We spent an entire week in Alberta with the 2019 Nissan LEAF Plus for the AJAC’s annual EcoRun event.
For a good while, the Nissan LEAF enjoyed its spot among the most affordable electric cars on the market. As a matter of fact, way before Elon Musk promised EV motoring for the masses, Nissan was already doing just that, making it a global sales success. Last year, a new-generation model allowed it to not only get more range – up to 242 km -, but also present itself through a more mature, coherent and better packaged product.
But now, the game has changed a lot in the electric car space. Chevrolet still sells the Bolt EV, currently one of the range leaders in the sub-fifty-thousand dollar price range, and the Koreans just recently dropped a trio of solid offerings with the Hyundai Kona Electric, the Kia Soul EV and the Kia Niro EV. Each of them will drive up to 400 km on a single charge, outpacing both the LEAF and the Bolt.
To take them on, Nissan unleashed the LEAF Plus earlier this year, a significantly more expensive version of the popular subcompact. It cranks range up 363 km thanks to a larger battery. Is this enough to allow the little LEAF to remain the sales leader?
We were out in Alberta for the eighth annual EcoRun event, organized by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) to find out.
The Plus package brings the Nissan LEAF to a not so cheap $46,363. Contrary to the regular LEAF, it’s not eligible to the $5,000 incentive offered by the Canadian federal government for electric cars. In the province of Québec, however, you will get an $8,000 provincial rebate, while in British Columbia, consumers can shave $3,000 off their LEAF Plus.
Meanwhile, a standard LEAF purchased in Québec gets a total of $13,000 in incentives, dropping its price down to a much more affordable $30,763.
This price gap between the standard LEAF and the LEAF Plus is mostly led by incentives, because there’s actually only $3,000 sitting between them. The issue at hand here is that the Plus sits in the same territory as the aforementioned Korean rivals listed above. For exactly the same price, give or take, Hyundai will sit you in a Kona EV, which not only gets 37 km of additional range, but more practicality as well.
With its rear seat folded flat, the LEAF’s maximum cargo capacity stands at a mere 849 litres. Meanwhile, a Kona will engulf 1,297 litres of your gear. The Chevrolet Bolt EV, which stickers for similar money, stands tall above all of them with 1,603 litres of total cargo space.
On paper then, the LEAF Plus doesn’t seem like a too much of a bargain.
On the Road
What the 2019 Nissan LEAF Plus loses in value, it makes up for with witty engineering, superior cabin quality and a downright better sorted out chassis. While none of the cars in this class were meant to be sports cars to begin with, the LEAF is by far the most enjoyable one to toss around on a country road.
We’d know, since we pitted Nissan’s little EV against both a Kona Electric and a Bolt EV during our near 1000-km trek through Alberta. The LEAF proved to be the most nimble, energetic and most fun to drive of the three.
There’s also a general sense of craftsmanship in its cabin that’s hard to find in its rivals. Since the LEAF was designed from the ground up to be an electric car, the cabin itself is spacious, front and rear, material quality is significantly more upscale than those of main competitors, and driving position, as well as seat comfort stand above the rest.
We’re also huge fans of Nissan’s e-Pedal technology. While all electric cars offer some form of advanced regenerative braking, e-Pedal provides enough resistance to drive the car with just one foot, allowing you to modulate the throttle for varying resistance. Similar to the Chevrolet Bolt EV’s steering wheel mounted trigger, e-Pedal allows you to completely stop the car, but there’s much more flexibility baked into it to adapt regenerative braking to your driving habits.
The Nissan LEAF is a rather peppy little car too. While not exactly what you would call a hot hatch rival, its 62 kWh battery allows its front-mounted electric motor to pump out a healthy 214 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque, allowing it to sprint from a standstill in just under seven seconds. Its biggest quality, like all electric cars, is its immediate throttle response and mountains of torque, allowing the car to be a spirited little runabout.
If you’re shopping your electric car based on range alone, you may want to look at something American or Korean instead of the 2019 Nissan LEAF Plus. However, the low-range car still represents the best value, allowing the LEAF to undercut its main rivals by a significant price margin.
But out of all EV’s sitting in the mid $40,000 space, the LEAF remains the most comfortable, well put together and refined car of the group. Plus, it comes with a variety of semi autonomous toys that operates quite seamlessly if you’re into that sort of stuff. You’ll even get standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity thrown in there as an added bonus.
While it distances itself from the people’s electric car in Plus mode, the 2019 Nissan LEAF remains a well thought out electric car for the masses.