2017 Nissan Leaf

2017 Nissan Leaf Review

The 2017 Nissan Leaf S gets a larger battery, but its aging platform may not be enough for buyers.
3.5 star edmunds overall rating
author
by Calvin Kim
Edmunds Editor

The first of the real battery electric vehicles on the market, the Nissan Leaf stands as the default electric car for the everyday buyer. And as the market for electric cars increases (the new Chevrolet Bolt and the forthcoming Tesla Model 3, for example), the Leaf's days, as it sits, are numbered. In order to keep Leaf sales moving, the 2017 Leaf S receives the same 30-kWh lithium-ion battery as the SV and SL variants. This increases its range from 84 to 107 miles, a welcomed boost. Otherwise the chassis, suspension, interior and exterior remain the same. But we're not complaining since the five-seater hatchback is roomy and functional and, most importantly, easy to use.

If you can wait, an all-new Leaf is destined to drop from the Nissan tree and address many of the concerns we've had about the Leaf, such as a modern interior layout, a new look, better performance and, most importantly, even more range. But if all you need is easy-to-use, affordable and gasoline-free transportation, the 2017 Leaf is still worth a look.



what's new

The 2017 Nissan Leaf returns with one big change: The S now comes with the same 30-kWh lithium-ion battery that was previously available on the SV and SL only, giving all Leafs a 107-mile range. The SV and SL still separate themselves from the S model with their standard Charge package (includes a DC fast-charger port and quicker on-board charger) and extra features.

we recommend

Now that the same 30-kWh battery is standard in all three trim levels of Leaf, our recommendation is to get the Leaf S. With the optional, and highly recommended, Charge package (includes a 6.6-kW charger for quicker Level 2 charging and an extra port for ultra-fast Level 3 DC charging) added to the base price, the S is still priced less than an un-optioned Leaf SV. Plus, we think you still get all the features you'll really need with the S.

trim levels & features

As the lowest trim level, the 2017 Nissan Leaf S is a bit bare-bones, at least as electric mobility goes. But you can add the the optional Charge package for quicker recharging. Otherwise, it's still a very functional car. The SV adds the Charge package and navigation as standard, but it still doesn't beat the S in the value proposition. The top-level SL adds leather seats, LED headlights and a host of comfort features that might edge out the S if you'd like a pampered electrified ride.

Nevertheless, all three feature the same suspension and powertrain, and mainly differ in infotainment, interior materials and wheel choices. Our choice, the S, comes with steel wheels, an 80-kW AC synchronous motor (produces 107 horsepower and 187 lb-ft of torque), front heated seats and a 60/40-split folding rear seat. You also get a rearview camera, a 5-inch central display, Bluetooth connectivity, and a USB port for streaming audio and charging your smartphone.

The optional Charge package includes the quicker 6.6-kW onboard charger and extra DC fast-charger port.

The SV comes with alloy wheels, the Charge package, a 7-inch touchscreen, navigation and NissanConnect, Nissan's web-connectivity system. The seats are still fabric, but rather than cloth, they're made out of a sustainably sourced, suede-like polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

As the top model, the SL adds LED headlights, foglights, heated rear seats (heated front seats are standard for all trims) and leather upholstery.

The SV and SL can be had with a Premium package, which includes a Bose audio system and a 360-degree camera system.

trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2015 Nissan Leaf SL (electric | direct drive).

NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current Leaf has received some revisions, including the addition of the 30-kWh lithium-ion battery. But our findings remain broadly applicable to this year's Leaf.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall3.5 / 5.0

Driving

3.5 / 5.0

Acceleration2.5 / 5.0
Braking2.0 / 5.0
Steering3.0 / 5.0
Handling3.5 / 5.0
Drivability5.0 / 5.0

Comfort

4.0 / 5.0

Seat comfort3.5 / 5.0
Ride comfort3.5 / 5.0
Noise & vibration5.0 / 5.0

Interior

3.0 / 5.0

Ease of use1.0 / 5.0
Getting in/getting out4.0 / 5.0
Driving position3.5 / 5.0
Roominess3.5 / 5.0
Visibility3.5 / 5.0
Quality3.5 / 5.0

driving

edmunds rating
One could argue the Nissan Leaf is the best-selling EV because it was first to market, a head start that generated a publicity wave it's still riding. But now there are several EVs that offer more range, a more inviting interior, better utility and more style than the Leaf for a little less money.

acceleration

edmunds rating
Like most electric cars, the Leaf can be fairly responsive off the line. But that sensation doesn't last; it runs out of enthusiasm at highway speeds. Most newer EVs eclipse the Leaf's lackluster zero-to-60-mph time of 10.2 seconds.

braking

edmunds rating
The Leaf's ultimate panic-stop distance from 60 mph of 122 feet is reassuring, and the pedal does feel firm. But response is still somewhat nonlinear and can be hard to judge during routine stops.

steering

edmunds rating
The Leaf goes where you point it, and it gives the impression that it likes changing direction. You'll have to rely solely on your eyes to judge how much to turn the wheel, though, because little road feedback comes back up to your hands.

handling

edmunds rating
There's a sense of balance and coordination, and it persists to the point where the tires start to squeal. The limits are too low and the body roll becomes too pronounced for it to be considered sporty, but that's not its mission.

drivability

edmunds rating
Most EVs get this right because their no-shift direct-drive architecture and bountiful drive-away torque make them feel effortless and refined when the light turns green. The Leaf is no exception.

comfort

edmunds rating
Few will complain about the Nissan Leaf's smooth ride and nicely shaped leather (SL only) seats. But the thing that stands out is what's nearly absent: noise. The electric motor goes about its business in silence, and there isn't much road rumble or wind noise either.

seat comfort

edmunds rating
The seats have a good basic shape, and they manage to be fairly supportive while still offering a nice amount of give. We couldn't test them on an extended drive because of the Leaf's limited range. All-day comfort is a moot point.

ride comfort

edmunds rating
The Leaf has a generally smooth ride that is neither overly stiff nor excessively buoyant. It absorbs most large bumps with little jostling, but only if the bumps come one at a time. It can start to feel busy on uneven, cracked surfaces.

noise & vibration

edmunds rating
Electric propulsion is utterly silent and lacks the commotion associated with gear changes. Wind and road noise are all that's left, and neither is especially bothersome. The regenerative brake system does not draw attention to itself.

interior

edmunds rating
Easy to enter and spacious once seated, but the driving position isn't great for folks taller than average height. Clumsy shifter, navigation and climate system controls, and the cargo compartment's ultimate utility is compromised by an intrusive chassis component and a poor seat-folding design.

ease of use

edmunds rating
The driver seat is too high, and the tilt-only steering wheel is far away. The shifter is so confusing it comes with its own diagram. Too many look-alike buttons, no knobs and a small touchscreen for navigation, audio and climate control systems pretty much sink the Leaf in this category.

getting in/getting out

edmunds rating
The doors open wide, the sill isn't too high and the door opening is tall enough to prevent excessive ducking. This is true even in the backseat because the roofline lingers near horizontal. Foot-entry space is tight if you wear big shoes.

roominess

edmunds rating
The Leaf gets high marks for front and rear legroom. There's decent headroom, too, but the driver's perch doesn't adjust far down enough to prevent taller pilots from being eye level with the mirror and gazing out through the windshield tint band.

visibility

edmunds rating
Loads of glass and the hood is low. The weird headlight bulges actually make it easy to imagine the front corners when parking. The peek-a-boo windows ahead of the side mirrors are a plus. The rear over-the-shoulder blind spot is a bit big, though.

quality

edmunds rating
The interior materials and trim don't quite live up to the expectations of the purchase price, which is heavily influenced by the expense of the EV componentry. But the panel gaps are even, and most of the trim pieces line up nicely.

utility

edmunds rating
There's not much space in the door pockets and center console box. Under the rear hatch there's a decent amount of standard cargo space with the seats in use, but a cargo area bulkhead interferes with ultimate utility when the bulky rear seatbacks are folded.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.