Nissan Leaf 2022 ReviewOctober 31, 2021
The 2022 Nissan Leaf’s newly reduced price is a big part of its appeal, but its lackluster range means other mainstream EVs are more practical and worth the extra money. The standard battery pack on the Leaf is only suitable for 149 miles of estimated driving range; upgrading to a Plus model increases that driving range to 226 miles—better but not revolutionary. Several mainstream EV competitors, including the Chevy Bolt EV and the Kia Niro EV, come with a greater driving range. The cabin of the Leaf is spacious and comfortable, and a slew of high-tech driver-assistance features, including a semi-autonomous driving mode, are available. Despite this, the Leaf has trailed segment leaders such as the Ford Mustang Mach E and the Tesla Model 3 in terms of desirability and practicality.
The Bottom Line
Despite being an evolution of the first mass-produced EV to rock down the electric avenue, the 2021 Nissan Leaf Plus is up against some stiff competition. At $45,930, our big-battery SL Plus test car competes with other EVs such as the base Tesla Model 3, Volkswagen ID.4, and Kia Niro. Unfortunately, despite being the elder statesman, Nissan’s latest and greatest package can’t compete with any of these vehicles in terms of range, power, and even charge times.
- Nissan’s ProPilot Assist driver assistance system makes long highway drives much more comfortable.
- The mid-range acceleration from 30 to 50 mph is surprisingly quick.
- The cabin is exceptionally well-built, with no squeaks or rattles to be found.
- At any speed, the steering felt highly muffled.
Nissan Leaf Specs
- The starting price is $43,970 ($45,930 for the SL Plus as tested).
- Front motor: an AC synchronous electric motor rated at 160 kW.
- Battery capacity: 62 kWh
- 226-mile range
- 214 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque
- 7 seconds from zero to sixty.
- Charge time (home charger, 0% to 100%): 7.5 hours Charge time (150-kW fast charger, 0% to 80%): 40 minutes
- MPGe: 111 combined, 123 on the highway, and 99 in the city.
What Is New in 2022?
This year, Nissan made the CHAdeMO quick-charging port standard across the Leaf lineup and the ProPilot Assist semi-autonomous driving mode on the SV Plus trim. The big news, however, is the significant price drop for the Leaf. As a result, the Leaf is now the most affordable new electric vehicle on the market, with a starting price of just over $28,000 before state and federal tax breaks. In addition, all trims are now between $4245 and $6545, less expensive than last year.
The S Plus is the best value because it has a reasonable price, the most extended driving range, a more powerful electric motor, and a decent set of standard equipment. For example, it has an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, automatic climate control, keyless entry with push-button start, and automatic headlamps.
Performance, Engine, and Transmission
The standard Leaf models have a 147-horsepower electric motor that powers the front wheels and is powered by a 40.0-kWh battery pack. Leaf Plus models feature a more powerful 214-hp electric engine and a larger 62.0-kWh battery.
The former achieved a zero-to-60-mph time of 7.4 seconds on our test track, but it feels more lively than this figure suggests, thanks to the electric motor’s instantaneous power delivery. As a result, it is slower than both the Bolt EV and the Model 3. Upgrading to the more powerful Plus models will undoubtedly result in faster acceleration, but we won’t know for sure until we can test them. The e-Pedal feature on the Leaf allows the driver to switch between regenerative braking modes, one of which enables the car to coast when the driver lifts off the accelerator and another that slows the vehicle when you take your foot off the gas and uses that energy to recharge the battery.
Charging, Range, and Speed
Although Nissan was the first to enter the market with its definitive EV, competition from other OEMs has increased significantly. With a 2017 refresh, the Nissan Leaf received an updated powertrain with a range of 226 miles. However, it should come as no surprise that the $39,990 base Tesla Model 3’s coverage of 263 miles is class-leading in this sub-$50,000 price range. Other vehicles with comparable mileage are the $41,190 Volkswagen ID.4 with 250 miles and the $40,265 Kia Niro with 239 miles.
It’s worth noting that Americans drive an average of slightly more than 40 miles per day. So any range above 200 miles is sufficient. I’m far more concerned with how that juice is delivered to the wheels and affects the driving experience.
When it comes to acceleration, modern EVs are frequently regarded as the gold standard. Electric motors provide instant torque at low speeds, resulting in blistering 0-60 times.
On the other hand, the Leaf achieves a conservative 0-60 mph time of 6.7 seconds thanks to a single 160-kW motor driving the front wheels and eco-friendly tires–215/50R17 Michelin Energy Savers–that prioritize rolling resistance over performance. The Volkswagen ID.4 is the slowest to 60 mph class, taking 7.6 seconds, followed by the Kia Niro at 6.2 seconds and the base Tesla Model 3 at 5.3 seconds. It truly shined between 30 and 50 mph, where the zing of the electric motor correctly places you in the back of your seat. Even as the owner of a manual Volkswagen Golf GTI, the Leaf’s punchy mid-range acceleration never failed to make me smile when merging onto the highway and shooting gaps around town.
Systems with Autonomy
Nissan’s ProPilot Assist, like other driverless systems, is an excellent tool for getting through long road trips but is far from perfect. Autonomy is quickly becoming a buzzword in the automotive industry, but it’s important to remember that these systems are still very hands-on. For those unfamiliar, the vehicle will keep you in your lane and at a safe distance from the car in front of you. ProPilot, on the other hand, monitors hand-to-wheel contact and will chime in and disengage if it detects you’ve gone hands-free.
I applaud Nissan for dispatching one of its employees to the country’s worst traffic jams to collect data for ProPilot Assist in stop-and-go traffic. This required them to sit through 64 traffic jams in Los Angeles, Washington, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and San Francisco.
The Nissan Leaf EV
This precious information was incorporated into the current system, allowing equipped vehicles to stop in traffic for 30 seconds before disengaging. Despite my research, I never fully trusted the system under those circumstances. It was unnerving to be barreling toward a stopped car, having to convince myself that ProPilot would apply the brakes. With the system engaged, I didn’t feel like a daredevil 1940s fighter jet test pilot, but I still felt the need to anticipate how ProPilot would react to vehicles ahead. It was similar to spotting someone you’d never met before at your local gym.
You have an idea of what will happen, but there is still some doubt and uncertainty. Any autonomous system will take some getting used to before you can learn its quirks. For example, there were several instances where the system was misled by new lanes appearing and disappearing. This resulted in the car drifting into other lanes without disengaging or sending any warnings.
Real-World MPG and Fuel Economy of Nissan Leaf
Our SV Plus test vehicle outperformed its EPA highway rating of 94 MPGe, achieving 98 MPGe on our 75-mph highway fuel economy route. However, during this test, we only saw 180 miles of range, which was less than the claimed 215-mile EPA rating. Visit the EPA’s website for more information on the Leaf’s fuel economy.
Cargo, Interior, and Comfort
Even though the cabin of the Leaf S and SVs is primarily black plastic, the well-assembled and uniform textures keep it from looking cheap. The optional light-gray leather interior with a matching dash pad on the SL model looks and feels better. A sizeable analog speedometer sits next to a 7.0-inch digital readout that can be reconfigured to show a variety of displays. The seats in the Leaf are La-Z-Boy comfortable, and the spacious rear seat has plenty of room for adults as well. Even though the Leaf’s back seat does not fold flat to create a flat load floor, we found the cargo capacity to be among the best in its class.
With the back seat folded, we could fit seven carry-on suitcases and a whopping 19 with the rear seat folded. In comparison, the cargo area of the Bolt EV held five people and could hold up to 16 people with the back seats folded. The Niro EV, which has a more SUV-like Bodystyle, carried slightly more cargo in our testing, but the Leaf remains the leader among electric vehicles.
Connectivity and infotainment
All Leaf models have the same 8.0-inch infotainment display, supporting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; navigation is optional. While not particularly appealing to the eye, the latest Nissan Connect software interface is intuitive and quick to respond to inputs. Unfortunately, the Leaf’s standard six-speaker audio system may disappoint audiophiles; a seven-speaker Bose system is exclusive to the SL and SL Plus models but did not impress us during our test drive.
Driver-Assistance and Safety Features
Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 suite of driver-assistance features are standard across the lineup. In addition, the brand’s novel ProPilot Assist semi-autonomous driving mode is available as part of the Technology package on SV, SV Plus, and SL trims; it’s standard on the SL Plus. Finally, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites for more information on the Leaf’s crash-test results. The following are important safety features:
Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection is standard.
Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is standard, and adaptive cruise control with the semi-autonomous driving mode is optional.
Warranty and Maintenance Protection
Nissan provides the same basic warranty package as the rest of the Nissan lineup; however, the Leaf’s battery is covered for up to eight years or 100,000 miles.
- The limited warranty lasts three years or 36,000 miles.
- There is no free scheduled maintenance.
- The powertrain warranty is valid for five years or 60,000 miles.
- Nissan Leaf’s battery warranty is valid for eight years or 100,000 miles.
Nissan Leaf 2022 Interior
Unlike its EV-producing peers, Nissan avoided the current trend of massive infotainment screens. Instead, the Leaf Plus has a full-color, eight-inch display with Apple Car Play and Android Auto compatibility, which provides a good amount of real estate without distraction. In addition, the smaller screen leaves plenty of room on the center console for tactile buttons and knobs. For some reason, many automakers are entering the EV market to remove all tactility from the cabin. While I recognize that digital controls are easier on the eyes and help keep the interior clean, they aren’t always user-friendly.
Steering Wheel Controls
The steering wheel has similar controls, with buttons for activating ProPilot Assist, selecting music, and making phone calls. The only noticeable omission was a play/pause button, which proved inconvenient for someone like me who relies on Spotify as their DJ. The wheel felt good in my hands, but the button layout wasn’t particularly intuitive–it took me a couple of days to get used to the controls. Apart from the feel, the steering wheel was uncommunicative through the corners. While I could park the car wherever I wanted, the steering wheel remained extremely light at all speeds and never felt fully loaded. Sure, steering isn’t crucial for a vehicle of this type, but it becomes critical when driving in winter conditions.
Visibility wasn’t a strong suit for this vehicle, which surprised me, given the amount of glass in the Leaf Plus greenhouse. Despite the elevated driving position (even the seat’s lowest setting is relatively high up), the A, B, and C pillars were all quite large, limiting my visibility. While the obstruction was manageable on the highway, navigating through congested city streets filled with pedestrians and parked cars demanded equal concentration and bravery.
Nissan Leaf Seats
The Leaf provides a comfortable ride up front, but the same cannot be said for the rear seats. The sloping roofline looks excellent from the outside, but it takes away critical headroom from passengers in the back, leaving only 37.3 inches of airspace. My head barely cleared the ceiling because I’m just shy of six feet tall. To put things in perspective, the VW ID.4 is the class leader in this category, measuring 38.4 inches. Fortunately, legroom inside the Leaf was much better, with 33.5-inches to work with to keep you from cramping up on a long journey.