July 01, 2016 By Kevin C. Limjoco

2016 Nissan Leaf SL

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Words & Photos: Kevin C. Limjoco

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Almost four years have passed since we reviewed the last pure EV Nissan Leaf SL, which I called then the “Leaf of Faith”. I was injecting a touch of humor in a serious practically robotic car. It was, at the time, the most affordable fully electric car with a fully charged range of just under 140 kilometers. Sans the silence of the motivation, the Leaf drove like a car, and to be honest it drove better than many traditional combustion-engined compact cars albeit a decade older. The Leaf was Nissan’s ambitious forward-thinking solution, and it worked. Until very recently, the Leaf was the very best selling alternative fuel vehicle in North America.

 

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As I said then, I will repeat now: I know it looks real tiny, but the Leaf is not a small car; it has not grown since, yes, but it does have the capacity of a medium sized hatchback. Behind the steering wheel, the newly updated Leaf felt and drove the same with the addition of a slightly better central monitor interface, a better Bose 7-speaker audio, the Around View bird’s eye monitor for parking (which is overkill in such a car that already has good visibility), and LED low-beam headlights. But the dull plastics and uninspired interior carried on.

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The biggest change is really the higher capacity 30 kWh Lithium-ion battery, which should quell that bit of range anxiety that buyers may have. That extra 6kWh generates an additional 27 % more load range, from about 135 kilometers to 172 kilometers. The Leaf also needs a couple more hours to charge the extra capacity. The small driving compromise of the new extended range is weight; the new battery is 46 pounds heavier. Thankfully, you don’t feel the weight gain, but you don’t get any additional thrust either to make up for it, so in essence it’s like putting a Mophie extended battery pack on your Apple iPhone, but at least with that you do get extra physical protection for your smartphone.

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The big problem with the Nissan Leaf is that despite the new extended range, it is an old product. The competition is fierce and it actually costs more than a well-equipped all-new Toyota Prius which is a superior product in all aspects. The only tangible advantage that it does have still over its direct competition, the Fiat 500e, Chevrolet Spark EV, Ford Focus Electric, and the Honda Fit EV, is that it is the most spacious. Unless you truly want a pure EV compact car however, the Toyota Prius is still the better overall choice: it is cheaper, still green-minded, even more spacious, has more standard equipment, drives significantly better, is actually entertaining to use, and has even better practical range thanks to its updated Hybrid system.

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Specifications:
Engine: 80kW AC Synchronous Electric Motor, 30 kWh Lithium-Ion battery, CVT
Max power: 107 bhp @ 2730-9800 rpm
Max torque: 187 lb ft @ 0-2730 rpm
0-100 km/h (0-62mph): 10 sec.
Top Speed: 152 km/h (95 mph) Governed
Charge time: 110V ~ 26 hours / 220V ~ 6 hours
Fuel Mileage: 124 mpg City & 101 mpg Highway
Price as tested: US$ 39,390.00
+The versatile commuter solution for just under 170 kilometer daily usage.
-No charisma, still abundant cheap interior materials, expensive

C! Editor’s Rating: 8.5/10

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