2017 Nissan Leaf Review Jun 27, 2017 by Jet (Driver Weekly)
The Nissan Leaf debuted in 2010 as a 2011 model and became the top-selling electric car in the world. Now almost seven years old and without a major refresh, can the Leaf still deliver the goods for consumers? While it’s not as popular or as famous as the Toyota Prius and the Tesla Model S, the 2017 Leaf is still a capable electric vehicle that is shockingly affordable. The 2017 Nissan Leaf has plenty of features to make drivers happy, particularly if you want to save money at the pump. But the Leaf now has serious downsides compared to the competition.
Changes to the 2017 Nissan Leaf
First and foremost, very little has changed for the 2017 Model Year. This is both good and bad; the Leaf offers an affordable zero-emissions option for interested drivers, in part due to its age, but it now feels dated in certain aspects. The only change worth mentioning is that the base Leaf S receives the same 30kWh lithium-ion battery as the SV and SL trims. This increases the base range from 84 miles to 107 miles, a necessary boost to even keep this vehicle in the running. The chassis, suspension, interior, and exterior remain the same. Thankfully, the relatively inoffensive but identifiable styling (including the clever charging port at the front of the car) keeps the exterior from looking out of place on the road.
In our opinion, discerning buyers should skip the SV and SL trims and stick with the Leaf S with the new battery and add the optional Charge Package. The Charge Package provides a 6.6kW fast charger for Level 2 recharging and an extra port for Level 3 DC recharging. The SV trim has improved chargers and navigation as standard, but not much else to justify the increase in price. The SL trim adds leather seats, LED headlights, and comfort features, but the Leaf will never have the same level of fit-and-finish as a newer vehicle or the entry-luxury Tesla Model S. For the right balance of features and price, the Leaf S now offers the best deal.
Getting to Know the Engine
As a completely electric vehicle, the Nissan LEAF doesn’t use any gas or produce emissions—something that cannot be said of hybrids like the Toyota Prius. The electric powertrain can take some getting used to for new drivers. On the plus side, it has fewer moving parts than a traditional engine, meaning that it doesn’t require as much maintenance. The motor is also virtually silent for an incredibly quiet drive that will make those around you jealous. Any electric powertrain requires drivers to retrain some old driving habits, but the transition is worth the savings.
The 80kW AC synchronous electric motor is rated at 107 horsepower and 187 pound-feet of torque. While relatively low by modern standards, no one seriously considering the Leaf is looking for raw power or performance. This powertrain provides more than enough grunt to function as a daily driver and commuter car. The Leaf is designed to be plugged in overnight or at work. That said, the base Level 1 charger is not worth the wait. It will put a serious limitation on vehicle usage. The 3.6kW Level 1 charger takes seven hours to fill the tank with a 220-volt outlet or 26 hours with a 110-volt outlet. Upgrade to the 6.6kW onboard charger that takes just six hours with a 220-volt plug or just 30 minutes with a Fast Charger. Without a Fast Charger, the Leaf is, by necessity, a second vehicle in a two-car household. This can be a big downside for families that might otherwise want a low-emissions vehicle.
Practical Yet Comfortable Interior
The 2011 Leaf proved that a practical EV with excellent efficiency didn’t have to lack any creature comforts. The 2017 Leaf proves that any six-year-old model needs a refresh. Everything that was true about the Leaf out the gate remains true. The hatchback is spacious with more than enough room for five passengers. While it’s not the best value proposition, the seats can even be wrapped in black leather with heating in the rear; front heated seats are already standard. You can rest your hands on a leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel. Get in and get moving right away with standard Push Button Start. Opt for the folding rear seats made using sustainable Bio Suede PET to maximize storage as well as comfort. You can even fit three child seats in the second row of the LEAF, making this EV family friendly.
Unfortunately, the interior layout is dated. The dashboard feels old and plasticky and the infotainment screen is small. This shouldn’t dissuade any truly dedicated buyers, but the car deserves a refresh or a replacement soon. More importantly, cargo space is limited. In a market flooded with crossovers and hatchbacks offering better storage options, the dedicated cargo area in the Leaf is cramped. Folding the rear seats flat gives you just 30 cubic feet of storage space.
Technology and Features
The technology in the LEAF does more than just provide entertainment and connectivity. The Display Drive Computer also shows you the relevant information related to your battery, including the power usage, the battery charge level, and your range. Even the available Nissan Navigation System is ready to help, showing you where nearby charging stations are and finding you the best route to get there in addition to letting you know if it is within range. These systems can eliminate range anxiety. Other technology includes SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Hands-Free Text Messaging Assistant, a USB input with iPod connectivity, and Bluetooth Hands-Free Phone System. Add the Around View Monitor to make backing up or parking even easier. You can also opt for the Energy Efficient Series Bose audio system for premium audio quality that doesn’t hurt the planet. These added options keep the Leaf in the running with newer models, but at a higher price point.
We hope this is our last review for the first generation Nissan Leaf. Nissan needs to capitalize on the Leaf’s sales success and adequate performance and release a refreshed model or superior replacement. Until that time, the main reason to buy the 2017 Nissan Leaf is its MSRP starting at $30,680. If that’s your price range for an EV, the Nissan Leaf is an acceptable commuter car. Otherwise, take a closer look at the Chevrolet Bolt or wait for the Tesla Model 3.
Article updated 4 August 2017.