The Nissan Leaf is impressive on several fronts: One, it was a pioneer in the electric-vehicle (EV) class; and two, it always has been one of the best values out there. Taking introductory bows in 2011, the Leaf was the best-selling EV car in history until 2020 when the Tesla Model 3 broke into the market.
For 2023, Japanese auto manufacturer Nissan is raising the stakes by refreshing the exterior and maintaining that impressive base price at $27,800, giving qualified purchasers a reason to buy long before they land a potential $7,500 federal tax credit.
The 2023 Leaf is available in two variants: Leaf S and the Leaf SV Plus. Nissan says the streamlined model lineup reflects a consolidation of the most requested features and technologies. Based on what I experienced in my top-end SV Plus, they checked the most important boxes.
The Leaf has never really been something I’d refer to as sporty – until now. The exterior changes enhance Leaf’s distinctive appearance, creating a far more streamlined, sporty silhouette.
The Leaf SV Plus I tested featured mirrors with electric controls, folding, heated lights, new dual-tone wheels, and new shade options in red, pearl white, and gray, contrasting with a black roof.
The revised front-end appearance, including a new grille shape and front bumper molding, are distinctly different than the previous model. Headlight styling has also been revised with a new black inner finisher (previously chrome) and SV PLUS models feature an aggressive new 5-spoke 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheel design.
Both front and rear fascia wind deflectors are now black (previously blue) and the shapes of the tire deflectors at all four corners, rear under diffuser and rear spoiler all have been modified. In addition, exterior badges have been updated to reflect the new Nissan brand identity.
The changes in the cabin include new Nissan badging on the steering wheel and a new start-up video on the dashboard screen. Black cloth is standard on SV and SV Plus models, with gloss black finishers. My SL Plus version was fitted with comfy leather upholstery.
The cabin is roomy, though the seating position may be a bit lower than some are accustomed to, but this delivers nice headroom and there’s plenty of legroom for even the tall drivers. Materials are all soft-touch, though this is clearly where Nissan is able to cut some corners to offer value pricing.
The interior has been elevated with new items and standard equipment, including automatic air conditioning, an intelligent rearview mirror that can support a rear camera and is activated by moving the window up or down. The infotainment system is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, navigation, and the ability to answer text messages.
Among the other new features, the Nissan Connect application allows you to monitor several parameters of your Leaf. In addition to viewing the battery status, it is possible to activate the air conditioning or heating systems remotely.
The 2023 Leaf S is equipped with a 40-kWh lithium-ion battery and 110-kW electric motor providing 147 horsepower, 236 lb-ft of torque, and up to 149 miles of range. The upgrade Leaf SV Plus features a larger-capacity 60-kWh lithium-ion battery – increasing the range to more than 212 miles. A powerful 160-kW electric motor produces 214 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque. This may not seem like a lot, but the Leaf doesn’t have quite the heft of other EVs.
Overall, like most EVs, if you don’t push the Leaf too hard it drives smoothly and is very comfortable for getting around town or on the highway. While the Leaf’s e-Pedal braking system takes a bit to get used to, it uses the energy harvested by the system to recharge the battery, which greatly helps to maintain its range in the city.
If I’m looking for a value-minded, but proven, EV – the Nissan Leaf SV Plus is the one I’d choose. With all the bells and whistles of a top-end trim, my Leaf SV Plus had a very impressive landing price of $36,985.
• John Stein is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. He has more than 25 years of experience driving, testing, and writing about the automotive industry, its latest innovations, and vehicles.