2019 Nissan Leaf Plus first drive review: Expanding the EV’s appeal


With its usable real-world range, huge smattering of safety tech and relatively affordable starting price, the Nissan Leaf is a solid option for an affordable electric vehicle. As of now, some 380,000 examples have been sold globally since the Leaf first launched in 2010. So how do you broaden the appeal of such a well-liked EV? Give it more of what matters: specifically, power and range.

Enter the Leaf Plus, which arrives in US showrooms this March. Sold alongside the standard Leaf, its bigger battery offers gains in both driving range and onboard power, and Nissan’s added some improved tech and charging features, as well.

Familiar addition

First, a quick point of clarification. When the Leaf Plus debuted at CES 2019, Nissan called it Leaf E+. This name will still be used in markets like Europe and Japan, but here in the US, it’ll just be Leaf Plus — spelled out and everything. Like the standard Leaf, three models will be available: S Plus, SV Plus and SL Plus.

The only way to tell a Plus from a standard Leaf is to look very, very closely. The long-range models have “Plus” badges below the trim level designation on the hatch, and there are small bits of light-blue accents on the front bumper, matching the colored strip that adorns the rear valance of all Leaf models. There’s an “E+” badge on the quick charge port cap, too. But unless you’re the kind of monster who just goes around and opens the charging door on every Leaf you see, you’ll never notice this change.

The interior changes are similarly minor, which is both good and bad. The Plus is still as quiet and comfortable as any other Leaf, but the overall cabin design leaves a lot to be desired. There’s no forgetting the Leaf’s economy car roots when you touch the hard plastics on the door panels and dashboard, or when you look at the overly simplistic center stack layout. That said, this interior treatment is relatively par for the course. The Chevy Bolt is awash with low-quality materials, and hard plastics make up huge chunks of the Hyundai Kona and Kia Niro EV interiors.

Infotainment tech gets a small hardware upgrade by way of an 8-inch touchscreen, compared to the 7-inch unit you’ll find inside the standard Leaf. (Nissan won’t confirm if the rest of the Leaf range will get this, but I would assume so.) This slightly larger display runs the company’s NissanConnect infotainment system which, while rich with features and content, looks a generation or two behind the times. The reconfigurable icons appear low-res compared to more modern infotainment setups, and using the embedded navigation of this SL tester is a relatively clunky affair. Happily, every Leaf Plus gets Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, both of which offer a more visually appealing, easier to use sat-nav experience.

Inside and out, the Plus is nearly identical to the standard Leaf.


Steven Ewing/Roadshow

More range and easier charging

The Leaf Plus’ 62-kilowatt-hour battery pack serves two main purposes, the most obvious of which is increased range. While the standard, 40-kWh Leaf has an EPA-rated, 151-mile range, Nissan estimates a 226-mile range for the Plus. As always, your mileage may vary, and I’ll need a longer test to try and eke out every mile of usable range. But other Roadshow editors have regularly achieved the 151-mile range in our long-term 40-kWh Leaf (in the right weather conditions, anyway), so I’m hopeful the Plus will be a similarly anxiety-free experience.

All Leaf Plus models come with a ChaDeMo quick-charge port (the 40-kWh Leaf only fits this to SV and SL trims), as well as the ability to take advantage of higher-output, 100-kW DC charging. There aren’t many 100-kW chargers in the US right now, but should you find one, you’ll be able to get an 80-percent charge in just 45 minutes before the charging rate slows down (to protect the battery’s health).

Otherwise, more commonplace 50-kW DC charging gives you an 80-percent charge in 60 minutes. Plug in to a 240-volt outlet like most people, however, and it’ll take 11.5 hours to fully charge a Leaf Plus. In an effort to make charging easier, Nissan provides a portable Level 1/Level 2 charging cable with every Leaf Plus. In other words, if you already have a 240-volt outlet in your garage, you can plug in without having to purchase a wall box — a huge savings over some competing models.

The Leaf Plus can support 100-kW DC fast charging, and will replenish 80 percent of its battery in just 45 minutes. On a more commonplace 240-volt wall outlet, the Plus will take 11.5 hours to fully recharge.


Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Powering up

The other benefit of the 62-kWh battery pack is a healthy increase in power. Where the 40-kWh Leaf produces 147 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, the Plus puts out 214 and 250, respectively. With all that thrust delivered instantaneously through a single-speed reduction-gear transmission, the Leaf Plus is decently quick off the line. Under full-throttle launches, the Leaf Plus accelerates to 60 miles per hour in around 7 seconds, about a second quicker than a 40-kWh model. This added power helps with passing maneuvers, too. The 40-kWh Leaf is no slouch, but overtaking slow-moving cars on the highway is much easier in the Plus.

On the other hand, the Plus’ bigger battery pack means the Leaf has a lot more weight to lug around — 347 pounds, in fact. The Leaf’s low center of gravity means it has a stable, planted feeling on the road, with minimal body roll while cornering. However, the super-light, somewhat vague steering doesn’t accurately communicate the car’s weight to the driver. The Leaf isn’t bad to drive, per se, but the Chevy Bolt and Hyundai Kona Electric offer a more rewarding experience behind the wheel.

The standard Leaf’s e-pedal carries over for Plus duty, and the experience is no different here. Activate e-pedal and you’ll feel strong regenerative braking when you lift off the throttle, which can slow the car to a complete stop. At that point, the mechanical brakes activate to hold the car in place. The Leaf’s e-pedal is a bit nuanced, and takes a bit of skill to get just right. But once you’ve got the hang of it, you can drive for long periods of time without ever having to touch the brake pedal.

Even with an extra 347 pounds to lug around, the Leaf Plus feels the same from behind the wheel.


Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Nissan’s ProPilot driver assistance tech is standard on the top-trim Leaf SL Plus (on the 40-kWH, its part of the optional SL tech package). ProPilot combines lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control for partially automated, hands-on-the-wheel driving. On the drive from Nissan’s event hotel in San Diego back to my home in Los Angeles, ProPilot does a lot of the heavy lifting on Interstate 5, smoothly speeding up or slowing down as I change lanes in traffic. In stop-and-go situations, ProPilot is a godsend. I can’t imagine buying a Leaf — or many other new Nissans — without it.

Broader appeal

2019 Leaf Plus pricing isn’t available as of this writing, but it’s fair to assume it’ll command several thousand dollars more than the standard EV’s $29,990 starting price (not including destination, and before federal and local incentives). That’ll put it right in line with other long-range, affordable electric cars like the Chevy Bolt and Hyundai Kona Electric, not to mention Kia’s upcoming Niro and Soul EVs.

Nothing about the Plus feels all that different from the regular Leaf, and that’s exactly the point. After all, Nissan isn’t looking to reinvent its EV package. With more power and more range, the Plus simply makes Leaf ownership more accessible.

The Leaf Plus simply offers buyers more of what matters.


Steven Ewing/Roadshow


Editors’ note: Travel costs related to this feature were covered by the manufacturer. This is common in the auto industry, as it’s far more economical to ship journalists to cars than to ship cars to journalists. While Roadshow accepts multiday vehicle loans from manufacturers in order to provide scored editorial reviews, all scored vehicle reviews are completed on our turf and on our terms.

The judgments and opinions of Roadshow’s editorial team are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.



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