EV Granddaddy Nissan Leaf takes on Tesla, and has some advantages
Having launched at the end of 2010, the Nissan Leaf is the granddaddy of electric cars these days. Even so, new features, and a new battery last year, brought its specs up to par with the latest in electric cars from Tesla and others.
The new battery gives the Leaf a range of up to 225 miles between charges, a few more than the hypothetical base model of the Tesla Model 3, and a few short of the more popular Model 3 Standard Range+ at 240 miles. (The base Model 3 Standard range was supposed to be rated at 220 miles, and Tesla says buyers can still special order it, though it's unclear whether the company has actually built any.)
Buyers considering an electric car would do well to test drive the Leaf. It’s an under-rated machine. It’s not as fast or as high-tech as a Tesla. It’s not as cute as a Kia Soul EV nor as roomy as a Niro. But it may be the goldilocks of electric cars.
The Leaf Plus has a relatively long range. It rides nicely and has responsive if not sporty handling. Five can sit reasonably comfortably inside, even if the cargo space is awkwardly shaped. And the touch-screen infotainment system incorporates everything electric-car drivers need, including maps and range estimates to chargers and radii that the car can travel on the current charge, both one-way and round-trip.
The Leaf is also the first all-electric car to win J.D. Power’s coveted three-year vehicle dependability award, beating all other 2017 compact cars.
Best of all, the 2020 Nissan Leaf is relatively affordable at $39,125 for the base Leaf Plus S. If you can live with the 150-mile range in the standard Leaf S with its smaller battery pack—and statistics show that most people can—you can get out the door for $32,595. Either way, you can get $7,500 back on your federal tax return (and most from many states and cities). And Nissan is offering special deals on the Leaf of $1,000 cash back on top of 0 percent interest for 36 months on the Leaf, making it an even more compelling deal.
Eric Evarts has been bringing topical insight to readers on energy, the environment, technology, transportation, business, and consumer affairs for 25 years. He has spent most of that time in bustling newsrooms at The Christian Science Monitor and Consumer Reports, but his articles have appeared widely at outlets such as the journal Nature Outlook, Cars.com, US News & World Report, AAA, and TheWirecutter.com and Alternet. He can tell readers how to get the best deal and avoid buying a lemon, whether it’s a used car or a bad mortgage. Along the way, he has driven more than 1,500 new cars of all types, but the most interesting ones are those that promise to reduce national dependence on oil, and those that improve the environment. At least compared to some old jalopy they might replace. Please, follow Evarts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.