2018 Nissan LEAF: More Refinement, Longer Range [Review]

The second-generation 2018 Nissan LEAF features more power, the ability to drive 150 miles on a single charge, a shape that is easier on the eyes, and a fresh host of safety and driver-assist technologies. Seven years have passed since the world introduction of the all-electric LEAF and the automotive landscape has taken big steps forward — especially when you look at alternative fuel vehicles.

Before we delve into the new and fancy features of the redesigned 2018 LEAF, let us address the elephant in the room — why did Nissan release an EV that has a 150-mile range when Tesla and Chevy already have 200+ mile all-electric cars for sale today? The answer, according to Nissan, is that they were targeting the gap — in terms of range and price — between some of the key competitors offering battery electrics.

2018 Nissan LEAF vs. the competition:

Year/Make/Model Power Output Combined Energy Efficiency Range # Seats Price
2017 Ford Focus Electric 107 kW (143 hp) 107 MPGe 115 miles 5 $29,120
2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric 88 kW (118 hp) 136 MPGe 124 miles 5 $29,500
2018 Nissan LEAF 110 kW (147 hp) 112 MPGe 150 miles 5 $29,990
2018 Volkswagen e-Golf 100 kW (134 hp) 119 MPGe 124 miles 5 $31,445
2018 Tesla Model 3 N/A N/A 220 – 310 miles 5 $35,000
2018 Chevy Bolt 150 kW (200 hp) 119 MPGe 238 miles 5 $37,495
2018 BMW i3 127 kW (170 hp) 118 MPGe 114 miles 4 $44,450
2018 Honda Clarity Electric 120 kW (161 hp) 114 MPGe 89 miles 5 $269/month, 3-year lease, $1,999 down

The price of the new LEAF is pretty close to the Hyundai Ioniq Electric and VW e-Golf. However, it can go at least 25 miles farther on a single charge. While it may not have the range capability of a Chevy Bolt or Tesla Model 3, the LEAF costs thousands less and is available worldwide. If you think the Model 3 is going be your next zero emission chariot, be prepared to wait awhile. If you really, really need more than 200 miles of range, then the Bolt is the quick answer IF sold in your region.

Now on to the good stuff. We are delighted that Nissan shed the unique styling of the first-gen LEAF and went with something more mainstream. While it isn’t the sexiest EV in the parking lot, the new body style is a big improvement over the jellybean shape it leaves behind. Visually, the 5-passenger hatchback incorporates some of the current Nissan design language like the V-motion grille, the signature boomerang headlights and taillights, and a floating roofline similar to the Murano.

The LEAF’s new design

Distinguishing itself as a member of the EV pack, the LEAF features blue accents, such as a layered blue diamond grille, blue accent molding, and a nice touch of blue within the zero-emission emblem. The eco-minded blue accents carried into the cabin appears in the stitching of the steering wheel, seats, and various spots within the cabin.

The LEAF’s redesigned cabin has a comfortable familiarity about it. Materials and touch points are a much better quality now. Passenger and maximum cargo space are identical to the first-gen LEAF — 92.4 cubic feet and 30 cubic feet respectively — but the redesigned interior has a roomier feel to it and incorporates a collection of modern tech features.

2018 Nissan LEAF interior

The updated infotainment system has a 7-inch display that is simpler to navigate. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available in the range-topping SV trim. Thankfully, the designers remembered to include more USB ports for charging your electronic devices. The dual-pod digital display in front of the driver is gone. In its place are a single instrument pod housing an analog speedometer and a configurable 7-inch display.

Seats are all-day comfortable for the front passengers and not-at-all-bad for the back seat passengers. Our observation sees more emphasis on passenger comfort and not so much carrying cargo. The 23.6 cubic foot trunk area behind the second-row seats shaped like a fishbowl loses some of its precious space from intruding fender wells, a charging kit, and an obtuse Bose subwoofer.

The portable L1/L2 charging kit included with the 2018 LEAF, now supports both 240V and 120V outlets. Adding an expensive wall-mount charger is not necessary because the portable connector can plug into the same 4-prong clothes dryer power outlet. If a 240V/30A receptacle is not available, just snap on the adapter and plug into a 110V outlet. Charge times with the included 6.6 kW charger is about 7 to 8 hours when connected to a 240 Volt/30 Amp source or a 40-minute stop at DC fast charging station will net about 105 miles of driving range and get the battery back up to 80 percent capacity.

Driver Assist Tech in the 2018 Nissan LEAF

Nissan is proud of two new driver aids that are useful for reducing the daily stresses and anxiety associated with driving in congested traffic and on long-mileage trips.

The first is ProPILOT Assist, which works best on a freeway or in heavy traffic situations. When set, it keeps the LEAF in the lane and automatically brakes and accelerates as speeds slow and speed up. A sensor built into the steering system warns you if your hands are off the wheel for more than ten seconds. The audible warnings increase in severity the longer it goes unpiloted to the point where it will flip on the emergency flashers and steadily slow the vehicle to a complete stop.

When used as intended, ProPILOT Assist does a good job at adjusting the vehicle’s speed. It also helps keep a safe distance between you and the car you are following. The benefits are tangible when ProPILOT is engaged in thick traffic situations or on long stretches of freeway. What we discovered is that its ability to stay within the lane markers needs some improvement. When trying to navigate a curve, too often the car ping-pongs between the lane markers and it just becomes easier manually assisting the ProPILOT Assist. If a lane marker disappears, so does ProPILOT’s ability to stay on course.

The second driver aid is e-Pedal. Basically, e-Pedal enables one-pedal driving by using a combination of the regen braking system of the electric motor and the friction brakes. Its a lot more dialed-in than ProPILOT Assist. Even better, it is standard equipment across all three trim levels of the 2018 Nissan LEAF. Its linear feel and seamless operation are easy to learn and takes away the use of the brake pedal. Since the regular friction brakes are called upon when more braking force is needed, e-Pedal can bring the car to a complete stop — even on a 30-degree slope. Once the driver quickly learns how to regulate the speed using e-Pedal, it is easy to forget using the real brake pedal when the system is disengaged.

2018 nissan leaf
Eco and e-Pedal buttons are shaped differently so they are easily distinguished visually or by feel.
[Photo: Nissan USA]
Along with ProPILOT Assist and e-Pedal, the 2018 Nissan LEAF is equipped with a set of advanced safety technologies. These technologies include Intelligent Lane Intervention, Lane Departure Warning, Intelligent Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Intelligent Around View Monitor with moving object detection.

Driving Impressions

Mechanically, the 2018 Nissan LEAF is a huge improvement over the first-gen model. Power output is now up to an equivalent of 147 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. Alex on Autos clocked the new LEAF’s zero to 60 time at 7.7 seconds, which is a big improvement over the outgoing model that needed almost 10 seconds to get up to freeway speed. Additionally, we liked the LEAF’s new broader torque curve. With that, it has a greater ability to keep pulling past 60 MPH. The old model, on the other hand, lost its steam after 45 MPH.

The engineering team targeted steering and suspension for improved performance. The electric-powered steering got a software upgrade and 10 percent stiffer torsion bar. This results in a more active steering feel and response. Even the speed-dependent weighting of the steering effort helps with creating a more connected driving experience.

The ride quality has improved with the second-generation overhaul. The revised suspension does a good job of absorbing the bumps. It’s slightly lower center of gravity also keeps the hatchback planted under hard cornering as the eco-tires begin to wail. Nissan’s Intelligent Ride Control manages the electric motor torque more precisely when cornering, which reduces vibration while simultaneously improving ride quality and steering control.

TFLcar’s Take

There are some solid reasons to like the 2018 Nissan LEAF. Visually, it does not make a fashion statement but the cabin is comfortable, functional, and amiable. Every trim level of the LEAF offers a good value of standard equipment and safety features. And best of all, it no longer feels like you are driving an electric appliance.

As with any EV, running errands around town is simply a joy. The new LEAF is quiet, capable, and quick off the line. Plus it rides decently. It won’t win any hardcore handling awards, but that’s not really the point. What the updated model offers is a relaxed way in which you can commute if you use ProPILOT Assist.

The e-Pedal feature, where the LEAF optimizes harvesting energy during braking cycles, is easy to learn and you can actually drive with just one pedal.

The 2018 Nissan LEAF started production the first week of December in its Smyrna Vehicle Assembly Plant located in Tennessee. The new LEAF will reach dealerships beginning late January 2018.

Specifications: 2018 Nissan LEAF

Trim Level S SV SL
MSRP $30,490 $32,490 $36,200
Battery electric range 150 miles
Battery 40 kW Li-ion, 192 cells
Power 147 hp (110 kW) @ 3,282 – 9,795 rpm
Torque 236 lb-ft @ 0 – 3,282 rpm
Transmission CVT
Motor AC synchronous electric motor
Drivetrain layout front-wheel drive (FWD)
Curb weight 3,433 lbs 3,468 lbs 3,508 lbs
EPA estimated fuel economy (city/hwy/combined MPGe) 124 / 101 / 112
Wheelbase 106.3 in.
Overall length / width / height 174.6 / 70.5 / 61.4 in.
Ground clearance 5.9 in.
Coefficient of drag (Cd) 0.28
Passenger volume 92.4 ft.3
Cargo volume (behind 2nd row/max) 23.6 / 30.0 ft.3
Onboard charger 6.6 kW (6.0 kW output)
Estimated charging time 220V ~ 7.5 hours | 110V ~ 35 hours
Estimated charging time – DC fast charger 40 minutes to 80%
Battery Warranty 8 years or 100,000 miles

Nissan also revealed another new hatchback crossover at the L.A. Auto Show. Here is a look at its debut.