When it comes to all-electric vehicles, Tesla dominates the headlines, with Chevrolet gradually gaining on them with their Bolt hatchback. But, there’s long been a third player that’s been hanging around, and they’re looking to start making bigger headlines of their own. The Nissan Leaf has been a bit overlooked, perhaps owing to its squished design and bug-eyed headlights. That might end this year, with a completely new exterior and huge improvements to performance.
Nissan revealed the 2018 Nissan Leaf yesterday in Las Vegas, and while it’s still being positioned as the low-cost all-electric choice, it looks like Nissan is getting more confident in their efforts. We’re still looking at a hatchback, but it’s one that looks sportier — the body looks less squished, while the headlights don’t draw attention to themselves like the bulging headlights of previous models. It follows the general trend of making electric cars look like any other gas-powered car, instead of trying to distinguish them (and not always in the most attractive ways).
But, as important as aesthetics are, Nissan has done just as impressive work under the hood. When the Leaf debuted with its 2011 model, its electric range was somewhere between 70 miles and 100 miles. Not much progress had been made since then — Nissan themselves put the 2017 Leaf at 107 miles. The 2018 Leaf is making the jump to 150 miles — still well short of what a Tesla or the Chevy Bolt is capable of, but not too shabby, either.
Inside the car, Nissan is using a 7″ touch display with a landscape orientation — a little surprising, because we’ve seen many automakers move to portrait. The touch display will give drivers access to car diagnostics and navigation, and it’s good to hear that this model will work with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, too.
The 2018 Nissan Leaf has plenty of safety and tech features besides that, including the carefully named ProPILOT Assist. Similar to the Pilot Assist II system we just tried on the Volvo XC60, ProPILOT Assist is like a souped up cruise control, using sensors and cameras to control the car’s speed on highways according to traffic while keeping you in lane. It’s by no means autonomous driving — it won’t handle turns or lane changes or anything like that.
Nissan also has the e-pedal, which is an all-in-one accelerator and brake pedal. Ease up on the e-pedal, and the car will start to slow down using regenerative braking, which uses the kinetic energy built up by the brakes to charge the electric battery. It’ll probably take some getting used to, but it sounds like it could make for an easier drive in the end.
Looks like an impressive package overall, especially considering the price. Nissan has made the Leaf even cheaper this year, getting the starting price to $30,000 before factoring in the rebates you can get by buying electric. Higher-end trims and tech packages will drive that price up, but it should still come in lower than an equivalent Tesla Model 3 or Chevy Bolt.
Granted, the shorter electric range will still turn many away. But, if you’re looking for a cheap electric car just for trips around the city, chances are 150 miles on a single charge will be more than enough. With that redesigned exterior, Nissan might have just put themselves right in the midst of the electric car conversation.