Nissan Leaf Review

nissan leaf review

Ask anyone about electric cars and you might get a wry smirk or an outright guffaw. “Yeah right,” they’ll say. “Electric cars are all Smurfs and rainbows until someone builds them for the everyday driver.”

Well, someone has. The Nissan Leaf will hit the pavement this December, followed soon by a massive roll-out of electric charging stations – according to Nissan. (Some of these stations in California are already being retrofitted and a few have popped up elsewhere.) Nissan says 20,000 people have already pre-ordered this first-to-market, all-electric hatchback. But is it really worth all the fuss?

In a recent test drive, we pounded on the accelerator and tried to top out the “engine,” took corners at insane speeds, and paid only a passing notice to the slowly declining battery power meter. The goal was to find out if the Leaf is a “real” car or more like one of those insufferable Smart Two for bubble-buggies. Sure, an electric car can help save the planet, but will it actually get you through traffic?

First impressions

One of the most interesting features on the Nissan Leaf we drove are the headlights. They look like a giant pencil head (times two) or a cartoon car with both eyebrows pointed down. The car seems to grimace at you. In fact, the headlights seem to jut up from the front of the car in a growl, presumably for better wind clearance. From the nose, up to the windshield, to the back, this “linear” appearance is rather striking in just how pointy the car looks. That’s not necessarily a knock, since we’re all for aerodynamics if it means we won’t deplete the battery a block from the refill station.

nissan leaf review

Inside, the Leaf looks a bit plain, but well-appointed – which is to say, not cheap. There’s not that wow sense of “this is a luxury car,” but instead it gives you the impression that it’s sleek and budget minded.

The Leaf is really designed for people who want to save money on gas and maybe kill fewer trees. The plastic does not look cheap, it just doesn’t have any frills. It is also not the shiny brushed-metal look so common on older sedans from Hyundai and Buick. Everything in the interior looks like it is well-fitted. The middle elbow rest, which doubles as an area for stashing CDs and other gear, is made with a fine suede material that looks like it would stain about 30 seconds after you pull away from Starbucks.

nissan leaf review

Like most electrics, the middle shifter (what Nissan calls a “palm-shift drive selector”) is a stark departure from what most of us gas-guzzling SUV drivers will recognize. There are no gears in an electric car. Therefore, there are no numbers to indicate gear level. Instead, you either shift into D for Drive, ECO (or Drive X2) to save battery power at the cost of acceleration, reverse or neutral.

Because these settings seem more like options on a navigation screen than something you use to actually make the car move, they seemed a bit confusing at first. The interior looks sleek and budget minded, but there is also another important note: most of the interior is made from recycled parts, even from other cars. If you know that, you start looking at the budget styling a bit differently.

Product Review

Meet Z6, the breakout star in Nikon's new mirrorless lineup

The Nikon Z6 is the sibling to the new mirrorless Z7 -- but for some photographers, the cheaper Z6 may be the better option. Read where the $2,000 camera beats the $3,400 one (and where it doesn’t) in our Nikon Z6 review.
Cars

These winter-warrior cars will never leave you out in the cold

Snow can be an absolute pain if your vehicle isn't optimized to handle that sort of terrain. If brutal snowstorms are an annual part of your life, we recommend you pick up one of these winter-ready vehicles.
Product Review

Audi built an electric SUV for buyers who want gasoline-free to mean stress-free

We finally got to spend time behind the wheel of the electric 2019 Audi E-Tron bustling cities and arid desert of the United Arab Emirates to see how it compares with Jaguar and Tesla's competitors.
Product Review

The competition was fierce, and this is the best TV of 2018

With stellar picture quality, excellent ease of use, and rich features, the LG C8 OLED is the best TV you can buy in 2018, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is right for you. Check out our review to learn more.
Cars

Gateway’s born-again Ford Bronco boasts classic style, 2018 muscle car power

Illinois-based Gateway Bronco has received a license from Ford to make brand-new examples of the first-generation Bronco. Every build starts with a Ford VIN and a donor vehicle, but Gateway upgrades every part of the car.
Cars

Bloodhound’s plan to build a 1,000-mph car has run out of gas

The Bloodhound supersonic car (SSC) project has officially shut down. The upside is you can now buy a 135,000-horsepower car powered by a jet engine and a cluster of rockets for $319,000.
Product Review

The 2019 Porsche Macan S is a luxurious and quick SUV, but it's no road tripper

The roster of models challenging the Porsche Macan grows annually. The German firm updated its smallest, most affordable SUV with a new engine, more tech features, and subtle design tweaks to keep it looking fresh.
Cars

2019 Ford Ranger saves fuel without sacrificing towing capacity

The 2019 Ford Ranger marks Ford's long-awaited return to the midsize truck segment, which has seen a resurgence lately. But will being late to the party make Ford's job more difficult?
Cars

Pininfarina Battista is a 1,900-horsepower, 250-mph electric supercar

The Pininfarina Battista will be the first production car from famed Italian design firm Pininfarina. Named after company founder Battista Pininfarina, it has a claimed 1,900 horsepower and a $2.5 million price tag.
Cars

Tesla could show the electric pickup Elon Musk is dying to build in 2019

Tesla has started designing its long-promised pickup truck. The yet-unnamed model will come with dual-motor all-wheel drive and lots of torque, plus it will be able to park itself.
Cars

Allegro.ai is helping Hyundai mine the artificial intelligence gold rush

In November 2018, Hyundai invested in a startup named Allegro.ai. We talked to the company's founder to learn more about what that means for consumers in the not-too-distant futures.
Emerging Tech

With this robotic garage, retrieving your car is like using a vending machine

Remembering where we parked our cars can be a real pain. But what if our cars came to find us, rather than the other way around? A new automated robot parking valet system aims to help.
Cars

Thinking of opting for a car with a diesel engine? Here's what you need to know

Modern diesel-powered models prove that it is possible to build a clean, efficient diesel engine without sacrificing performance. Here's what you need to know about diesel cars, and how they differ from gasoline-powered models.
Cars

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…
1 of 2