Surprised? Don’t Be. Check Out the 2018 Nissan Leaf and See
I’m always on the lookout for the perfect car. One that is great on paper—that is, it accommodates my life and needs— and perfect in person.
What I need:
- Room for my stuff
- Room for my people
- A place to put my handbag
- Seats that fold for when I buy stuff (hello mid-century rocker found at HomeGoods. You’re coming home with ME!)
- Reliable and low maintenance because I hate spending time (and money) at the mechanic
- Great on fuel because I hate spending time and money at the gas station
- Good entertainment technology — I NEED my tunes
- Good phone technology — Yes, I dial and drive. Alone in the car is the PERFECT time to talk to my mom
- Have good driver assistance technology because I spend a lot of time in traffic
- A fun to drive car— when I’m not in traffic driving should be fun!
- Low cost so I have room in my budget for other stuff
- A car that looks good. My car is my first outfit that people see me in
A long list, yes, but while it can be hard to get everything you want in a car, none of these are ridiculous, right?
Luckily, car makers are understanding this more and more. Especially the importance of reliability and low maintenance.
And for many of the things on this list, an electric car is ideal.
What the Nissan Leaf Costs
- Nissan Leaf S model starting price, which includes a 147 horsepower motor, 151 miles to a charge and ePedal function: $29,990
- SV model adds navigation, adaptive cruise control and Apple Car Play or Android Auto: $32,490
- SL model adds leather seats, Bose premium sound system and surround view camera: $36,200
- Price of the model Leaf SV model we test drove: $35,575, including delivery
You can see all the Nissan Leaf model specs here.
Meet the Nissan Leaf: Agile, Capable, Accommodating
I was recently with a group of women who joined Nissan for a test drive of the newly designed Leaf. We got to learn more about this car from the team who worked on it, and after a day of driving became more familiar with how it fits into our lives.
It was an eye-opener. If you’re among those who thought electric cars are for people who make compromises in order to be green, think again. The Leaf does everything a regular car can do and then some; and, it doesn’t require some of the things we hate about cars.
Low Maintenance Saves You Time and Money
This may be my favorite feature: Maintenance is pretty minimal. There are no oil changes; you don’t have to worry about transmission fluid, air filters or other typical maintenance items. You do have to plan for tires, windshield wipers and software updates.
And then there’s brake maintenance, which is less than in a conventional car. That’s because an electric car uses regenerative braking, a process in which it feeds power back into the battery as it slows the car. This means the brakes get less wear.
Brakes That Last Longer —BIG YAY
Janelle Williams, the Nissan product planner who showed us the Leaf, was reluctant to state definitively that regenerative braking will extend the life of the Leaf’s brakes because this can totally depend on how you drive. So, I’ll speak from experience: I was stunned to find that my Toyota Highlander Hybrid didn’t need brakes until I hit 100,000 miles. My Jeep had needed brakes every 35,000 miles. When I took the Highlander to the mechanic for brakes he explained that the hybrid’s use of regenerative braking actually used the braking system a lot less, therefore extending the life of the system. Even with over 200,000 miles on the car I’ve only replaced the brakes twice.
Get More Miles on a Charge with One Pedal Driving
This might be my other favorite feature of the Nissan Leaf: One pedal driving. Simply press the e-pedal button and when you lift your foot from the accelerator the car slows. The rear brake lights illuminate and you can feel the slowing of the car. We literally drove for hours without touching the brake. Even at traffic lights and stop signs we were able to stop without touching the brake.
This is regenerative braking at work, feeding the car’s power back into the battery; that lack of power to the motor and the car’s weight forces it to slow and even stop.
As you regenerate the battery you actually add miles to the car’s range. So… you start out at a full charge with 150+/- miles on the range. You drive 30 miles but use regenerative braking. You have 130 miles on the range rather than the 120 you’d expect to have.
Lanae Jackson, Nissan’s manager of multicultural marketing, shared a story of driving the Leaf up a mountain, starting with a full charge. By the time they got to the top, the battery was depleted. They turned around and drove back down the mountain, using regenerative braking as they descended. By the time they reached the bottom the battery was fully charged. THAT is my kind of car: One that refuels itself.
Take a tour of the Leaf –and the models inspired by A Wrinkle In Time– with marketing manager Lanae Jackson
EV Tax Credits Make It Even Easier On the Budget
Not only is the reduced need for maintenance a money-saver, but just purchasing this car can save you money. The Leaf qualifies for federal and state tax credits; federal credits can knock $7,500 off your tax bill. Depending on your state, there are likely other credits you can take. And, it costs less to operate; electric charging can run about the equivalent of roughly $1 per gallon of gas for the miles driven.
This Car also Drives Itself. Sort of. Meet Pro Pilot Assist
Here’s another thing that makes the Leaf a girl’s best friend: self driving technology. The Leaf has adaptive cruise control and lane departure assist, two self-driving technologies that contribute to Pro Pilot Assist. What this system does is let you relax behind the wheel. As you sit in traffic or cruise on the highway (to be clear, Pro Pilot Assist is designed for highway driving) the car can take over some of the function, letting you relax a bit.
Not take your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the road, mind you. Just reduce the tension of your hands on the steering wheel—you don’t need to maintain a death grip on the wheel. And you can release the tension in your knees and feet that come from preparing to hit the brakes when the car in front of you slows. The Leaf does this for you. The car’s system keeps pace with traffic ahead of you, keeps you in your lane and even follows the curves of the highway. Pretty cool.
Innovative, Flexible Cabin Space
The interior of the Leaf is spacious and airy, with everything you need at your fingertips. There is a small cubby that perfectly fit my iPhone 8 Plus, and Daisy, my driving partner, could put her phone there, too. There are USB and power ports right on the console so we could each charge our phones, and Apple Car Play is an option on the higher trim level so you’re always connected to your phone.
The absence of a large gear shifter leaves gives the center of the car an open feeling. Instead, there is a space-age feeling gear selector, almost like a video game controller. Grab the round selector and push it into position. Parking the car requires pressing the P button to select parking gear; this is not on the round gear selector.
Lanae rode with us on much of our drive and chatting with her from the back seat was easy and comfortable. I spent a bit of time in the back seat, too and found if plenty comfortable.
The rear cargo area was ample too, surprising for a compact car. The hatchback is rounded and the opening is a bit smaller than the full width of the cargo area, so you might need a bit of figuring to get an odd-shaped item into the back of the car, but there is certainly plenty of space. I also liked that there is a ‘lip’ to the rear cargo area which means that if you have things rolling around back there, they won’t come spilling out when you open the gate.
EV = A Different Lifestyle. Is it Right For You?
During our time with the Nissan Team they shared that EVs aren’t for everyone. You have to be able to charge it and can’t always rely on public charging. I know from experience that trying to find a charge spot can be challenging; often they are taken, broken or simply, not available. Even worse is the anxiety of driving around afraid you’ll run out of battery juice.
However. That’s all worst-case thinking. The reality is this:
- Most people drive 30 miles a day or less
- Most miles driven are within a few miles of home
- EV owners mostly charge at home; public charging is too unreliable to give more than a boost when you need it
- EVs can charge quickly with a household dryer-type outlet (220V); with this type of charger the Leaf should be able to fully charge in about 6 hours
- EVs can also charge with a standard household outlet (110V) and can replenish a day’s driving in just a few hours
- EVs are great for people who can park near an easily accessible outlet, such as a garage, carport or home charge station
Anyone considering buying an EV should think about where they will charge and when, and plan ahead before making a road trip to ensure that there are fast chargers along the way.
Nissan Leaf and … A Wrinkle in Time
OK, this partnership was a pleasant surprise, but a natural marketing partnership…? I wondered about this at first, but when I learned more, it was cool to see how Nissan and Disney’s values aligned. Disney broke many boundaries and stereotypes in this movie, embracing a young black girl as the central hero, a black female director, and a shift in the original storyline to focus on a modern and important narrative of the power of self-love to overcome bullying.
And Nissan broke stereotypes in 2010 when it introduced the Leaf, the best selling electric car world-wide. The company, and Leaf buyers, needed the confidence to make the leap from traditional cars to EVs.
And all that boundary-busting has made it easier for girls to take the leap to EVs. Still, knowing yourself and your habits and having the confidence to choose what is right for you without apology is a must. And then, you can give up the trappings of convention: stop paying for gas, stop paying for oil changes and take advantage of lucrative tax breaks. Because seriously, who wants to spend time and money on that when you can find a better use for it?
What We Listened to in the Nissan Leaf
Our drive in the Nissan Leaf took us through the vineyards and back roads of Napa Valley; we were inspired to cast off the stress of everyday life and soak up the scenery. This is what we listened to.
Disclosure: I was Nissan’s guest for this test drive; travel and accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own.