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2019 Nissan Leaf Plus bridges range gap


The 2019 Nissan Leaf Plus gets 363 kilometres of advertised range, along with 215 total horsepower. - Justin Pritchard
The 2019 Nissan Leaf Plus gets 363 kilometres of advertised range, along with 215 total horsepower. - Justin Pritchard

The Nissan Leaf Plus is a newly-available version of Nissan’s popular Leaf electric vehicle (EV) — and from a driving range and power perspective it’s the most capable Leaf yet.

This one’s a full EV — no gas tank, no exhaust, no muffler, no engine. All propulsion comes from an on-board battery and motor unit. Those are what’s upgraded here, for Leaf Plus duty. The ‘Plus’ designates the larger 62 kWh battery, the more powerful motor, and the increased driving range.

In a standard Leaf, you get 147 horsepower, and you can drive up to 247 kilometres in ideal conditions. With the Leaf Plus, make it 363 kilometres of advertised range, and a significant power increase to 214 horsepower.

So, Leaf Plus owners will enjoy more performance when needed, and more driving possible between recharging.

With the extended range, the Leaf Plus may make this EV more feasible for the driver who hasn’t previously considered one, because of the range. Also, it does 0-60 in seven seconds — which is about as quick as a compact sports car, like the Honda Civic Si.

Question: How often do you drive more than, say, 250 kilometres before your vehicle is parked, at home, for hours? If you said rarely or never, then you could do all of that, all electric. Of course, Leaf Plus advertises a 363-kilometre range in ideal conditions. If it’s very cold, and if you crank up the heat, that range would fall to something like 250 kilometres in a sort of worst-case scenario day for EV range.

Translation? Batteries don’t like being cold, but unless it’s the coldest day in 100 years, you’ll probably get at least 250 kilometres of driving on a full battery. Of course, the driving range on your current charge is always displayed, right where most other vehicles have their fuel-tank gauge.

In winter, drivers can pre-heat the cabin using grid power to help save battery range in the cold. Just plug into a 240-volt, level-2 home charger before bed and, by morning, your battery is full, and you’ll arrive to a pre-heated and fully-charged Leaf Plus — provided you tell the car through the on-screen menu what time you’d like to leave the following day.

On a public fast charge station (Level 3), refilling the battery from nearly empty to nearly full takes about an hour. Or, just plug the Leaf in with an extension cord to a standard outlet at home to “trickle charge” the battery. It all depends on how, and how often, you’ll use this car.

Just remember — you don’t need to fully charge the battery if you don’t have time to. Taking little sips of electricity where possible at public charging stations is enough to get many an EV owner around.

Longer drives in my part of Canada can still be inconvenient, or impossible, because there’s virtually no public charging infrastructure. This may or may not be the case in your locale.

But simply, the extended range makes cars like the Leaf more feasible for more shoppers who (for various reasons) might want to reduce or eliminate their use of gasoline. And, if you’ve already got a minivan or truck for longer-distance voyages, going electric for the second family car might be a no-brainer for some.

 The Leaf Plus is shaped like a tall hatchback or small crossover; inside, drivers sit slightly elevated, the dash and controls are low and away, there’s a good view out, and you don’t feel crowded. - Justin Pritchard
The Leaf Plus is shaped like a tall hatchback or small crossover; inside, drivers sit slightly elevated, the dash and controls are low and away, there’s a good view out, and you don’t feel crowded. - Justin Pritchard

The cargo area is deep, and low, and probably, that’s because there’s no muffler or gas tank beneath. Gear and shopping are loaded in and out easily.

Rear seats are adult friendly, and offer generous headroom, decent legroom, and plenty of tall glass for a good view out. Two adults of average size should be comfortable in the rear seats. Ditto up front. The Leaf Plus is shaped like a tall hatchback or small crossover — think Honda Fit or Nissan Versa Note, and you’re in the ballpark.

The gist is that drivers sit slightly elevated, the dash and controls are low and away from you, there’s a good view out, and you don’t feel crowded.

Drivers start the motor by pressing the power button. This is completely uneventful because there is, of course, no starter, and no sound, and no vibration.

Instead, a small green light illuminates, advising you that driving is now possible. Put the shifter into drive, and then, just drive — it’s gas, brakes and steering, just like anything else. There’s no transmission, so there’s no shifting, and there’s no engine, so there’s no noise. I’ve (quite literally) driven $150,000 luxury sedans that were nowhere this smooth or quiet, where the powertrain is concerned.

Leaf Plus rides a suspension that’s relatively soft but without feeling flubbery. Pothole-covered roads do little to break its composure — you’ll hear rough roads more than you’ll feel them, and the Leaf typically feels dense and durable, here.

Someone asked me if the Leaf Plus (or similar electric cars) can be used on the highway. The answer is yes. In fact, I did a pair of five-hour road trips in this tester, with the cruise set to 105, and it had plenty of pedal left to go (if you’re so inclined).

The nicely-tuned softness to the suspension makes for a nice highway cruise, though the steering feels too vague, limp and lazy to truly lock the Leaf to the road at higher speeds. Some drivers will wish for a touch more heft from the steering for this reason.

One advantage on the highway is the whole electric power thing — passing, merging, it’s just point and shoot — immediate torque, loads of it, and throttle response that even the sportiest of sports car drivers just will not believe.

Brakes will take first timers a bit of getting used to, because electric car brakes work a bit differently than regular car brakes and often feel funny at first. Your foot will get used to the new pedal feel, and the brakes work just fine, once you’ve given the pedal a good prod.

On all elements of functionality, smoothness, comfort, space and flexibility, the Leaf Plus hits most marks as well as (and better) than a comparably-sized gas car or crossover, though there are some gripes, depending on your cost tolerance.

Not much of your investment in a Leaf Plus is going toward its cabin, but given the $44,000 starting price and nearly $50,000 ask for my top-dog tester, the cabin fails to impress with its look and feel. This isn’t a $50,000 luxury car cabin which, of course, isn’t the point.

Shoppers want options. One is to move into something like a Leaf Plus, to get away from gasoline. Another is to buy a small car for half the money, and to think little about how long it would take that small car to go through the $25,000 difference in gasoline.

In any case, we buy what we buy for various reasons and Nissan will have no trouble selling every Leaf (and Leaf Plus) they can build to shoppers who choose electric for numerous reasons that have little to do with the price tag.

If you’re one of those, this highly-functional, fast-charging, nicely-equipped electric is worthy of a closer look.

 The Leaf Plus is powered by a permanent-magnetic synchronous AC motor, 215 hp, 251 lb.-ft.; with a 62.0-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. - Justin Pritchard
The Leaf Plus is powered by a permanent-magnetic synchronous AC motor, 215 hp, 251 lb.-ft.; with a 62.0-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. - Justin Pritchard

The specs

  • Model: 2019 Nissan Leaf Plus
  • Engine: Permanent-magnetic synchronous AC motor, 215 hp, 251 lb.-ft.; 62.0-kWh lithium-ion battery pack
  • Drivetrain: AWD
  • Transmission: One-speed direct drive
  • Features: BOSE stereo, navigation, automatic climate control, automatic lights, ProPilot Assist safety system, heated power seats
  • What’s hot: plenty of power, noiseless acceleration, easy to drive, very easy to park, flexible cabin, plenty of space
  • What’s not: dead-fish steering feel, bland interior
  • Starting price: $41,000 (Nissan Leaf)
  • Starting price: $44,000 (Nissan Leaf Plus)
  • As tested: $50,000 (Nissan Leaf Plus SL)

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