable and there was enough head room for my 5-foot-9-inch frame. The rear, too was fine, if not as spacious. By the numbers, the rear cargo area would appear to be the same as before (both the new and the outgoing Leaf have 23.6 cubic feet of space), but Nissan has redesigned this space to remove a bump that intruded into the luggage space, which means you can fit more into the back now.

2018 Nissan LEAF

The new Leaf is a little bit heavier than the old model, but the suspension has been stiffened as well, and driving doesn’t disappoint when cornering. In fact, given the instant torque available from an electric powertrain and the Leaf’s more powerful motor and higher horsepower, the EV feels zippier than ever in standard driving. Even on the highway, where passing speeds are more important than 0-60 times, acceleration never felt lacking. But maybe you’d rather let the car do some of the driving? You’re in luck.

Meant to be a help to the driver, and decidedly not an autonomous drive feature the new Leaf offers ProPilot Assist. The technology is smart enough, most of the time, to keep you centered in a highway lane, keep you a safe distance from the car in front of you, and come to a complete stop if required. One clear example of where ProPilot Assist is absolutely not a replacement for human driving is that it has a hard time recognizing things like trailers and motorcycles. Also, based on my real-world experience with ProPilot Assist on back-country roads in Napa and using the system in a Rogue in rural Michigan, even though you will want to use the system away from the main highways, the number or warning beeps it puts out to tell you it’s not able to operate in those circumstances makes it just not worth it.

2018 Nissan LEAF

Using ProPilot Assist is as easy as turning on cruise control and letting the camera find the lane markings. Once engaged, you need to keep your hand on the wheel, and if you ignore ProPIlot Assist’s increasingly annoying warning chimes and sirens (it detects if you’re holding the wheel using a sensitive torque sensor), then the car will quickly pump the brakes to try to wake you up. If that doesn’t work, the flashers will turn on and the Leaf will come to a complete stop in the lane you’re in. At that point, honks from other cars or a cop’s knock on the window should get you awake.

The self-braking feature is standard on all trim levels, but to get the full benefits of ProPilot Assist, you’ll have to select the SV or SL trim and choose the optional Technology Package for $650 in the SL and $2,200 in the SV. If your daily commute includes any sort of regular bumper-to-bumper traffic, opting for ProPilot Assist is almost a commandment. The good news for early adopters is that Nissan is including the tech package with all SLs until some time in the spring of 2018.

2018 Nissan LEAF

No one who buys a new Leaf will have to decide before signing the paperwork if they want e-pedal or not. For those who have driven other EVs, e-pedal offers one-pedal driving basically feels like the strong regen you might remember from the old Mini E or a Tesla or any number of other electric vehicles. As in other EVs that offer one-pedal driving, once you’ve put a few miles on the odometer, the feeling becomes totally natural. As you take your foot off the accelerator to slow down, just like in any vehicle, a Leaf using e-pedal mixes regenerative brakes with the friction brakes to reduce speed in an efficient manner. As fun and useful as e-pedal is, it’s main invisible benefit is that it is more efficient, allowing the Leaf to give you more miles per charge. Safety heads don’t need to worry about the cars behind them, either, as the Leaf will turn on the brake lights when necessary.

2018 Nissan LEAF

Nissan smartly made this feature standard on all MY18 Leafs, because it shows off what makes driving an electric vehicle more fun than most gas-powered counterparts (and, if you don’t agree, or you want to coast more on a highway, you can always turn e-pedal off). When in D, the new Leaf mimics a normal automatic transmission, while B offers roughly twice as much braking power. You can also select an eco mode for a somewhat neutered throttle response or e-pedal, which can slow the car with up to 0.2 g of braking power, or five-and-a-half times as much as you’ll get in standard D mode.

The electric motor is actually the same unit that is found in the model year 2011-2017 Leaf, but thanks to a new inverter, the power was increased from 80 to 110 kilowatts. This means the new Leaf gets 147 horsepower (up from 107) and 236 pound-feet of torque (up from 187).

The heart of an EV, its electric battery, has been improved in this Leaf as well. The new pack is the same physical size as the old 24-kilowatt-hour pack, but thanks to improved battery cells and better packaging (24 modules of eight cells each vs. 48 modules of four cells each), the battery is now rated at 40 kWh. Actual capacity is a bit higher, but Nissan isn’t divulging its exact size.

2018 Nissan LEAF

As might be obvious by now, the state of the EV union is strong because we’ve gotten almost to the end of this discussion about the new Leaf and range hasn’t been an issue yet. The 2018 Leaf will get an EPA range of 150 miles, which puts it in a lonely spot above EVs like the Hyundai Ioniq, BMW i3, or VW e-Golf (all of which have 125 miles or range or less) but behind seriously long-range EVs like the Chevy Bolt and any Tesla. For now, Nissan is quite happy with this middle ground. A longer-range version with over 200 miles in the battery is due when the 2019 model year Leaf arrives to compete with the Bolt and the Model 3, but this first version will capture plenty of sales for people who know that 100 or so miles is enough. That means Alexa integration, a new seven-inch touchscreen center display and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in the SL and SV trims, and ProPilot Assist. Speaking of trim levels, the S starts at $29,990, the SV at $32,490, and the SL at $36,200.

Since unveiling the new Leaf in September, Nissan has gotten over 10,000 reservations in the U.S., with the split roughly at 60 percent for the mid-level SV trim, with the base S model and the high-end SL both taking about half of the rest. People can – and will – quibble over Nissan’s 150-mile strategy to not take on today’s EV range leaders just yet, but with over 200,000 Leaf sales under its belt around the world, there’s a good case to be made that Nissan does know what it’s doing. Driving the new Leaf simply confirms that.

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48 Comments on "2018 Nissan LEAF Test Drive Review"

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Nice evolution of the Leaf.

Hopefully the 200 mile range Leaf will come with less battery degradation too.

It’s already come. Maybe this fall or next spring

Please, if you really need to use the weird american units at least include the proper metric conversions in parentheses. I’d almost lost my voice by the end of this asking Alexa for conversions.

Wait, you’re too lazy to even ask Alexa for conversions? What happens to the Chinese speakers out there who are patiently translating entire articles and reading without complaining? Articles in American publications use English and imperial measures. That’s just the way it is.

This is what happens when people don’t travel enough. When you visit enough parts of the world, you get to a point where you’ll stop complaining about how people in different parts of the world talk differently, measure differently, eat and flush differently.

So, looking back through the history in the alexa app I had to ask 24 times for conversions in the space of 5 paragraphs. You’d get bloody annoyed too.

There are 195 countries in the world and (barring pensioners in the UK) the citizens of 194 of them understand metric units.
The majority of english speakers (including here in Ireland) have never learned non-metric units.
While the odd conversion can be easily googled or looked up, the amount of units and numbers in even the most perfunctory of reviews renders it unreadable.

Ireland is far from fully metric. When you are ready to measure your beer in mL like they do in the rest of Europe instead of pints, you can complain. I was in Northern Ireland just over the border from you quite recently and found quite a few road signs still in miles. Your entire island fits inside most US states and there is still that diversity of signage. Most of us need to drive thousands of miles to Canada or Mexico before we see such changeover.

Like I said – when you haven’t traveled the world enough, you tend to complain about the little differences that make the world interesting to live in.

You are mistaken. Ireland is fully metric since around the turn of the century. We legally redefined an “Irish pint” to mean 570ml (note that is different from the UKs conversion of 568ml).

Northern Ireland is in the UK and they have not changed their road signs and have several other non-metric units in signage and products.

I’m in my mid-30s, Ireland changed all our signs before I learned to drive, my generation has never used american/imperial units.

Distances in km
Speed limits in km/h
Tire Pressure in bar
Boot space in liters (or cubic meters)

I’ve never used anything but cm for my height and kg for my weight
Apartments/houses are sold in m2 (though on occasion you’ll find a listing my an elderly agent in other units)
And since before my birth, milk in the store has been sold in liters and deli meat in 100g packs.

Woah, chill out dude.

“Nissan’s second-generation LEAF EV is an improvement in every way.”

Is it though? They kept the most significant flaw of the first gen Leaf; The battery is still air-cooled! It’s so significant, that I (and most current Leaf owners!) would recommend everyone interested in a Leaf ONLY consider leasing as the battery simply ages far worse than any other EV. We have already seen that the resale market agrees. Let Nissan take that depreciation hit from their poor choices, not you!

Turning radius of the old Leaf: 17.1′
Turning radius of the new Leaf: 18.1′

That’s not an improvement either.

Stimpy, I agree . They need to add liquid cooling for the main battery pack. It’s the only EV with no cooling. They have replaced thousands of battery packs with most under warranty. A friend is on the 3 rd new pack and it’s also degrading.
Please Nissan fix your battery problem. It’s not sustainable.

After over 6 years and 200,000 cars Nissan has not seen the need to change it’s thermal management. I have an acquaintance in Canada that has a 2011 Leaf with 60,000 mile on it and has only lost about 8% of his capacity. My two and a half year old 2015 model was just checked and has full capacity. Nissan also warrants the battery pack against excessive degradation. All those battery pack replacements were in Arizona and the issue was fixed. This is way, way overblown.

No it has not been fixed. I have a 2016 Leaf SV 30kwh and I have already lost my first capacity bar at 19k miles. State of health is at 80%. I live in Minnesota, not exactly a hot climate, I shouldn’t be seeing this much degradation! Many others on the Nissan leaf forum are experiencing similar results with the 30kwh battery.

I have a 2016 (30kWh) Leaf SV, that is over 25 months old (2yr.+). Driven in So. Cal.
Build date is 10/15 with delivery 10/16.

13K miles driven, and approximately 1% battery degradation (+/- 1% rounding error). Leaf Spy Pro App. Still at 100% SOH / 98+% HX, and 82+ AHr.

This newer battery chemistry is significantly better (less than 1/2 the degradation rate over time), than the pre-Lizard 24 kWh packs that were built during gen 1 (2011-12) and gen 2 (2013-2014/early15). Just educated guesswork from vehicle data, from most drivers in various locations. YRMV depending on many outside influencing factors, some obviously, beyond user control.

The newer batteries including most 2015 & 2016/17 are showing great improvement, over the less than ideal pre-Lizard packs.

I’m right behind you. 2016 Leaf SL in Colorado – 19,200 miles, 85% SOH (just about to lose first bar…).

First 2013 Leaf I had I was at 26,000 miles when I turned it in to buy the 2016. Degradation on the 2013 Leaf actually was less noticeable than what I’ve seen and experienced on the 2016 (I didn’t have LeafSpy yet with the 2013, so I don’t have exact stats – but it still had full bars and I could still get 80 miles on a full charge easily when driving conservatively).

Something DEFINITELY does need to be changed! Especially when we have comparisons of people with Tesla’s with over 100,000 miles and a measly 5 to 10 miles of range loss out of 230+ miles – Leafs are seeing well over 10+ miles of loss before 20,000 miles in my case and RCM’s – out of a battery rated for only 107 miles to start with.

Sorry, Jim, but you are wrong on this.

There is also the issue that you cannot use this car for multiple chademo sessions in a row (like on a trip) in certain climates without having to wait for the battery to cool. That is a major design flaw vs every other EV that has no such limitation.

Our experience with a 2015 Leaf (24 kWh) which has been driven daily for 24 months is zero noticeable battery degradation. We live in Michigan (lower peninsula).
I would jump at the chance to lease a new Nissan Leaf.

Join the long line of would/will be Leaf Leasers!

Lease is the only way to get the best value out of driving this great daily commuter vehicle.

That 2011 story sounds like a fishing tale.

Our 2011 – here in high altitude, moderate temp Colorado, is at 70% capacity at 62k miles and of course does not qualify for the warranty replacement.

But worse, for whatever reason 70% doesn’t reflect the actual range. For the first year we could do a 62 mile round trip at mostly 75 mph, with a 2k foot elevation change, and have a couple bars to spare. Now a 32 mile round trip, with careful driving never over 65 mph, and only 500 ft elevation change gets us home with a bar or two to spare.

So, basically, 70% is some kind of lie. Maybe there is technically that much charge in the battery but it’s not translating to range. We’re below half what we started with and … no warranty replacement.

Never ever ever ever buying anything from the con artists at Nissan again.

Data, please! I’m so tired of hearing this never-substantiated opinion from people who I have zero reason to believe know what they’re talking about. Can’t someone show me I’m wrong to be skeptical of this claim?? I’ve never seen good data on the degradation of Nissan’s packs. No numbers, just lots of adjectives from people like you – what does “serious” mean, numerically? How does the lizard pack compare to the previous one? How much does it depend on climate? How much variance around the mean is there? And how do all these compare with other EVs? For my part, I’d love to have active thermal regulation if it’s free. Thing is, it’s not. And I’d much rather have a heat pump – which the LEAF does have. I believe Nissan publicly stated when they had sold more than 100,000 units that the number of battery packs replaced due to capacity loss was 3. And unless someone can point me to a proper analysis that supports the claim you repeat here about how crucial is to have TMS, I’m actually inclined to believe that Nissan knows fairly well what they are doing. Either tweaked chemistry looks to have corrected the… Read more »

2011 LEAF in PNW: 97k miles, 45.91 Ah 69% SoH. 129 quick charges.

It’s a different chemistry, wrapped up in a different format.
How anyone can make any claim about how it will or won’t degrade is beyond me.
It would be pretty stupid to assume Nissan aren’t aware of how the previous versions performed in this regard, they may well have done things to address it, but we will know in a month or two either way.
Anything else is purely speculation, generally driven by bias.

Really surprised they are using the same motor from 2011 in the latest version! Feels like they did the minimum to update this car after so long without any changes. The competition is very different from 2011 to what’s coming in 2018 for Nissan

It’s not the same motor.

But the article says it is, “The electric motor is actually the same unit that is found in the model year 2011-2017 Leaf, but thanks to a new inverter, the power was increased from 80 to 110 kilowatts.”

“there’s more to electric mobility than any ONE model or company.” It’s just too bad (and tiresome) some people here on Insideevs choose to behave like 5 year olds

The new Leaf looks like a great EV. It hits the sweet spot for range for daily commuting, space, ride comfort and price. I think it will be a great seller which will force GM to offer a lower range, lower cost version of the Bolt.

The only concern I have, and it’s a big one, is the lack of a battery thermal management system. For me, I would wait a few years to see if this is an issue.

In a “few years” you will have many more choices but you will not have a tax credit on the leaf and (likely?) not on any other EV.

I don’t doubt it’s a good car. The first gen Leaf we leased for 39 months was a nice car. No complaints. What was terrible was the battery, and from all accounts they haven’t improved that. In fact, with more capacity crammed in the same space, the battery heat issues will likely only increase. It’s incredibly disappointing. For many of us in hotter climates, this is a deal breaker.

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

No TMS, No Sale.

Learn 2 Love Leaf Lease!

The new Leaf is an evolutionary design, and it is improved in many ways, but it has (at least) two things that got (slightly) worse.

The main one is the center console – this makes it unfriendly for those of us with long legs. Not only does it prevent us from having our knee angled to the side, the flared edge of the console digs into my leg, just below my knee.

And more subtly, they improved the rear legroom, but at the cost of rear headroom. The rear seat is a bit higher off the floor, which is good for leg position – but my head now hits the roof liner.

All these review sites are total fluff. Not a single one as touched on how Nissan refuses to updated the battery to a liquid cooled design. They’re refusing to learn their lesson and making their customers pay for it.

The media is complicit in that illusion. It’s honestly sad.

Perhaps there is no lesson to learn. I have never seen a study showing that the Leaf suffers more over the long-term from battery degradation than other EVs. I hear folks who don’t own a Leaf screaming the place down but never owners themselves. I am an owner and know several others. We all think the car is just fine. The worst case I know of is an acquaintance that has 60,000 on his leaf and has lost 8% over the last 6 years.

I owned a Leaf for 39 months. Babied it. Warm climate in the southwest. Lost two capacity bars in 22,000 miles of driving. And I can assure you that I’m not the only owner who experienced battery degradation. Owners who experienced this, particularly in Arizona, were the ones who sued Nissan to get battery replacements.

Hi Jim,

I have a 2012 Leaf, manufactured October 2011. I’m down 3 battery capacity bars. According to Leaf Spy as of Nov. 16 2017 my battery was at 72% SOH, the car has 63,095 miles, only 4 quick charges, and she has lived in Massachusetts her whole life. I’m the second owner so I can’t vouch for her first 3 years/36,000 miles but I make religious use of the 80% charge timer April through October. November through March it gets cold here so I put on the snow tires, charge to 100%, and pre-heat off wall power. Yesterday I made my usual commute to work – 18 miles each way – and then a trip to the grocery store – 3 miles each way. The low battery warning came on just before I got home the second time, with 9 miles showing on the range gauge. So on a day when the temp is ~ freezing, it’s raining, and I need the defroster on I can get 36 + 6 + 9 = 51 miles miles. Colder days, fewer miles.

Range is, of course, much better on an overcast fall day when I need neither heat nor air conditioning and I’m in a slow crawl of rush hour traffic, in my summer tires. The dash assures me I’m getting 5 miles/kWh under those ideal conditions.

Also: I’ve never taken her to “turtle” so I don’t know how accurate the range estimate is once the nice lady announces “Low Battery Warning”.

I live in Ontario, Canada and have a 2013 Leaf that now has around 110,000 km. I lost my first capacity bar at around 100,000km. Even with the slightly reduced range, we still use it as our primary vehicle. Furthermore, we do not live in the city and most of our trips are to towns that are 20 – 50km away from home.

@Tom S: Agreed; I’ve noticed that, too.

@Jim T: My former 12 Leaf lost 15% capacity in 26k miles. After 3 years the winter range (western PA) was as low as 36 actual miles (not indicated). It was about to lose its first bar when the lease ended. Nissan said the battery was just fine. The car was rapid charged only twice in 3 years, and I live in a cooler climate.

Never once did I achieve the advertised 73 mile range, and the farthest I ever took it from home was 25 miles radius, because I couldn’t trust the guess-o-meter to provide an accurate range.

If you only had the guessometer to go by, how do you know it lost 15%? You contradict yourself just after by saying it was about to lose the first capacity bar when the lease ended. That implies it had still lost less than 15% at that point (the first bar goes at 85% SOH, as lots of people have confirmed via LEAF Spy). Sounds to me like you never really tried to reach the indicated range. But 36 miles of actual range, on a cold winter day with a normal, comfy cabin temperature sounds about right, at least if you mean that’s as far as your dared to drive (but probably had a few miles left before turtle mode). The 2011-12 cars didn’t have a heat pump (I have a 2012 SL imported from the US to Norway) and the car isn’t superbly insulated (very few are, as you can tell by how quickly the cabin temperature drops when you stop the car and switch it off) so it spends a LOT of energy running the heater. Of course if it could preheat the battery using grid power that would help a bit. But that would only work when… Read more »

That “review” was an advertisement.

I live in Kingston Ontario Canada. My biggest concern is the range loss with the cold. Down to about 110K from 170 on 2 lane highways.

Recently 3 DCFC chargers have come on line in my service territory. With instructions clear as mud from KSI I tried the one out close to home just to see if I could make it work.

Without using the app I was supposed to need I got hooked up using my visa card. Went from 28% to 90% in 20 minutes! Battery temp went from 4 bars to 5. Hardly a problem but of course it’s not summer.

I suppose I could get into some over heating if I drove 130K/hr on the freeway and alternating with DCFCs but I really don’t want to drive that fast. I will experiment with this in the hot weather and report back in. No battery degradation at 25,000K.

To Paul K, thanks for sharing your experience!
Please provide details about your Leaf (year and battery size).

It’s a 2016 with 30kwh battery pack. 25,000K at the moment

You say “no degradation”, but how did you establish that? Be aware that Nissan is crookedly hiding all degradation until SOH (state of health) drops to 85%. There are twelve bars, so naturally we assume they each represent 1/12th, but in fact they don’t. And the warranty, incredible as it may sound, is in terms of remaining “bars”, NOT actual capacity. In other words, Nissan left itself the option to firmware update the car to display cars differently in case too many packs proved not to last… That said, my impression is the packs have held up very well, with moderate capacity loss and extremely low failure rates. Compared to engines (which are similarly expensive to replace when they go seriously wrong) the batteries almost never die. I’d recommend getting an ODB-II adapter from eBay and the LEAF spy app. Then you can read the SOH straight off the CAN bus, get accurate information about your pack (SOC, SOH, temperatures), tire pressures, and more. My 2012 US LEAF SL with 68,000 km on the odometer is at 80% SOH (I lost the first bar right around 50k km, or 50 Mm for those who really get the SI system!) and… Read more »

The 2nd row got worse in the new LEAF for sure. It seems that Bolt is more spacious.

But I do like the power seat option on the new LEAF.

And I appreciate the new performance upgrade as well.

I would prefer to trade the new Leaf power seat option for telescoping steering anyday.

Come on Nissan, please bring telescoping steering to the 60 kWh 200 mi.+ range 2019 Leaf! Give us a fully loaded Leaf without Leather/Pleather.

A bit of hyperbole on both sides which is unfortunately typical today.

Liquid cooling is not an absolute requirement. It certainly isn’t free. It certainly isn’t weight less.

Yes, Nissan has had (and may still have) a problem with degradation. It most certainly has improved some.

There is room to believe that not having liquid cooling might be the right answer going forward.

50k mile, early 2013, 1 bar down. Have done 80 miles on a charge in the last month. Never hit turtle. Don’t have a QC. I happen to have several charging options – at different work locations. The biggest issue is that these locations are not guaranteed. That is a barrier. I have done a couple of 100 mile days. Always have to have back up plans involving back roads in case I don’t get a charger.

Raleigh NC. Temp rating 1.00. Same as downtown LA. Always garaged which unfortunately doesn’t allow cool down at night. But also not baked in sun when possible