Nissan has unveiled the second-generation all-electric 2018 Leaf. This time around, the Leaf faces more competition with the new Chevrolet Bolt EV already on the market with 238 miles of EPA-rated range and the Tesla Model 3 launching with promises of 225 miles of range. By comparison, the 2018 Leaf goes on sale next year in the U.S. with only 150 miles, but Nissan promises that the figure will go up sometime in the future.
Still, there is a lot for nerds to cheer about:
This is the first leg on Nissan’s roadmap to autonomous driving. Self-driving is cool. Engineers and geeks in general like the tech behind it, and Nissan has tried to make it an easy and intuitive two-button process to engage. The automaker stresses this is not autopilot—this is assist, which means it should make driving easier and reduce fatigue, but the car demands hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. The ProPilot Assist option is available on all but the base S trim level.
The Leaf is no longer an oddball design nor does it look as much like a spaceship. Nerds will appreciate the fresher, understated modern look. One Millennial I consulted described it as a city car that is a cross between a Honda Fit and a Nissan Maxima—which he said is a good thing. Inside, the Leaf goes for a more traditional interior with regular-looking screens as opposed to the monster screen in a Tesla and the larger screens in a Bolt EV or Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid.
The round knob shifter is funky and appeals to the nerd who knows how things work. That is good because there are no markings on the shifter itself to indicate drive, reverse or neutral, only a giant P in the middle of the shifter for park. There is a cheat sheet: a graphic in the center console showing the shift pattern for those who have not already memorized it.
Other cars such as the Bolt EV let you one-pedal drive to a stop when the transmission is set to low, but the Leaf dials this technology up a notch, making one-pedal driving standard on all three trim levels and in regular drive. And Nissan’s system uses sensors to determine when the vehicle is coming to a stop, and if the car starts to slip on a hill, the brakes are mechanically applied to hold the car in place. This should appeal to the Silicon Valley set commuting from hilly San Francisco.
Steering assist button
Don’t like the steering assist that wrestles the car back into the proper lane if the driver fails to? After customer clinics, Nissan added a button to turn the feature off, if desired. The decision is recent enough that the prototype shown in Detroit does not even have it yet, but we are assured one of the blank spaces in the panel of buttons left of the steering wheel is for the steering assist button. The 2018 Leaf’s center stack is shown here.
Hide the scary info
Range anxiety is real and Nissan felt having the distance-to-dead-and-stranded-permanently displayed at all times only added to the stress, especially when you turned on the air conditioning and watched the number drop before your eyes. So in addition to denser batteries and doubling the range, the Leaf now has a more traditional speedometer and info on power levels is still available but you have to dive into the menus to find it. Otherwise, out of sight, out of anxious mind.
Nissan says customers will overlook the lesser range because they will appreciate the fact that it starts at $30,875 with destination charges when it goes on sale in all 50 states early next year. When Nissan dropped the price of the current Leaf to $29,999 from $34,000, it attracted more buyers and about 40 percent of buyers choose the entry-level S trim level. Even nerds like a good deal, right?
Charge it please
Nissan is sticking to the CHAdeMO fast-charging system but the charging stations it supports all have dual ports to also accommodate models that use the SAE standard CSS. Nissan will continue to support both systems to promote EV use in general. Tesla uses its own system.