2020 Nissan Leaf SL+ Test Drive

“2019 Nissan Leaf SL Plus”
Nissan’s Electric Pioneer gets even better

In 2011, the Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. launched what they claimed to be the world’s first affordable, zero-emission car in the form of the all-new Leaf, a 4-door, medium-size, lithium-ion battery powered, plug-in electric hatchback, capable of comfortably transporting five adults. Earlier last year, Nissan improved the range of the Leaf model lineup, added more power and adopted a sportier appearance.


The Leaf is a 100% plug-in electric vehicle with zero emissions, based on Nissan’s ”B” car platform that also supports the Versa, but is 6-inches longer. Nissan boasts of a long history in both electric vehicle and battery technologies beginning research and development back in 1992. In 1995 the Prairie EV was launched, followed by the Altra EV and then the Hyper Mini and several test and concept electric vehicles.

Nissan’s Leaf has no gas tank, since there’s no supplemental gasoline engine as in a Hybrid Electric vehicle, so no more oil changes or gas station stops. There’s also no exhaust system or conventional transmission to worry about. The only real maintenance requirements are tire rotation and windshield wiper blade replacement. Washing and waxing occasionally wouldn’t hurt. Obvious competitors will include Ford’s Focus EV, Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV and the MINI-E, with the Chevy Bolt and Toyota Prius Plug-in figuring in the mix as well.

2018 marked the second generation of the, which Nissan Leaf was all-new with a refreshing aerodynamic design form featuring dynamic proportions and sporting a floating roofline and Nissan’s signature V-Motion Grille with a striking Crystal Blue pyramid panel. Other signature design cues were the “Boomerang” lamps and larger brand symbol. The Leaf is available in three trim levels: S; SV; and SL – the latter including leather seating surfaces. A solar panel and rear backup camera are optionally available. The 2019 Nissan LEAF continued as the embodiment of Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility program, modifying the company’s approach to the way cars are driven, powered and integrated into society. The three key aspects of Nissan Intelligent Mobility, include: Nissan Intelligent Driving, Nissan Intelligent Power and Nissan Intelligent Integration.

Through the 2019 Nissan Leaf’s dynamic design and advanced technologies such as ProPILOT Assist and ePedal, the LEAF promised to continue as the best-selling 100-percent electric vehicle both here in the U.S. and globally.


The Leaf, as a 100%plug-in electric vehicle, has zero emissions. Leaf’s power source is a 600 pound laminated Lithium-ion Manganese Graphite battery pack, transversely mounted low in the vehicle floor for optimum weight distribution, and a high-response synchronous AC electric drive motor – (100kW) synchronous motor/62 kWh Lithoum-Ion Battery/6.6 kW charge port/Portable charge cable (120V/240V EVSE) E Pedal Mode and Hill Start Assist. Horsepower is rated at 215, with the torque level rated at 251 pound feet. The transmission is a single speed automatic that moderates power to the front wheels.

The battery pack consists of 192 cells, with 4 laminate cells per module in 48 modules compared to the earlier 4 cells x 48 modules. Battery capacity decreases with time and use. Actual range will vary depending upon driving/charging habits, speed, conditions, weather, temperature, and battery age. The battery comes with an 8-year, 100,000-mile warranty, and the battery is expected to retain 70-80 percent of its original storage capacity after 10 years.

When battery power is drained to a minimum point, recharging is simple via a supplied 120 V portable trickle charge cable that may be plugged into any conventional household outlet. The Leaf’s charging plugs are located in a small forward compartment located just below the hood. Recharging may be accomplished via a supplied 110 V portable trickle charge cable that may be plugged into any conventional household outlet or optionally through a 240V charging system.

There are actually three levels of recharge technology: Level I is a 110V (30kW) trickle type that fully recharges in roughly 35 hours; Level II is the normal recharge method for both home and public usage at 3.3kW (220 V) that requires approximately 7.5 hours and which may now be done by simply plugging into a standard 220V clothes dryer plug.; and the third level – DC Fast Charge is a quick type for public and private use at 50kW that will deliver an 80 percent charge in 40 minutes There is also a standard photovoltaic solar panel spoiler on SL models, which supports charging of the 12-volt battery for vehicle accessories.

Operational modes include: a Normal Drive mode; an Eco mode, which increases efficiency and delivers 10% more range by reducing power output while increasing regenerative braking, as well as a “B” (battery) mode that further increases efficiency and the regenerative process.. Mode selection is accomplished via a center stack-mounted “Palm shifter” that operates on the principle of a computer mouse or joystick.

The Nissan Leaf is ideally suited for sustainable mobility in a partnership with the Sumitomo Trading Corp, having created a business around the secondary use of
Lithium-ion batteries, employing a 4R business philosophy: Reuse; Refabrication; Recycling; and Resales.


The Leaf’s dedicated EV body was designed to provide what Nissan refers to as “smart fluidity” – a fusion of sophisticated aerodynamic management and aerodynamic acoustics with the freedom provided by the new EV layout. The smooth, elegant lines of the body begin with the low, compact hood, and moves through the distinctive shoulder character line and on toward the integrated large rear spoiler.

The exterior styling is distinctive and is emphasized by a sharp, upright V-shaped design featuring long, upward-slanting LED headlights with a blue internal reflective appearance. The headlights effectively split and redirect airflow away from the door mirrors, helping to reduce wind noise and drag, and also consume only about 50 percent of the electricity of conventional halogen headlights. At the rear, the slim-type aerodynamic LED taillight design and angular corners blend with the aerodynamic muffler-less rear bumper and rear diffuser managing the aerodynamics of the rear end without sacrificing rear interior space. The drag coefficient measures only 0.29.

The exterior also utilizes a flat underbody (including a large front flat floor cover, motor area undercover, front undercover and rear diffuser with fins) to help manage under vehicle airflow. An innovative vortex-shedding roof-mounted antenna is but one of many design elements incorporated in reducing wind noise. Other noise reduction measures include a quiet-operation windshield wiper motor, a sound insulation windshield design and a dual-isolated motor-mounting system.


The interior includes navigation as standard fare, push button start, a digital meter cluster, a remote charge status monitor and advanced user interface for range management including connectivity through both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smart phone applications. Information screens are provided for tracking energy flow in both the Nav system and driver info display. Audio, entertainment and connectivity features have been upgraded, starting with the addition of standard NissanConnect SM with Mobile Apps with 5.0-inch color display for LEAF S models. The system includes Bluetooth® Hands-free Phone System, Streaming audio via Bluetooth®, Hands-free Text Messaging Assistant and USB connection port for iPod® interface and other compatible devices.


Available trim levels include: the base S model, SV model and SL models. Plus model upgrades provide more power with a larger battery. The Leaf Plus gains weight compared with the base car, but the one-pedal driving system that Nissan calls e-Pedal has been recalibrated to compensate for the extra weight and extra power.

My test 2020 Nissan Leaf came in the top-of-the-line SL PLUS trim and wore a Scarlet Ember metallic and Gloss Black exterior finish, with the interior executed in Light Gray tones. The base price was set at $43,900., while the price as tested came to $45,745 after factoring in options, along with the destination and handling charge, but before factoring in any available applicable tax credits and rebates.


Piloting the all-new Nissan Leaf is really not a dramatically different process from driving a conventionally powered or hybrid powered vehicle, except that it is eerily quiet and when operated with the E-Pedal’s advanced one pedal operation, where braking occurs when decelerating. A truly one-pedal operation is possible, utilizing only the accelerator pedal. Simply lifting off the accelerator activates regenerative braking action which will even bring the vehicle to a complete stop, except in emergency situations.

The ProPILOT Assist system is a “hands-on” semi-autonomous feature that performs as a steering assist for the driver with Intelligent Cruise Control and Electric Power Steering. It is not a self-driving system.

Acceleration is instantaneous in a luxurious silence, and the handling delivers a nimble feel. I found the Nissan Leaf to be fun, enjoyable, reliable and most of all, efficient in both normal and Eco modes.

NEW FOR 2020

Nissan has made a handful of driver assistant features standard on the 2020 Leaf that were only available as options last year. Bundled together in the Safety Shield 360 suite of features, buyers gain automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, automatic high-beam headlamps, lane-departure warning, rear automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. Last year’s standard 5.0- and 7.0-inch infotainment displays have mercifully been replaced with an 8.0-inch unit that also features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Pedestrians might also notice that the 2020 Leaf sings a new tune when it motors past at low speeds.


In the final take, given all of its advantages, the Leaf makes good sense for purchase or lease for consumers with an average commute (113 miles or less each way). The new improved range is 226 miles. How can you go wrong with a longer range at a lower price point with stronger performance, a more attractive styling and enhanced technologies?

I found the Leaf to be fun, enjoyable and reliable in all modes. Bottom line, given all of its advantages, the Leaf makes for a good sense purchase or lease for the average commuter.

SPECIFICATIONS: 2020 Nissan Leaf SL+

Base Price: $43,900.
Price as Tested: $45,745. – before federal tax credit,and other possible credits.

Engine Type and Size: 214 HP (100kW) synchronous motor/62 kWh Lithoum-Ion Battery/6.6 kW charge port/Portable charge cable (120V/240V EVSE) E Pedal Mode and Hill Start Assist

Horsepower (bhp): 215
Torque (ft./ lbs.): 251

Transmission: Single-speed automatic.

Drive Train: Transversely mounted front motor – FWD.

Suspension: Front – Strut Type with shock absorbers and anti-roll bar.
Rear –Torsion Bar with shock absorbers and anti sway bar.

Brakes: Power-assisted four-wheel discs with AS and regenerative braking.

Tires: Michelin P215/50 R17 mounted on 5-“V”-spoke Machine face alloy wheels with Black Painted inners.

Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Length Overall: 176.4 inches
Width: 70.5 inches – without mirrors
Height: 61.4 inches
Curb Weight: 3,538 lbs.
Turning Circle: 34.8 ft.
Fuel Capacity: 0 gallons – all electric
EPA Mileage Estimates: EPA Fuel Economy Equivalent (for hybrid and electric vehicles), 114 MPGe combined/city/highway (MPGe)114 / 94 / 99mpg city / mpg highway – 32kW hrs per 100 miles – 226 mile range.
Drag Coefficient: 0.29
0 – 60 mph: Not tested

# # #

More from Our Auto Expert