When the Nissan Leaf initially went on sale at the end of 2010, it was the first all-electric, mass market, highway-capable, five-door hatchback from a major manufacturer. It went on to become the best-selling EV model in the world, with global sales reaching 400,000 in early 2019. Nissan hopes to retain its compact EV sales title with the new 2019 Leaf Plus, which has an EPA range of up to 226 miles courtesy of a redesigned battery pack that uses higher-density cells to provide a 62kWh capacity. It also gets a 100kW quick-charge port and an updated infotainment system with a larger screen, and Nissan’s ProPilot Assist semi-autonomous feature as an available option, putting it in a good position to retain its lead.
Pricing and Design
The Leaf Plus comes in three trim levels—S Plus, SV Plus and SL Plus—all with a 160kW/214-horsepower electric motor. A new quick-charge port can get the car’s lithium-ion battery to 80 percent capacity in 45 minutes, or an adjacent 6.6kW charging port can top off the battery in about 11.5 hours at 240V or nearly 56 hours at 120V using a supplied charge cable. The battery is also charged through regenerative braking and the Leaf Plus has a single-speed transmission that drives the front wheels.
The S Plus trim starts at $36,550 and comes with such standard exterior features as 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, automatic on/off halogen headlights, LED taillights, power mirrors, a charge port light and lock, and keyless entry. Standard interior features include a 6-way manual driver’s seat, a 4-way manual front passenger seat, Bio Suede upholstery, a 60/40 split fold-down rear seat, a digital instrument cluster, automatic climate control with pre-heat/pre-cool functions when the car is charging, and a charging timer. Standard tech amenities include cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, hill start assist, a rearview camera, an 8-inch in-dash touch screen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a six-speaker stereo system with AM/FM/MP3/satellite radio, an aux-in jack and USB ports, and Bluetooth for hands-free phone calls, music streaming, and text messaging.
The SV Plus trim that we tested starts at $38,510 and adds 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with Michelin Energy Saver tires, fog lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, HD Radio, adaptive cruise control, NissanConnect Navigation and Services, and compatibility with the NissanConnect EV smartphone app to remotely monitor battery status, battery charging, and turn on the climate control system.
Our test car had the $1,800 SV Technology Package option that adds LED headlights and daytime running lights, heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signals, an 8-way power driver’s seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, an electric parking brake, ProPilot Assist, pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, auto high beams, and lane keeping assist. It also has the $900 SV All Weather Package with heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signals, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and rear heater ducts. Individual options include $200 carpeted floor and cargo area mats and an $80 Safety Kit with a first aid and emergency kit. With an $895 destination charge, the final sticker came to $42,580.
The top-of-the-line Nissan SL Plus trim starts at $42,550 and adds all the features of the SV Technology Package and SV All Weather Package options plus a cargo cover, a seven-speaker Bose audio system, and Nissan’s Around View Monitor.
The larger battery of the Leaf Plus doesn’t infringe on interior or cargo space since the cells are about 3 percent more energy-dense than those in the regular model. As a result, Nissan was able to wring 50 percent more capacity from a battery just a bit larger than the one used in the non-Plus version.
The only exterior changes to the new model are a small chrome Plus below the trim badge on the rear and a blue lower front bumper trim. Behind the charge-port door at the front of the car, an “e” on the cap on the left indicates the fast-charge port that can charge at up to 100kW, while the 6.6kW charging port is on the right.
Infotainment Interface and Connectivity
The Leaf Plus looks nearly identical inside to its siblings except for an 8-inch infotainment touch screen that replaces the regular Leaf’s 7-inch display. The infotainment interface allows customizing the home screen and adding and arranging widgets so favorite features are easily accessible.
The infotainment system now allows for over-the-air firmware updates instead of manual updates via USB or a Nissan dealer update, while the navigation system has a new door-to-door feature that syncs with a smartphone to get drivers from their car to their ultimate destination on foot. The nav system also shows charging locations.
The NissanConnect Navigation and Services adds telematics features such as automatic crash notification and roadside assistance (free for six months before a subscription kicks in), as well as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant capability. New Leaf owners can use these voice assistants or the NissanConnect smartphone app for free for three years to keep tabs on battery-charge status, schedule charging times, find the nearest charging station, and preheat or precool the interior.
The Leaf Plus is available with a full complement of driver assists, including ProPilot Assist that keeps the car centered in its lane and can provide semi-autonomous driving. But most are only available as standard equipment on the top-trim Nissan SL Plus.
Performance and Conclusions
Nissan tweaked the propulsion system software to boost the maximum output of the Leaf Plus to 214 horsepower, an increase of 45 percent compared with 147-horsepower in the regular Leaf. This is slightly more than the Bolt’s 201-horsepower motor, although at 238 miles, the Chevy EV still has more range from a battery with roughly the same capacity.
The Leaf Plus’s added power is a palpable cut above the regular Leaf, while the no-lag acceleration provided by the pure electric powertrain aids in everything from merging into freeway traffic to cutting through crowded city traffic. The Leaf Plus feels a bit more planted than the regular model, thanks to its additional 308 pounds of curb weight, and Nissan’s e-Pedal feature that debuted last year provides vigorous regenerative braking and true one-pedal, golf cart-style driving.
Starting at $36,550, the Leaf Plus is in the same ballpark as the Bolt, which starts at $36,600, but it falls short of the Hyundai Kona Electric with 258 miles of range, a $36,400 base price, and crossover utility. The Tesla Model 3 can also be considered competition with 260 miles of range, but it has much higher $42,900 starting price.
With Nissan having sold nearly a half-million Leafs in almost a decade, it has a large lead on other automakers in the small but expanding compact EV market. With the Leaf Plus adding longer range, faster charging, improved performance, and more tech amenities, Nissan is well-positioned to increase its EV market share and keep its sales crown.