The electric vehicle market is primarily dominated by the Tesla Model 3 and Y, setting the standard for other EVs. However, only some find comfort in a Tesla, with some seeing the experience as bewildering, especially if it’s their first time in one.
For those seeking a more traditional car experience, there’s the electric Nissan Leaf. Unlike Tesla’s approach of reinventing the automobile, Nissan introduced the Leaf to the U.S. market back in 2011 with the intention of creating a conventional Nissan model, incorporating an electric motor in place of a traditional engine.
Getting accustomed to the Leaf is as straightforward as navigating a Nissan Sentra or Toyota Corolla. With a Tesla Model 3 and Subaru Impreza also in the garage, the Leaf shares similarities with the latter – a hatchback design, comparable interior space, simple digital instrument and dashboard displays, and a console adorned with buttons, a feature notably absent in Tesla vehicles.
Driving the Leaf, I quickly adjusted settings using physical buttons – a stark contrast to Tesla’s minimalistic approach. The Leaf’s familiarity extends to driving dynamics, with the front-wheel-drive SV Plus variant exhibiting a playful agility akin to our family’s FWD Impreza. The Leaf’s short wheelbase and rigid chassis make it responsive, and toggling the e-Pedal for single-pedal driving adds to its versatility.
Credit to the Leaf’s advancements over the years, especially in battery capacity. The SV Plus model, equipped with a 62 kWh battery, offers improved acceleration and a significantly increased range compared to the original 2011 model. However, with a base price of $29,000 for the S variant boasting 149 miles of range and the SV Plus reaching $38,000 for a 212-mile range, the Leaf faces stiff competition from Tesla’s Model 3.
While the Leaf impresses with its “normal car” feel and improved range, challenges arise in the electric vehicle landscape. The Leaf’s charging infrastructure, utilizing CHAdeMO, needs to catch up to other standards, and its range in cold climates, typical of Michigan winters, poses challenges for longer journeys.
Compared to Tesla’s proprietary charging network, planning a road trip with the Leaf requires more effort, relying on third-party chargers without an integrated route planning feature. Additionally, the Leaf’s charging speed, maxing out at 50 kW, falls short of Tesla’s 250 kW capability.
The Leaf’s natural competitor, the Bolt, offers more range at 258 miles but shares similar challenges. As the electric vehicle market evolves, Nissan’s Ariya SUV takes center stage with enhanced features like self-driving capabilities and faster charging. However, the Leaf remains a viable choice for local commuting, especially for those who prioritize familiarity and ease of use over cutting-edge features.