The redesigned 2018 Nissan Leaf emerged into a changed market, with 300-mile, $100,000 electric cars available and a host of direct competitors with far more range than the first version of Leaf offered.
That fact has led to a lot curiosity about whether the second-generation Leaf can live up to the reputation the original car, which pioneered modern battery-electric cars for the mass market back in 2011.
Now British magazine Auto Express has conducted a full, head-to-head comparison test of the new 2018 Leaf with its most direct competitors: the Volkswagen e-Golf, the BMW i3s, and the Renault Zoe, a subcompact but full-fledged electric car sold in Europe by Nissan’s sister company Renault.
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Certainly, the new Leaf ups its game, with 151 miles of EPA-rated range, plus Nissan’s ProPilot Assist driver-assistance system, which can keep the Leaf in its lane and bring it to a stop and restart when conditions allow.
A second version of the new Leaf with a longer-range battery with a reported range of 225 miles is scheduled to go on sale as a 2019 model.
While you might think the Leaf tested by Auto Express already has the longer-range battery, its rated range of 217 miles just reflects the more generous ranges produced by the NEDC test cycle used in the EU to date.
2017 Volkswagen e-Golf, first drive, New York City, April 2017
Nissan also breaks into the modern EV world with more a more aggressive “e-Pedal,” what most drivers might call the accelerator.
Like most other electric cars, the e-Pedal provides a stronger regenerative braking setting that lets Leaf drivers go about their daily rounds largely using just the accelerator, rarely having to move a right foot to the brake pedal.
Many experienced electric-car drivers have grown fond of such easy “one-pedal” driving, pioneered by Tesla and now a defining characteristic of the BMW i3.
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The new Leaf sticks with Nissan’s older Japanese CHAdeMO fast-charge port, rather than converting to the latest CCS standard, which now operates faster than CHAdeMO at some European fast-charging sites.
While some electric-car industry analysts feel it is likely to lose out in the battle for most widely distributed fast-charging access, the redesigned Leaf remains by far the highest-volume car to use CHAdeMO—at least for now.
In the four-way comparison test, the Leaf—as the latest design—takes the prize mainly for its range, higher than its competitors, which is still the deciding factor for a lot of electric-car buyers.
The e-Golf takes second place for its familiar Volkswagen refinement and spaciousness. But it falls short, Auto Expresssaid, on range and acceleration compared to newer designs.
The BMW i3s is a sportier version of the now familiar (if unusual-looking) i3. On its wider tires, the i3s grips better in corners than the standard i3, but it also rides harder, according to the reviewers, and it costs considerably more.
The magazine’s reviewers decided readers would be better off buying a standard i3 than spending the extra money on the sporty “s” model, but the standard i3 too has its limitations.
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It was, they said, no match for the new Leaf.
Then there’s the Renault Zoe—a fun, sprightly runabout, but one without the practicality or range of the other cars, so it ends up playing cleanup in this group.
Based on the test results, the article suggests electric-car drivers in Europe won’t go wrong buying a new Leaf for its modern features and electronics.
Shoppers in North America, however, are likely looking forward to the day when they can try the version with more range that will prove a more direct competitor for the 238-mile Chevrolet Bolt EV.
That should arrive within the year, perhaps sooner.