The 2021 Nissan Leaf is an affordable and all-electric vehicle that provides a low-cost alternative to luxury brands like Tesla, Jaguar, and Audi. The Leaf is not as extravagant as premium-branded models, but it offers a spacious cabin. Even though the Leaf’s starting cost is low, it is still a good value compared to other mainstream EVs like the Chevy Bolt EV and the Kia Niro EV. The standard 40.0-kWh pack has a range of only 149 miles. Plus models, which have a larger 62.0-kWh pack with an extended range of up to 226 miles, cost a lot more. The Leaf offers decent driver-assistance and semi-autonomous driving capabilities.
What’s new for 2021?
Nissan’s all electric Leaf makes it into 2021 without any changes.
Pricing and Which One To Buy
The S Plus is the best deal because it has a fair price, the longest range, the most powerful electric motor and still comes with a decent selection of standard equipment. The 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities, automatic climate control, push-button start and keyless entry.
Engine, Transmission, & Performance
Standard Leaf models include a 147-horsepower, 40.0-kWh battery that powers the front wheels. The Leaf Plus models have a 214-horsepower electric motor and a 62.0-kWh larger battery. At our test track, the former achieved a 7.4 second zero-to-60-mph speed. However, the electric motor delivers instantaneous power to the battery so it feels more agile than that number. It is faster than the Volkswagen e-Golf but slower than Bolt EVs, BMW i3s and the Model 3. The Plus model will certainly offer faster acceleration but this is something we will only know after we have tested them. The Leaf’s ePedal feature allows drivers to switch between regenerative braking modes. One allows the car coasts when the driver lifts the throttle, while another slows it down when you release the pedal. This energy is used to recharge the battery.
Charging, range, and battery life
You can plug the Leaf into a 120-volt outlet or a240-volt outlet. However, the charging times for each outlet are different. Nissan claims that both the standard Leaf’s and the larger Leaf Plus battery can be charged in 7 hours using a 240-volt connection. An optional DC fast-charging connection for S models is available on SV, SL and all Plus trims. Standard Leaf models come standard with a 40.0-kWh lithium-ion battery that provides 150 miles of range. Although this might provide enough range for drivers who commute frequently, it is less than half the range of the Model 3’s Long Range model. Because of its larger battery pack, the Leaf Plus offers more driving range. The Leaf Plus’ maximum range of 226 miles is only available with the S Plus trim. The SV Plus and SL Plus models can only be used for 215 miles.
Fuel Economy and Real World MPG
Our 200-mile highway fuel economy test route saw our SV Plus test vehicle deliver 98 MPGe, exceeding its highway rating of 94MPGe. We saw only 180 miles of range in this test, which is less than the 215-mile EPA claim.
Interior, Comfort, & Cargo
The cabins of the Leaf S, SVs and SVs have a lot of black plastic. However, it looks great and is well-constructed. Optionally, the SL model comes with a light-gray leather interior and a matching dash pad. It looks and feels great. A large analog speedometer is located next to a digital readout measuring 7.0 inches. This digital readout can be reconfigured to display a variety of displays. The Leaf’s seats can be adjusted to make it more comfortable. There is plenty of space in the rear seat for adults. The Leaf’s back seat does not create a flat load platform when folded but we still found it to have the largest cargo capacity in its class. With the back seat folded, we were able to fit seven carry-on bags behind the Leaf and 19 without. The Bolt EV compared well with the Bolt EV, which held five of its cargo areas and maxed out at 16 when its back seats were folded. Although the Leaf is still the most popular electric car, we tested the Niro EV which has a more SUV-like design. It held slightly less cargo.
Connectivity and Infotainment
All Leaf models have the same 8.0 inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto integration. Navigation is an option. Although not very appealing to the eye, the latest Nissan Connect software interface is intuitive and responds quickly to inputs. The standard Leaf audio system, which is six speakers, may disappoint audiophiles. However, the SL and SL Plus models have a seven speaker Bose system that impressed us during our test drive.