Believe it or not, the best-selling electric vehicle (EV) in the world doesn’t wear a Tesla badge. Nissan’s Leaf is the EV sales king with over 380,000 vehicles sold worldwide since its debut in 2010, 128,000 of those coming in the U.S. alone.
For the second iteration of this popular little plug-in, introduced for the 2018 model year, Nissan ditched the curvy, grille-less design of the original model to go more mainstream. But with just 150 miles of range, fans were disappointed that it didn’t stack up to popular mainstream choices like the Chevrolet Bolt EV or even the Tesla Model 3.
Thankfully, Nissan rolled out the 2019 Leaf e+ at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year, known simply as the Leaf Plus model in North America. With a larger battery pack and up to 50% more range than the original model, the smartly priced Leaf now looks like a much more compelling option for drivers considering going all-electric.
More Competitive Range for a Worldwide Best-seller
With nothing to distinguish it from a base-model Leaf aside from the “Plus” badge on the rear underneath the trim level designation, the Leaf Plus is more about what lies beneath the skin than on it. Still, it’s a shame to see the first generation’s polarizing-but-cute looks fall by the wayside in favor of what looks like any other compact hatchback.
With more angles than curves, a “V-Motion” fake grille to echo the rest of the Nissan lineup, and a standard two-box hatchback profile, the Leaf hardly has any tells that it’s an electric vehicle – other than the “Zero Emissions” badges on both front doors and the hatch.
Inside, occupants don’t get many futuristic flourishes either, with a somewhat boring design that emphasizes function over form. The same infotainment screen found in other Nissan models is front and center and a digital gauge cluster provides pertinent charge, range, and usage information. Besides the funky shifter and a power button replacing the start/stop switch, this is a standard-issue economy car interior.
Where the Leaf earns its “Plus” badge, however, is under the sheet metal where the battery has been improved to 62 kWh from 40. That’s an additional 55% capacity, which translates to over 50% more EPA-estimated range. While the garden-variety Leaf manages about 150 miles, the Plus model bumps that figure to 226, making it much more competitive with the likes of the Chevrolet Bolt EV, though new offerings like the Hyundai Kona EV manage 258 miles or more at a similar price point.
A more powerful 160-kW motor bumps power by 45% and torque to 250 lb.-ft., and the Leaf Plus also incorporates a 70-kW quick-charging system with a 100-kW peak, adding 22 miles of range in an hour and fully charging the battery in 7.5 hours. A battery warranty of 8 years or 100,000 miles provides additional peace of mind for those concerned about costly battery replacements down the line.
Available Driver-Assist Tech and External App Control
Despite its normal-looking cabin, the Leaf Plus includes a few desirable pieces of tech, notably Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on the mid-tier SV trim and above. Besides the usual suite of tech features – Bluetooth connectivity, available satellite navigation, dual USB charging ports, satellite radio, and more – Nissan also offers its ProPilot Assist suite of semi-autonomous driving systems on the Leaf Plus.
You can get ProPilot Assist as an option on the SV or top-tier SL trims. It includes adaptive cruise control that can set the Leaf’s speed to the vehicle in front between 18 and 62 mph, active steering assist to keep the Leaf centered in its lane, and automatic emergency braking at a full range of speed. When traffic stops, the driver can restart the system by pressing a button mounted on the steering wheel or by lightly pressing the accelerator.
All Leafs will come with standard active safety features going forward as well, including lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and a surround-view camera with moving-object detection. The Leaf Plus also allows one-pedal driving, which uses the car’s regenerative braking system to bring the vehicle gradually to a stop when you let off the accelerator (if the upgrade is on the car), increasing maximum driving range.
Nissan also plans to offer an 8-inch infotainment display with an updated navigation system, as well as the NissanConnect smartphone app that allows owners to monitor their vehicle’s state of charge, schedule charging times for optimal pricing, find nearby charging stations, and set climate control before entering the vehicle – all from their phone. The app also includes a door-to-door navigation function, which provides detailed walking directions along with a pre-programmed driving route in the event you end up parking some distance from your actual destination.
Turning (Up) a New Leaf
Pricing is not yet available for the Leaf Plus but should echo the lower-range model’s pricing structure considering the trim levels are the same. The base Leaf S starts at $30,885 (including $895 destination charge) before a $7,500 federal tax credit, while the SV rings in at $33,385 and the top-tier SL at $37,095. Expect the Plus version of each of these trims to cost a few thousand dollars more to offset the larger battery and motors.
While its range isn’t tops among competitors, even with the boost, a 200-mile-plus Leaf does make the new Plus version a much more enticing option for longer-distance commuters looking to switch to an EV, especially for the value alone.