All-Electric Pioneer Gets Meaningful Upgrades
Nissan’s Leaf was one of the first widely-available mainstream electric cars in the world, and for years, was the top-selling EV globally. While other bigger, sexier, and more expensive models have been grabbling the spotlight lately, the Leaf remains a solid electric car choice for daily commuting. It has a practical, spacious hatchback body, an efficient drivetrain, and low running costs.
For 2023, Nissan has upgraded the Leaf with a refreshed exterior design, a streamlined model lineup, and a number of new standard features and technology that keep it current. The simplified range now consists of two well-equipped models: the Leaf S and the Leaf SV Plus.
Even More Standard Features
Nissan says that the most requested upgrades to the Leaf from its loyal customers were on the technology front. So, every 2023 Leaf now features a full-color 8-inch display, with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Leaf SV Plus adds a built-in “door to door” navigation system, which syncs the vehicle’s navigation system with a compatible smartphone for seamless driving and walking directions. There’s also NissanConnect EV telematics, which allows owners to use their smartphone app to monitor the state of charge, initiate charging, and even turn on the heat or air conditioning before getting into the vehicle.
On the safety front, both Leaf models include the Nissan Safety Shield 360 suite of advanced driver assistance systems, which uses camera and radar technology to keep you and your family safe. Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, rear automatic braking, and even high beam assistant are all standard.
Step up to the Leaf SV Plus, and you get Nissan’s ProPilot Assist, which uses all those sensors, coupling them with adaptive cruise control and steering assist to help you drive the car effortlessly along the highway. An electronic parking brake, LED headlights, and LED daytime running lights are also added.
The 2023 Nissan Leaf’s comfort is enhanced as well. In addition to the improved smartphone integration, SiriusXM radio, Bluetooth streaming audio, automatic climate control, and a split-folding rear seat are standard. Rear door alert reminds drivers to check the back seat for passengers or exposed valuables before leaving the car. SV Plus models also get a power driver’s seat with lumbar support, auto-dimming mirrors, and a camera system that provides a 360-degree view when parking.
Two Powertrains to Choose From
The basic 2023 Leaf S is pitched at city dwellers who don’t frequently drive long distances. It comes with a relatively small 40-kWh lithium-ion battery and a 147-hp electric motor that generates a stout 236 lb-ft of torque for effortless acceleration. According to EPA estimates, the Leaf S has 149 miles of range; its starting MSRP is $28,040 before applicable incentives.
If you frequently need to drive longer distances, the Leaf SV Plus makes more sense. A starting MSRP of $36,040 before incentives gets you a much larger 60-kWh battery, increasing the range up to an EPA-estimated 212 miles. The electric motor is more powerful as well, producing 214 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque.
Both models can DC fast charge on a Level 3 charger up to 50 kW – hardly class-leading these days. Of more concern may be the type of fast charging port the Leaf comes with. Instead of using the increasingly-common CCS plug favored by most manufacturers except for Tesla (which has a proprietary port), the Nissan comes with a CHAdeMO plug. A shrinking share of the EV infrastructure in the U.S. offers CHAdeMO as an option, meaning Leaf owners may have a harder time finding fast-charging options on longer trips.
Nissan has also made updates to the Leaf’s exterior design for 2023. The front end has been revised, and incorporates a new “grille” shape, front bumper molding, and updated headlights with black trim. SV Plus models also come with handsome new 17-inch wheels with an aerodynamic five-spoke design. The front and rear fascia wind deflectors, the rear diffuser, rear spoiler, and exterior badges have also been update to fit in with Nissan’s new brand identity.
Inside, changes include a new steering wheel and start-up video on the instrument panel screen. Black cloth is standard on both trims, with gray finishers for the Leaf S and gloss black finishers for Leaf SV Plus. The Leaf’s cabin is surprisingly roomy, thanks to it being designed from the ground up as an EV. It comfortably seats five and includes a 60/40 split fold-down rear seat for added flexibility. The rear cargo area offers adequate luggage space, with 30 cubic feet of available storage with the second row folded down.
As the first real mainstream electric car, the Leaf is a significant vehicle, and it continues to have an important place in the market. The upgrades Nissan has made for the 2023 model year help it keep pace with increasing competition. But while it offers good value for money and a spacious cabin, its relatively short range, its merely-adequate fast-charging ability, and its CHAdeMO charging port, limit its usability for long-distance driving in ways that newer EV models don’t.
No doubt Nissan is already hard at work on a new-generation Leaf that addresses these issues. Given what they were able to accomplish with the class-leading Ariya, we suspect the next Leaf will once again jump to the head of the class.