2018 Nissan Leaf: Living the city life

2018 Nissan Leaf (Sinclair Broadcast Group / Jill Ciminillo)

I have to admit, when I saw the 2018 Nissan Leaf on my test schedule, my first thought was to cancel it. Living in the city without a home fast-charge station, I had some serious doubts about maintaining a charge.

But I have a Nissan dealership 4 blocks away from me. And there are a couple of fast-charge stations within a mile.

So I said yes.

But the range anxiety didn’t completely go away until I got behind the wheel.

Then, I fell in love the new Nissan Leaf all over again.

Intense Quiet

As an all-electric vehicle, the Leaf has an almost eerie sense of quiet as soon as you shut the doors. The push-button start activates the motor, but other than a green car symbol with an arrow under it on the speedometer, there’s no audible cue that the vehicle is ready to drive.

I spent a lot of time driving with the radio off just to listen to the silence. On city streets and at slow speeds, it was deafening. It was only once you reached highway speeds that you could hear the tire noise creep into the cabin, but overall noise, vibration and harshness was minimal.

I enjoyed the zen-like peace.

Aggressive-Driver Approved

The Leaf is equipped with a 40 kWh lithium-ion battery and a 110kW AC synchronous motor. This delivers 147 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque.

No, this is not a high-horsepower vehicle, but it’s really the torque that matters in most situations – especially the low-end kind.

In an electric vehicle, torque is almost instantaneous. Which means really quick off-the-line starts. I put this to the test several times during the test period as I accelerated out of city side streets to merge with fast flowing traffic, and the Leaf never let me down.

Though I will admit the range anxiety devil on my shoulder tsk-tsked every time I did that. But, boy, was it fun

Telematic Woes

In my First Look review, I mentioned some of my difficulties with the Bluetooth connection and voice commands. I had hoped this was due to pre-production, but I don’t think it was.

Voice-to-text via Apple CarPlay was spotty, and the microphone didn’t catch every word, creating some convoluted text messages and frustration that took my eyes off the road. I will point out that I do have a far-forward driving position, so I wonder if some of the microphone issues could be attributed to where my head was located vs. where the microphone was located.

But still.

Rather than voice prompts to make a call, I found myself using the touch screen to find my contacts. Once the call connected, I sounded tinny to the person on the other end of the line, even though they sounded fine to me through the car’s audio system.

Comfort Cruising

I really like the seats in the Leaf. They were super supportive and cushy in all the right places. This is definitely a vehicle I could see myself spending a long commute in.

I also liked that all the gauges and controls were easy to reach and intuitively placed. I didn’t feel like I couldn’t find anything or I had to tap through several screens to access what I wanted.

What Range Anxiety?

The 2018 Leaf has a range of 151 miles, and while this doesn’t compete with the Chevrolet Bolt (238 miles) or Tesla Model 3 (220 miles), it’s totally respectable.

During the test period, I used the car as I normally do with trips to and from the airport in rush-hour traffic and the day-to-day errands of going to the gym or grocery store.

I used the ePedal the entire time and regenerated at least 4 miles of range with every drive longer than a half hour. It was cold, and I did turn on the heat – and leave it on – which docked my range by about 10 to 20 miles. But with more than 100 miles of driving range still on the charge, I wasn’t concerned.

I never dipped below 70 percent of my battery life, and I was able to plug in at night via the 110v wall jack in my garage. To charge up 25 percent, it took 12 hours.

While I didn’t test it, Nissan says to charge from 0 percent using a wall jack would take about 35 hours.

I can honestly say I didn’t have a single moment of range anxiety during the test week – not with turning on the heat, not with aggressive driving maneuvers, not with carrying passengers and luggage.

The Bottom Line

The 2018 Nissan Leaf is a great commuter car -- assuming you don’t have to drive more than 60 to 100 miles in a day to get to-and-from work. That’s when I think the range anxiety would creep in. But to cruise around the city and run errands, it’s perfect.

Plus, I love the fact I didn’t need anything special to charge. Well, except for a heavy-duty extension cord because my parking space isn’t near the wall jack.

However, with the spotty charging infrastructure, I’m still hard pressed to say that this could be your only vehicle – especially if you ever need to drive any distance.

While I could drive around metro Chicago in the Leaf without a problem, visiting my sister in Indianapolis (nearly 200 miles) would be a non-starter.

But as a second vehicle in a multiple-car household? Yes!

Leaf is comfortable, quiet and peppy with a nicely appointed interior, and with the revised design, it looks more like a mini-Murano than an obvious EV.


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