Eleven years ago – when to most people Tesla was just the name of a rock band or the guy whom Edison ripped off – Nissan took a big leap with one of the earliest mass-produced electric vehicles of the modern age: the 2010 Leaf.
I reviewed a 2011 model. It drove me crazy with not enough range (an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 73 miles per charge) and not accurate enough estimates of remaining range as I drove it.
Two years ago, just before succeeding Gary and Genie Anderson as the Town Crier’s auto reviewer, I weighed in on the second-generation Leaf. It was a major improvement on all counts.
However, 150 miles these days is not impressive range, especially against cars such as the Ford Mustang Mach-E (reviewed in the March 2021 On the Road section), the Chevrolet Bolt, the Jaguar I-Pace and the Kia Niro EV – all of which offer at least 220 miles of driving on a single charge.
Nissan’s answer is the Leaf Plus. It doesn’t quite match the range of the others, but at 215 miles per charge, it’s at least in the ballpark.
And I discovered that, in my week of city streets and urban freeways, the range estimates were conservative – largely through regenerative braking – so I found myself at the end of a trip with more charge and thus more range than I expected to end up with.
Plus, charging is easy and quick (it accepts DC fast charging). If I had access to charging at home or work, I’d never worry.
As it was, a couple of times during the week, I spent a few idle minutes at a DC fast-charging station near home just to give myself an extra margin. It wasn’t necessary, really, but I tend to be overcautious about this and was still learning the Leaf’s limits.
The 2021 Nissan Leaf Plus comes in two trim levels – S and SL. Ours was the SL, which has a base price of $43,920. Among the standard equipment highlights at that price are Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 suite, heated front seats, navigation and 17-inch wheels.
Extra-cost options on our tester were limited to splash guards ($200), two-tone paint ($695) and carpeted floor and cargo mats ($190).
Add the $925 destination charges for an as-tested price of $45,390. There’s a potential $7,550 in federal tax credits available as well, which would make the real-world price $37,840.
Given that $38,723 is the average price of a new car this year, that puts the 2021 Nissan Leaf SL Plus in a sweet spot. Even more so when you factor in the gas you won’t be buying and the maintenance costs that simply don’t exist with EVs.
If you’re looking for an electric road-trip car, you may need to shop around. A 40-minute recharge every 200 miles or so could get tedious.
But on a day-in/day-out, occasional-jaunt-out-of-town basis, the Nissan Leaf Plus has a lot going for it.