A New Nissan Leaf Brings Mixed Results: 3 Things We Like and 3 We Do Not

A lot has changed since the first generation Nissan Leaf made its debut in 2011 — with the car itself as well as with consumer appetite for electric vehicles. The latest version of the Leaf is vastly improved over the original, with greater range, more charging options and added features, but it faces greatly increased competition, too, as manufacturers continue to give electric buyers more models and choices. Some of those offer greater range and performance, nicer interiors, more room and added value. 

Related: 2021 Nissan Leaf Review: Is It Still Relevant?

How does the Leaf stack up to the rival Chevrolet Bolt EV and Volkswagen ID.4? It’s not a bad car, and it is fun to drive (on top of other attributes), but there’s still room for improvement. Click the link above for the full review by our own Joe Bruzek, or keep reading below for three things we like about the 2021 Nissan Leaf and three that could use some more attention. 

Things We Like

1. It’s Fun to Drive

Nissan’s electric car is a kick from behind the wheel, especially in the Leaf SL Plus trim we tested, with its larger battery and more powerful motor. As is the case with any EV, the Leaf cranks out lots of torque at low rpm, making for abundant and instant acceleration. Our Leaf was able easily overpower the front tires at speeds up to 45 mph, especially in the cold and salty road conditions prevalent during our winter testing. 

2. At Home With More Range 

A 200% increase in range compared to the original Leaf is nothing to sneeze at and goes a long way toward avoiding the temptation to keep one eye on the range gauge at all times. Like the old Leaf, however, we found the range estimates to be somewhat optimistic and weren’t able to match the advertised numbers. Granted, cold weather during our testing didn’t help, but some competitors offer greater range to begin with, even if only modestly so. Still, every little bit helps in a range-anxiety-prone world.

3. Buckets o’ Driver Assistance and Tech

Every Leaf comes with lots of driver assistance safety features, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot and lane departure warning, reverse automatic braking and rear cross-traffic alert. Our Leaf Plus included Nissan ProPilot Assist, which adds semi-autonomous driving capabilities including hands-on lane-centering steering that works even in gentle curves.

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Things We Don’t Like  

1. Go-Kart Ride to Match Go-Kart Acceleration

Quick and seamless acceleration and immediate response to pedal input help make the Leaf fun to drive, and its compact dimensions add a feeling of nimble maneuverability. But the ride is uncomfortably stiff, with sharp impacts over bumps and notable shimmy over rough surfaces. Overall, the ride is more what you’d expect in a subcompact economy model rather than in a $45,630 car (as ours’ as-tested price was). The Volkswagen ID.4 we drove back to back on the same roads felt notably more comfortable and refined.

2. Wonky Range Estimates

The original Leaf had a laughable range gauge that would fluctuate widely over the course of a drive and did little to inspire confidence in what was already a limited range of 73 miles. While our 2021 Leaf Plus has close to three times that claim, we still didn’t observe very accurate range predictions over the course of multiple trips. 

3. A Disappointing Inside Story   

Nissan has made big improvements in interior quality lately, particularly with recently redesigned models like the Sentra. Unfortunately, the Leaf doesn’t quite measure up to the same standard, even if the interior is better than the one in the first Leaf. The materials don’t feel as good as those in many small cars from a variety of manufacturers, whether powered by electricity or gasoline — and both the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Volkswagen ID.4 offer more spacious cabins. 

Related Video: 2021 Volkswagen ID.4: First Look

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