2019 Nissan Leaf Plus SL Review

Although the Tesla Model S has been widely credited for bringing electric vehicles into public attention, it is the Nissan Leaf that makes owning one possible for the masses. When it was debuted for 2011, the Leaf offered only 117km of range. The second gen 2018 Leaf, which I reviewed last year, has a much more manageable range of 243km. For people who suffer from range anxiety (me included) and people living in colder weather, the newly introduced 2019 Nissan Leaf Plus with its 62kWh lithium-ion battery (up from 40kWh) and 160kW AC synchronous electric motor (up from 110kW) not only offers an impressive 363km of range, but also increased power and torque.

I was curious how the new battery/motor combination would change the driving experience of the Leaf. Thanks to Nissan Canada, I was given the 2019 Nissan Leaf Plus SL for a week to find out. Below is my unbiased review.

The exterior of the Leaf Plus remains largely identical to the regular 2018 Leaf. The same streamlined silhouette maximizes aerodynamic efficiency while the V-Motion Grille with the blue 3D mesh cover gives the front fascia a bold, sporty look.

A small Plus badge on the rear hatch and blue accents on the lower edges of the bumpers are what set the Plus version apart from the standard Leaf.

The Leaf's battery is tucked nicely under its belly. Despite being 25% larger in capacity, Nissan engineers manage to keep the dimensions and placement of the battery roughly the same. Other than a 0.2-inch increase in overall height (16-inch wheels), the car’s exterior and interior dimensions are unchanged.

Identical to the standard model, the Nissan Leaf Plus boasts a spacious interior with a high-tech feel. Vibrant blue contrast stitching for the steering wheel, seats and instrument panel accentuate the car as an electric vehicle. A mixed of soft-touch materials and hard plastics are used throughout the cabin. The piano black trims in the center console and on the side door armrests proof to be fingerprint prone and easily scratched.

The Alcantara inserted leather front seats feel luxurious and comfortable. The driving position is higher than a normal compact vehicle. Combined with the added windshields between the A1 and A2 pillars, the Nissan Leaf provides and unobstructed view for the driver.

The heated back seats are comfortable for two passengers, but the raised floor in the middle makes it quite uncomfortable for the 3rd person sitting in the middle.

The infotainment system of the 2019 Nissan Leaf centers around the new 8" touchscreen in the center dash. The flush design and the placements of physical buttons on its sides make it one of the easiest to operate even while the vehicle is in motion.

The combination of an analog speedometer and a 7" TFT display in the instrument cluster provides a highly customizable, easy to read information system. The TFT display is easily controlled via the control buttons on the left side of the steering wheel.

Safety and Driver Assistance
The SL trimmed tester comes with an impressive array of safety and driver assists. They include ProPILOT Assist, a single lane highway driving assist technology that can automatically adjust the distance to the vehicle ahead, using a speed preset by the driver.

ProPILOT Assist can also help keep the vehicle centered in its lane. If the car in front stops, ProPILOT Assist can automatically apply the brakes to bring the vehicle to a full stop if necessary. After coming to a full stop, the vehicle can remain in place even if the driver's foot is off the brake. If traffic restarts, the car will resume driving when the driver touches the steering wheel-mounted ProPILOT Assist switch again or lightly presses the accelerator to activate the system.

Along with ProPILOT Assist, the Nissan LEAF PLUS is equipped with a set of available advanced safety technologies including Intelligent Lane Intervention (I-LI), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) and Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) and Intelligent Around View® Monitor (I-AVM).

While the US testing is still to come, the Nissan Leaf aces European NCAP crash test with a five-star rating, the highest rating available.

The 2019 Nissan Leaf Plus is powered by a 62kWh lithium-ion battery (up from 40kWh). The bigger battery means the range of the vehicle on a single charge has been increased from 243km to 363km. This is particularly important in colder parts of Canada. The cold weather decreases the range of an electric vehicle significantly (up to 50% in some extreme cases), and the added battery capacity ensures that drivers can reach their destinations despite the cold weather.

While Nissan didn't up size the Leaf's 6.6kW onboard charger, the Plus, however, can source electrons from a more powerful 100.0-kW DC quick charger (the non-Plus Leaf is limited to a 50.0-kW DC source), which can fill the battery to 80 percent in 45 minutes. In comparison, the onboard Level 2 charger would take 11.5 hours to charge the larger battery to 100%.

In addition to the larger battery, the Plus also comes with a 160kW/215hp AC synchronous electric motor (up from 110kW/147hp).  Nissan claims that the bigger motor makes acceleration from 80km/hour to 120km/hour 13 percent quicker than the standard Leaf. The top speed is also increased by 10 percent.

How does it feel like to drive the Leaf Plus with the new battery/motor combination? In a word, stress-free. You don't have to worry about the battery running out even on longer road trips. When you do find the battery to be low, there is enough juice in the car to make it to the next quick charge station. You don't have to worry about a sudden drop of range in cold weather leaving you stranded on the road. You don't have to worry about having to charge your Leaf every single night. In fact, I have only charged the Leaf twice during my entire week of test drive.

The added motor power also provides more torque off the line. It takes only 7.3 seconds to go from 0-100km/hr. The added higher rpm power also makes overtaking cars on the highway much faster.

Nissan has retuned the regenerative braking (e-Pedal braking) to account for the added power and mass. It feels stronger and smoother than before. The difference is particularly noticeable in reverse. I have always found it hard to use the e-Pedal in the parking lot with the previous model, but that is no longer the case with the 2019 Leaf Plus.

Despite the added weight and the retuned suspension, the Leaf Plus provides the same comfortable ride quality with decent body control. The steering still lacks feedback, but makes for a easy driving experience around town.

Cargo Space & Storage
|The cargo space remains unchanged for the Nissan Plus. There is still a very practical 23.6 cu.ft. of storage space behind the rear seats, and the recessed cargo floor and the Bose sub-woofer still makes utilizing the 40/60 folded seats slightly more difficult.

In cabin storage options are plentiful, but each storage bin is still on the smaller side.

The 2019 Nissan Leaf Plus with its larger battery and bigger motor makes driving one a much more enjoyable experience. The joy of not having to worry about running out of battery is something anyone ever owning a smartphone could relate, and the added power makes for a more confident ride. It is easily the best Leaf to date and one I would not hesitate to recommend.

However, Nissan shouldn't feel too content with its current design because the competitions are catching up. Today, there are strong EV competitors like the BMW i3, Chevrolet Bolt, Hyundai Kona, Kia Niro, and Tesla Model 3. Many of them are embracing the popular compact cross-over form factor. Although the 2019 Nissan Leaf Plus is still a solid contender in the crowd, it will need something special to enjoy the dominance it once had. In my opinion, the EV segment still lacks a decently sized, reasonably priced cross-over. A EV version of the Qashqai would be my recommendation.

Test Vehicle
2019 Nissan Leaf Plus SL Review
$51,748 CAD All Inclusive


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