By far and away the world's most popular electric vehicle, the Nissan Leaf soldiers on into 2017 for the most part unchanged.
For 2017, the base S trim now receives a 30 kWh battery pack, which was previously limited to the SV and SL trim levels. The larger battery pack enables the Leaf to travel up to 172 km on a charge, which is more than the just-updated Ford Focus Electric and slightly less than the 2017 BMW i3. It's a fair ways behind the new Chevrolet Bolt and the forthcoming Tesla Model 3, both of which can return well over 300 km per charge. The upgraded battery pack also includes a ChaDeMo quick-charge port, which can top up the battery to 80% in less than 30 minutes.
The Leaf routes its power to an 80 kW electric motor which is rated at 1.9 Le/100 km city and 2.3 Le/100 km highway, which is among the more energy efficient electric cars presently on the market.
Though familiar, the Leaf still looks futuristic after all these years, its rounded and friendly shape designed to slip through the air with as little resistance as possible. The Leaf comes standard with a 60/40 split folding rear seat for greater cargo-carrying capacity, though a cargo cover is only available on the top trim level.
The cabin is equally as forward-looking as the exterior with a simple, white-on-black digital display and floating speedometer. The puck-shaped gearshift lever is unusual, but, like the rest of the interior is very simple to operate. The cabin does have a few shortcomings, chief of which is a steering column that tilts but does not telescope.
Both the SL and SV feature a touchscreen infotainment system with navigation that outlines the vehicle's range on the map as well as charging stations. Also standard on SL and SV is the NissanConnect EV app, which allows owners to pre-heat or cool their vehicle, as well as provide real-time updates on range and charging status.
For those that have not driven an electric car before, the Leaf is an intriguing driving experience with brisk low-speed acceleration courtesy of its always-ready electric motor. The car cruises with an eerie silence; wind and road noise are more prominent due to the absence of an internal combustion engine. The Leaf uses a regenerative braking system to recoup energy; the brake pedal can feel someone spongey. In most other regards, the Leaf drives like a normal small car. Besides low running costs, the Leaf is cheap to maintain - no oil changes, tune-ups, or spark plugs.
Standard equipment on the Leaf S includes a proximity key with push-button start, power windows and mirrors, cruise control, heated front and rear seats, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, tire pressure monitor with Easy Fill Tire Alert, 16-inch steel wheels with wheel covers, 5.0-inch display audio system with USB, Bluetooth, hands-free text messaging assistant, reverse camera, and four speakers.
The SV trim adds a hybrid heater system, 17-inch alloy wheels, 7.0-inch touchscreen navigation system with voice control, NissanConnect EV remote connection, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, front passenger seat pocket, bio-suede upholstery, and a six-speaker audio system.
The SL trim builds on the SV with auto on-off LED headlamps, fog lights, 360-degree parking camera, rear spoiler with an integrated solar cell, garage door opener, cargo cover, leather upholstery, and a seven-speaker Bose audio system.
The 2017 Nissan Leaf starts at $33,998 with the range-topping SL trim selling for $40,548.