2018 Nissan LEAF: The People's Electric Car

Strong points
  • Attainable price
  • Fun to drive
  • Spacious and well-put-together interior
Weak points
  • Range could be a tad higher
  • Dated infotainment interface
  • Can get expensive once well equipped
Full report

OTTAWA, Ontario – Two hundred and forty two kilometres. That’s how much range you’ll get from the 2018 Nissan LEAF with its new 40-kWh battery. That number seems to trigger many reactions whenever we talk about the car. Whether it is on our social media pages or directly in person with our readers at social events, people seem disappointed.

“You can’t even drive from Montreal to Quebec City in this thing” seems to be the most frequently heard comment when we mention the 2018 Nissan LEAF.

According to Didier Marsaud, director of corporate communications at Nissan Canada, the only people who worry about range anxiety are the ones who don’t currently own an electric vehicle. Owners of such vehicles don’t fear they’ll run out of juice. That’s a bold claim, because there are other EVs out there with superior range. Think Tesla, Chevrolet Bolt EV or even Hyundai’s upcoming electric Kona. Is it therefore safe to proclaim that a lofty range is unnecessary?

Not Expensive

Here’s the thing; the LEAF is affordable, and that’s where it beats its rivals. As I’m writing this, a viable electric car that offers as much freedom as its gasoline counterpart is very expensive, even after incentives. Oh yeah, the Tesla Model S is cool and all, but good luck finding a new one under $100,000. And although Elon Musk believes the Model 3 is an attainable EV, the first Canadian examples will sell for $64,100. In a world where folks purchase $25,000 Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas, that’s not what you call affordable.

Fine, there’s the Chevrolet Bolt EV. For $44,095, you’ll get 383 km. Not bad, but at that price, it’s one heck of an expensive subcompact.

The 2018 Nissan LEAF, on the other hand, sells at an entry price of $35,998 (before freight and destination) and is eligible to an $8,000 government incentive. Of course, the LEAF isn’t the only EV in this price bracket. You could opt for a Volkswagen e-Golf or a Hyundai Ioniq for about the same MSRP, but their range only tops out at about 200 km.

At the moment, the LEAF is the best value proposition here.

Photo: William Clavey

Listening to Owners

Let’s get back to the range situation. If Mr. Marsaud is so confident about his range anxiety claims, it’s because Nissan listened to the 310,000 worldwide first-generation LEAF owners before conceiving this one, and nobody seemed bothered with the old car’s range. According to the owners of the previous city car, they had no issue going where they needed to go largely because the amount of available charging stations is growing at an almost exponential rate.

So Nissan believes that 242 km is plenty fine for the average commuter, hence allowing the carmaker to sell the car at an affordable price. “The biggest worry for electric car owners isn’t running out of energy, it’s making sure the charging station waiting at the end of the trip won’t be broken down,” says Nissan.

Nissan therefore improved the LEAF where it matters. Styling-wise, I’m still not convinced by the car’s futuristic and upright appearance, making it look like a big doorstop. But I’m willing to give Nissan credit for penning a much more coherent design this time. For once, the LEAF actually looks like a normal car, not some strange spaceship-resembling thing on wheels. But that’s all subjective, so you be the judge.

The new car rides on a heavily revised platform from the outgoing car, which allowed engineers to package the batteries within the car’s floor. This ensures better weight distribution and a lower centre of gravity, allowing the LEAF to be stable and well planted to the ground at high speeds. As a matter of fact, the car’s overall refinement was significantly improved, the cabin itself is spacious, especially for a car of this size, and overall build quality is adequate, incorporating materials of good quality. In that respect, the LEAF is a much better finished car than the Chevrolet Bolt EV, but the Volkswagen e-Golf remains the most refined attainable EV of the group.

The new battery also increases the car’s overall horsepower and torque. The LEAF is now rated at 147 horsepower (up from 107 hp) and 236 lb.-ft. of torque (up from 207 lb.-ft.), allowing it to sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in roughly 7.5 seconds.

Photo: William Clavey

Driving with One Foot

On the road, the electric motor’s instant torque is almost addictive, especially when flinging the car onto a highway on-ramp to merge with traffic. The LEAF has no shortage of power and the car itself is superbly agile, making it a blast to drive it fast through a bend.

All electric cars come with some form of regenerative braking, and some examples, like the e-Golf, even allow you to modulate the system’s resistance. For the LEAF, Nissan has fitted it with what they call an e-Pedal. Once activated, all you need to do is release the accelerator pedal to slow down the car all while recharging the batteries. It’s simple, yet clever, allowing drivers to not only increase total battery range, but also reduce brake pad wear. You can even bring the entire car to a stop with it!

So there you have it. The 2018 Nissan LEAF may not revolutionize the electric-car segment, but it is a much more evolved machine in every way. At the moment, it’s the EV that offers the most range for less than $40,000. No wonder it’s the best-selling electric car in the world.

As for driving to Québec City from Montreal, just stop at a Saint-Hubert restaurant for lunch and charge the car up. Once you’ll begin digesting your meal, the car will have enough juice to get you to destination, where another charging port will be waiting for you.

And if you’re heading to a friend’s house, you need not to worry. Simply dish the level 2 charging cable out of the LEAF’s trunk, and connect the car to the house’s wall plug. Finally, there’s a viable and attainable electric car.

Share on Facebook

More on the subject

Spotlight onWe're Heading to Ottawa to Drive the 2018 Nissan LEAF (Again)
The Nissan LEAF was entirely redesigned for the 2018 model year and is currently available in small quantities in dealerships. Last December, we had a chance to drive it in California before the car went on sale. Now, it’s Nissan Canada’s turn to invite us to the nation’s capital for …
MontrealCanadian Premiere: 2018 Nissan LEAF Gets Avant-garde Technology
The pioneer of contemporary all-electric cars, the Nissan LEAF, is beginning its second life this year. Even though it uses the previous generation’s wheelbase, it is nonetheless a smidge longer, wider and taller. The most significant changes, however, are under the body. The electric motor is more powerful than before …
ElectricLaval, First City in Canada to Offer an EV Purchase Rebate
The city of Laval, Quebec, proclaims itself as the first to offer its citizens a rebate towards the purchase of an electric motor vehicle. The announcement was made today at the Montreal Electric Vehicle Show, which runs from April 20 to 22. Starting today, residents of Laval will benefit from …
ElectricSay Hello to the Nissan LEAF Open Car… Convertible!
In Tokyo, during a forum celebrating the 100,000-unit sales milestone of the Nissan LEAF since it was introduced in 2010, the automaker presented a special car for the occasion. In front of about 100 people, including government officials and company executives who were participating in a discussion to create a …
First Drives2018 Nissan Kicks: Urban Star
MONTREAL, Quebec – Let’s face it; the automobile landscape is changing to fit our lifestyles and society. Cars are getting generally smaller for urban use, they’re much more fuel efficient because it’s good both for the environment and our wallet, and the younger generation of car buyers—a shrinking number, unfortunately—doesn’t …
NewsNissan Admits Misconduct in Emissions and Fuel Economy Measurement
While Volkswagen is trying hard to turn the page nearly three years after Dieselgate broke out, Nissan this week released a statement confessing to some misconduct in the final inspection process of its vehicles built in Japan. This follows extensive compliance checks of various parts of the manufacturer’s operations including …
NewsEV Sales Reached 8% in Canada
According to an article published by FleetCarma , fully electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles counted for more than 8% of total new light-vehicle sales during the third quarter of 2018 in Canada. This result was in large part attributable to the Tesla Model 3 , which started to arrive …
NewsThe Car Guide’s 2019 Best Buys: Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Every year, The Car Guide’s editorial team publishes its list of Best Buys in a wide variety of vehicle categories. Aside from these award-winning cars and utility vehicles, The Car Guide also hands out titles for the Best New Car of the Year and the Best New SUV of the …
MontrealA Greater Driving Range with the 2019 Nissan LEAF PLUS
Only a few days following its world debut at the Consumer Electronics Show, the new 2019 Nissan LEAF PLUS makes its first Canadian appearance and the Montreal International Auto Show . Almost identical to the “regular” Nissan LEAF, this new variant stands out with its 62-kWh battery pack that boosts …
Test Drives2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV: Welcome to Canada
Two years after its official release, the Chevrolet Bolt EV remains competitive even if it now faces serious rivals such as the long-range Nissan LEAF PLUS and the Hyundai Kona Electric . Plus, the Tesla Model 3 is finally here, and it’s not only an accomplished product, its gaining quite …
NewsNissan Canada Announces Pricing for the Longer-range LEAF PLUS
Last January, Nissan revealed the LEAF PLUS equipped with a 62-kWh battery, allowing for a maximum driving range of 363 kilometres on a single charge. Up until now, the second-generation LEAF and its 40-kWh battery pack yielded a driving range of up to 243 km. In addition, the LEAF PLUS …