It's not the Model 3. But it wasn't designed to be either.
When I wrote about the launch of the 2018 Nissan Leaf, comments were decidedly mixed. Some were derisory about its 150 mile range, while others welcomed the fact that it retained the same price point as previous models, while boasting a 40% range increase.
But how does it actually drive?
The first drive reviews are now being published, and judging by this fairly limited sample, auto journalists—at least—are mostly impressed. Motor Trend lauded it for its quiet, comfortable ride, and its significant performance improvements compared to previous models:
Without a doubt, its extra power and torque renders the new Leaf satisfyingly quicker and more responsive. Test-track recordings are yet to come, but given the Bolt’s and Model 3’s better power (and power-to-weight ratios) it’ll probably lag in a three-EV drag race. Interior noise is phenomenally hush—a nice complement to its supple yet controlled ride quality (absent of the bounding I’ve sometimes noticed in the Bolt).
Meanwhile Green Car Reports, which was overall a little more reserved in its praise, also called out its "spunky pickup and smooth acceleration", and welcomed the fact that the more powerful engine can maintain stronger acceleration at highway speeds.
Predictably, the tech geeks over at CNET identified a significant but less talked about tech improvement for the 2018 model: A Level 2 charging cord is standard on the range-topping SL model, and is optional on S and SV trims, meaning—presumably—you could plug in to a NEMA 6-20 outlet and get 20 to 25 miles of range per hour, compared to the 3 or 4 miles you get from trickle charging at 120v. That will make home charging considerably easier to install for many drivers.
Cars.com also had nice things to say, specifically calling out the new Leaf's ePedal (a mode for one-pedal driving, much loved by electric vehicle veterans) and its ProPilot autonomous technology as being significant upgrades for drivers who deal regularly with heavy city or stop-and-go highway traffic.
You get the idea. Overall, the big picture consensus appears to be that the 2018 Leaf will occupy a unique segment of the market, and represents both a significant upgrade for existing Leaf drivers and a more accessible entry point for nervous newcomers. And this is something we should all welcome.
Here's how Autoblog described it, compared it to its competitors:
It's hard to find effective criticism against the new Nissan Leaf. Sure, Nissan doesn't promise full autonomy like Tesla, but Tesla charges money for a feature that might not be legally allowed for many years. The Leaf doesn't offer the range of the Chevy Bolt, but also doesn't cost as much, and seasoned EV drivers know that the added driving range does more for pacifying range anxiety than actually providing day-to-day utility. [...] For a large number of drivers — especially for EV veterans — the 2018 Nissan Leaf checks all the important boxes and ignores the unnecessary (and expensive) ones.
That, for me, is the whole point. Electrification won't happen overnight, but we do need it to happen fast. Creating a broader range of more appealing, accessible options for mainstream consumers is a necessary step in the broader changes to come. Given that Nissan is talking openly about both a higher performance, longer range version—as well as other electric models in several different form factors—this car represents a logical progression of a shift from fossil fuels.