Hey, remember the Nissan Leaf? The weird-looking electric car that was introduced to the world at the end of 2010 when the average price of regular gas hovered around $2.78 a gallon?
Depending on whom you asked, it was either cute or confused looking, with a paltry 110 horsepower electric motor, a 24-kWh lithium-ion battery sensitive to hot climates, and an uninspiring EPA-rated 73 miles of range. Nerp. This came from the company that gave us the all-new, high-powered GT-R performance car just two years prior.
Actual mileage varied, of course, based on driving habits, gross vehicle weight, environmental factors, traffic patterns, road conditions, and, evidently, the Earth’s axial tilt. But, despite its shortcomings, as the world’s first mass-market, zero-emissions vehicle, the Leaf staked out its own territory within the automotive landscape.
Back then, pricing started at an attainable (but not necessarily affordable) $33,600. However, thanks to a $7,500 federal tax credit coupled with several states’ own green rebates of $1,500 to $5,000, the Leaf become a plausible purchase for early adopters.
Anyway, yeah, the Leaf is still floating around, and for 2018 it is finally redesigned. Plus, you can get a new 2018 Nissan Leaf for as little as $30,875. Adjusted for inflation, that’s a $6,760 discount compared to the base price in 2011!
To Nissan’s benefit, the average price of regular fuel jumped to $3.52 per gallon in 2011 and continued to stay well above the $3 watermark until 2015. Still, sales did not come easy.
During that time, trucks and SUVs were premium purchases and midsize sedans like the Toyota Camry were king. But electric vehicles? Er, it was still a nascent vehicle segment. Nevertheless, people noticed EVs. Sort of.
As the first manufacturer to market an electric vehicle globally, Nissan and the original Leaf kickstarted the EV charge over the ensuing years, setting the stage for vehicles like the BMW i3, Fiat 500e, and Tesla Model S, among many others. An influx of plug-in hybrid vehicles also arrived, which many full-line automakers and luxury brands now offer – and at an increasing rate.
However, acceptance of this “no gas, no emissions, no problem” revolution wasn’t exactly going gangbusters, and EV sales today continue to pale in comparison to those of internal combustion-powered vehicles, hybrids notwithstanding.
Sales did surpass one million last year but that was a global figure. In the U.S. alone, where new-car purchases totaled 17.5 million in 2016, EVs contributed 158,212 units. That’s not even a single percentage point.
The upside is that during the first half of 2017, the U.S. market saw a 40-percent increase in EV sales. Also, if the Tesla Model 3’s half a million hand-raisers, and Volkswagen’s upcoming lineup of I.D. production models are any indication, we are nowhere near peak EV.
What’s the point of all this backstory? The 2018 Nissan Leaf, of course, and why it is what it is.
According to Nissan, the new Leaf is packaged to fill the “white space” within the EV segment where driving range runs the gamut from under 100 miles to well over 300 miles, and where prices range from $29,995 to $140,000 or more.
For example, on the low-end of range are the aged Ford Focus Electric and the new Hyundai Ioniq Electric. The former offers driving range of 100 miles for less than 30 grand, the latter supplies 124 miles for just a few hundred bucks more.
Current electric vehicle sales leaders are the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Tesla Model S, each presenting long-range capabilities at extra cost. The Chevy can travel 238 miles per charge, and the Tesla travels up to 335 miles before a stop at an electrical outlet. The Bolt, however, stickers for $37,495 while you can’t touch a Model S 75D for less than $75,000.
The “white space” where Nissan imagines the Leaf settling onto the increasingly dense grass of the EV market is between the Focus and the Bolt. By supplying an estimated 150 miles of range for a starting price of $30,875 in standard S trim, Nissan thinks this amount of range at this price will be a winner. And never you mind that the Focus is well equipped at its base price, with leather the only upgrade for just $1,080 more. After all, you can also add stuff to the Leaf by choosing SV or SL trim, including leather.
Look, the point here is that the 2018 Leaf offers more power and more range in a more affordable package than it did before, and Nissan thinks this combination will attract buyers beyond the early-adopters and Silicon Valley dwellers that made the first Leaf a hit.
With fully charged pre-production models on hand, the gathered media traversed California’s Napa Valley for about 94 miles. The drive route was designed for meandering, but my co-driver and I had little interest in hyper-milling the Leaf. In fact, we were focused on getting to zero. As in how hard and hellish did we have to push this EV in order to drain the battery?
Surprisingly, even with our spirited attempts up and down unpaved vineyard roads while using the closest thing to a Sport driving mode (a.k.a. not Eco), by the time we arrived at our destination, we still had a distance-to-empty range of about 40 miles.
Unlike the original Leaf, where maximizing mileage on a single charge involved an oft-reported, range-anxiety cocktail of vigilant planning, light driving, and no use of the air conditioning, the all-new Leaf offers a refreshing EV driving experience in total mental and physical comfort.
New technology, for whatever reason, is generally presented in an out-of-this-world manner. As if borne of fanciful alien science, products are made to sound, look, or act otherworldly – including cars. Thankfully, the 2018 Leaf is anything but bizarre. While I respect visionary intent, not everyone will appreciate weirdness. And to be honest, what’s mind-boggling about the Leaf is how conventional and familiar it feels.
With a new 40-kWh battery as standard equipment, its 147 horsepower and 236 lb.-ft. of torque represent significant increases of 37- and 26-percent, respectively, over the previous Leaf. And although it rides on the same platform, this new Leaf does receive manufacturing updates to improve stiffness, stability, and sound.
While not the quietest ride (it is a compact hatchback, after all), the Leaf is unexpectedly composed and exhibits little body roll when taking corners with enthusiasm. I’m not sure how to even say this but…it was basically almost fun to drive. And its handling isn’t even the impressive part.
Intelligent driving assist systems
What’s a new car, especially an EV, without some “innovative” technology? For 2018, Nissan introduces e-Pedal and ProPilot Assist systems.
Like in the Chevy Bolt, the new Leaf offers a single-pedal driving mode. Standard on all trims and driver-selectable at any time, this e-Pedal system allows for acceleration, deceleration, and stopping of the vehicle by adjusting pressure on the accelerator pedal alone. Yes, we’ve evolved from three pedals to one.
Its operation does take some getting used to. And it’s not just in finding that sweet spot between mashing the pedal and a gentle lift-off, but adjusting to taking your foot off the pedal completely to initiate a well-planned stop. Yet even in my short time with the Leaf, this became my preferred method of driving in the relatively rural Napa Valley region. Also, in standard drive mode, the dedicated brake pedal felt rather aggressive by comparison.
Available as part of a Technology Package offered for SV and SL trims, ProPilot Assist is a driver-assistance system that takes adaptive cruise control to the next level. When activated, it will adjust vehicle distance based on driver-determined settings for speed and car-to-car separation. And even with my hands briefly off the wheel, the semi-autonomous system steered rather effortlessly and accurately around gentle curves so long as the lane markings were visible.
Speaking of lane markings, they are equally likely to cause hiccups with ProPilot Assist. For instance, when on the highway, the system demonstrated a notable affinity for wanting to veer right onto exit ramps due to the large gaps between the markings for my intended lane of travel.
ProPilot Assist can also bring the Leaf to a complete stop if necessary, even if the driver’s foot is off the brake pedal (such as when driving in e-Pedal mode). Restarting the system is as easy as pushing the steering wheel button or lightly pressing down on the accelerator.
Installing this technology does not mean you can take a nap at the wheel as the system is designed to detect when driver engagement has waned. It took the system about 10 seconds to determine than my hands were off the wheel before emitting a series of beeps that increased in frequency before switching to a “woop-woop” sound akin to my nephew’s radio-controlled police car.
After 30 seconds of auditory wailing and instrument cluster warnings, the hazard lights automatically turned on as the vehicle slowed down to a complete stop. From a speed of 55 mph, the entire process from removing my hands from the wheel to full hazards took about 45 seconds.
As well done as the new Leaf is, it’s not without some foibles, as minor as they may be. Design-wise, the exterior has a less goofy demeanor and is more aligned with the Nissan familial look. But this is only a slight improvement in the styling department.
The interior features more buttons than expected for a vehicle supposedly touting futuristic tech, the steering column is tilt-only, and there is no height adjustment for the front seats. Taller drivers may feel they’re sitting too high and the rearview mirror could pose a sightline problem.
Nevertheless, the mostly-black landscape wasn’t half bad in terms of its layout, and Nissan employs soft-touch materials here and there. Leather seats are available only for the top SL trim, but the standard cloth upholstery is plenty comfortable. As is true of other EVs, the portable car charger takes up plenty of space in the cargo area.
Although off to a slow start, EVs are more accessible than ever as model selection grows, range improves, charging stations proliferate, and prices fall. Even with the heft federal EV tax credits potentially running out of juice, the Leaf’s lower price, especially in comparison to its 8-year-old self, should only further encourage consumers to consider electrics as a daily-driver option regardless of where gas prices settle or where buyers live.
First Pictures: 2018 Nissan Leaf
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Source : http://www.nydailynews.com/autos/latest-reviews/first-drive-2018-nissan-leaf-review-article-1.3699704