Auto123 reviews the 2020 Nissan LEAF Plus.
The Nissan LEAF was one of the first electric cars to enjoy significant commercial success. It has now been on the market for 10 years and Nissan has sold nearly half a million units of the model worldwide. Of these, 679 were registered in Canada in the first three months of 2020 – which of course, pales in comparison to the top combustion-engine models on the market, but still.
Of course, the LEAF is no longer the only compact electric vehicle sold in Canada. It now competes against the Tesla Model 3, Chevrolet Bolt, Kia Niro EV and Hyundai Kona EV, among others. All of these electric models differ in price (albeit slightly) and shape.
Quite frankly, once you've gotten a taste of the sheer fun electric cars can offer, you'll find something appealing about each model. Some will want a Tesla for its technologies, but also because the California-based manufacturer is in fashion and has been making a lot of noise for several years now; Kia and Hyundai have attractive and practical models with very similar technologies; as for the Bolt, despite its charms, it's starting to be overtaken by newer models. The valiant LEAF, meanwhile, retains the shape of a small hatchback that does very well in the city and is not outclassed on the highway. It can easily accommodate five adults, and its trunk is decently accommodating.
Simple, but effective
We had the opportunity to drive the 2020 Nissan LEAF SL Plus for a week. This year’s edition benefits from a few improvements compared to the 2019 version. We'll come back to the list of additions.
It’s worth noting off the bat that the LEAF is available with two choices of battery and, therefore, range. The smaller one is 40 kWh and gives 240 km of range, which is pretty modest, especially in 2020. To help dispel that nasty range anxiety, Canadian consumers have since 2019 been able to choose a version with a 62-kWh battery. The LEAF Plus can cover up to 363 km on a single charge, according to Nissan. The difference is enough that, in our opinion, it makes sense to pay extra to enjoy this version.
And 363 km of range puts the LEAF on more or less equal footing with the Konas and Bolts of the world. What’s more, we were able to do even better; during our test drive, with the battery fully charged and - importantly - with the climate control system off, the onboard computer indicated a range of 426 km, an impressive result all in all. Note that the LEAF Plus is also more powerful, offering 214 hp compared to 147 in the base version. It's hard to see how consumers could be tempted by the LEAF offering less capacity.
To recharge it all, you're entitled to a Level 3 quick charge port that allows you to recover up to 80 percent of charge in just 45 minutes, provided you charge at 100 kWh. For a home operation with 240V, it will take you 11.5 hours to charge to 100 percent. With the official range of 360 km and the 415 km that we observed, you won’t find yourself having to recharge on a nightly basis..
Additions to the model for 2020 include the inclusion of the Nissan Safety Shield 360 Package, which includes front and rear emergency braking, cross-traffic alert, blind spot warning and lane departure detection. Some of these features are available on all models.
Also noteworthy is an 8-inch screen that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard equipment. Knee airbags for the front and side airbags for the rear seats have also been added. For the North American market, the LEAF emits a new sound when the vehicle is in reverse to warn pedestrians that an electric vehicle is in motion. We have to admit that with time, that became fairly annoying when we put the vehicle in reverse. We felt like we were driving a heavy truck.
Although the new LEAF is much more pleasant to drive than the first-generation model, it still has some issues with roll when cornering and its steering is a bit too light. It handles well as long as you don't push it too hard. Of course, you don’t buy a LEAF to race around in it; but the instant torque available from the electric powertrain means it’s quite easy to get tempted to push the car when the opportunity presents! In any event, if you treat her nicely, the LEAF behaves with gentleness and in absolute calm.
When the model was redesigned in 2018, the big novelty was the e-Pedal function. It allows the driver to slow the car down considerably just by taking a little pressure off the accelerator. It takes a little time to get used to this, with some herky-jerky motion and even a little potential motion sickness in store for beginners. Frankly, it's a function that you’ll either like or not.
For us, every time we try the car, we love it. You have to tame the system, but once you do, the car handles perfectly well just by dosing pressure on accelerator, either to accelerate or to slow down. This way, you can drive for many kilometres without touching the brake pedal, even in city traffic. Of course, the brake pedal retains its primary function if you need to make an emergency stop. By the way, one incentive to get you to make friends with the e-Pedal? The LEAF uses the energy recovered by the system to recharge the battery, and this helps boosts range in the city.
The other very interesting option is the ProPILOT driver assistance system package. These systems make it possible, for example in heavier traffic, to follow the vehicle in front at a good distance, brake to a stop and then restart without any human intervention except holding the steering wheel. This really does help relieve stress in traffic and ensure you get where you’re going feeling more refreshed.
Other new features include the Nissan Connect application that allows you to monitor several parameters of your LEAF. In addition to viewing the battery status, you can activate the climate control and heating systems remotely. Perfect for Canadians, that!
A simplified range
In Canada, Nissan is offering consumers four models this year: the SV with 40 kWh battery, the S Plus (the Plus bringing in the 62 kWh battery), the SV PLUS and, at the top of the range, the SL PLUS. This last was our version for our week of testing.
The 2020 Nissan LEAF SV at $46,360 (freight and PDI included) comes with a 110 kW electric motor and that 40 kWh lithium-ion battery for a range of 240 km. It sits on 17-inch wheels and gets the ProPILOT package, as well as Nissan Connect with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
The 2020 Nissan LEAF S PLUS ($48,960) adds a 160 kW electric motor and the 62 kWh lithium-ion battery for a range of 363 km. There's a quick-charge port and 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.
The 2020 Nissan LEAF PLUS SV ($51,960) also includes the ProPILOT system and adds 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, leather-wrapped steering wheel, peripheral display, Driver Alert Alert System, 8-way power driver's seat with two-way adjustable power lumbar support, auto-dimming rearview mirror and... manual adjustments for the passenger seat.
The Nissan LEAF SL PLUS includes heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signals, leather seats and a premium 7-speaker Bose audio system - and still a manually adjustable passenger seat - for $54,960.
Note that the 2020 Nissan LEAF is eligible for the discounts offered through the federal government's iZEV incentive program, as well as those offered in the provinces of Quebec and British Columbia.
The Nissan LEAF, despite the arrival of several models in a segment it previously dominated, remains an interesting choice. It has a lot of qualities and being behind the wheel is a positive experience, especially because it's fun to drive. What's more, it offers plenty of interior space for a vehicle of this size. Finally, there are enough options to make you feel safe and secure on board.
With a price of $48,960 for the S Plus version, the LEAF competes directly Kia's Niro and Soul, Hyundai's Kona and even, in the case of the SL Plus version, the Tesla Model 3. There's now more power with a host of gadgets and safety systems on board. And the e-Pedal system and the ProPILOT package are two elements that at least deserve to be tested before you make your choice for your next EV.
Good range with the 62-kWh battery
Affordable entry-level price (with the government incentives)
Safety and driver assistance systems
Positive driving experience
Space on board
We like less
The range of the basic version is no longer competitive
Some issues with roll
SL Plus model without ventilated seats
Manually adjustable passenger seat, even in the top trim
Insufficient storage space on board