The urge to lead with “Nissan Turns Over a New Leaf” was strong, but we resisted. The new 2018 Nissan Leaf didn’t turn over, fortunately. Instead, it just rolled out onto stages in Tokyo, Japan, and Las Vegas, Nevada, its North American unveiling immediately following its Japan-based global one.
Though it retains a shape similar to its first-generation predecessor—and is similar in size, riding on the same 106.3-inch wheelbase and being only 1.4-inch longer, 0.8-inch wider, and 0.4-inch taller—the second-generation Leaf brings its own style. It dispenses with the smooth metal of its predecessor in favor of a few angles and more conventional front and rear fascias. Also improving the look is the departure of the bug-eyed headlamps and odd vertical taillamps and the arrival of a two-tone tailgate that looks more like it belongs on a hot hatch than on a commuter EV.
Powering the more aggressive design is a more aggressive electric motor good for 147 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque, 40 hp and 49 lb-ft more than before. The battery now boasts a 40-kWh capacity instead of 30 kWh, while the second-most important figure of all for an EV—range—jumps from 107 miles to 150, which is enough to go from Los Angeles to San Diego without triggering crippling range anxiety. And if that’s not enough, a version featuring a 60-kWh battery and about 225 miles of range should roll out next year, which will make the Leaf range-competitive with the 238-mile Chevy Bolt and the standard, 220-mile Tesla Model 3.
With extra range comes some extra charge time. A full charge takes 8 hours on a 6.6-kW connection instead of 5,and getting to 80 percent on a fast charger takes 40 minutes instead of 30—but on the second-generation Leaf, 80 percent gets you more range (120 miles) than a first-generation Leaf offered at 100 percent (85.6 miles). It does charge faster on a basic 3.6-kW connection, needing just 16 hours instead of 21, but 16 hours is still 16 hours.
Inside, the 2018 Leaf offers a fairly typical interior, so if you just want a piece of trim, a screen, and a steering wheel to look at, don’t cancel your Model 3 pre-order. You’ll even be disappointed if you simply want something a bit weird. Instead, the only quirk is the small knob of a shifter while everything else is standard-issue for a 2017-2018 compact—an upgrade from the first-generations cut-rate-grade cabin.
Though you’ll have to spring for the nav to get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay on the 7.0-inch display, the 2018 Leaf does come equipped with Nissan’s Safety Shield umbrella of driver assistance technologies, which includes adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking. It also comes with the first version of the automaker’s new ProPilot Assist. At present, functionality is limited to the use of the car’s sensor suite to crawl you through traffic, though Nissan plans to add additional automated driving functionality over the next few years. The system helps keep car in its lane and will maintain a driver-set following distance at speeds between 18 and 62 mph, with the ability to bring the car to a complete stop—and resume travel at the tap of the accelerator.
Another bit of tech on this new Leaf is the so-called e-Pedal. It’s similar to the Bolt’s Low mode and when enabled, allows single-pedal operation through the aggressive use of regenerative braking in off-throttle situations.
Despite the many updates and improvements it receives, the 2018 Leaf is $690 easier on the wallet, at least to start. While Nissan has yet to release full pricing, the EV will start at $30,875, including an $825 destination fee, before any applicable tax credits when it arrives in dealers in all 50 states early next year.
2018 Nissan Leaf Specifications
|ON SALE||Winter 2018|
|MOTOR||AC electric motor/147 @ 3,783-9,795 rpm, 236 @ 0-3,283 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD hatchback|
|EPA MILEAGE||150/ mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||176.4 x 70.5 x 61.4 in|
|0-60 MPH||8.0 sec|