Buyer's Guide

2021 Nissan Leaf
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2021 Nissan Leaf MODEL OVERVIEW

Pros

  • Quick acceleration
  • Quiet ride
  • Semi-autonomous driving tech

Cons

  • Rivals offer better range
  • Dull steering
  • Rock-hard brakes

It's hard to believe that the Nissan Leaf has been on sale for a decade now—the electric hatchback has come a long way from the early days of 2010 when it offered just 73 miles of range. Now, the Leaf gets more than 200 miles to a charge on certain trim levels, although nowadays that's not quite enough to keep up with rivals. Three years into its second generation, the Leaf receives no changes for the 2021 model year.

What We Think

Buyers eyeing this electric hatchback should consider the Leaf Plus model. This version boasts more power and stronger range—up to 226 miles instead of 149 miles on the standard Leaf. With its upgraded motor, the Leaf Plus is surprisingly zippy getting onto the highway. Unfortunately, this experience is marred by vague steering. The brakes also lack the crisp feel drivers typically want, although stopping distances are impressively short. The Leaf benefits from a quiet ride with little road and wind noise entering the cabin.

Even on Plus versions, the Leaf lags slightly behind competitors when it comes to EPA-rated range. The Chevrolet Bolt gets 259 miles to a charge, for example, whereas the Hyundai Kona Electric boasts 258 miles of range. The fun-to-drive Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus gets 263 miles.

Perhaps the Leaf's biggest advantage over many competitors is its base price of under $33,000. If you're looking for more from your EV than just a great price, however, other options are worth considering.

Performance and Range

The 2021 Nissan Leaf comes standard with a 40-kWh lithium-ion battery and an electric motor that makes 147 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. This setup is good for a range of 149 miles. Plus versions up the ante with a 62-kWh battery and a motor with 214 hp and 250 lb-ft. Range varies from 215 miles on the SV Plus and SL Plus to 226 miles on the S Plus.

On the standard Leaf, recharging takes 8 hours with a Level 2 charger (240V). At DC fast charging public stations, you can recoup 80 percent of the charge in 40 minutes. The Leaf Plus takes 11.5 hours to recharge with a Level 2 charger, and with DC fast charging, you can recover 80 percent of the charge in 45 minutes with a 50-kW charger or 60 minutes with a 100-kW unit.

Safety

The 2021 Nissan Leaf earned an overall five-star safety rating from NHTSA. This rating consists of four stars in the front crash test and rollover test, as well as five stars in the side crash test. IIHS has not published a complete set of ratings for the Leaf, but the 2020 model received Good scores in the moderate overlap front, side, and head restraint and seat tests.

Standard safety features include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot intervention, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane keep assist.

Cargo Space and Interior Room

With the rear seats up, the Nissan Leaf has 23.6 cubic feet of cargo space. That expands to 30 cubic feet with the seats down. Compare that to the Chevrolet Bolt, which has 16.9 cubic feet of space behind the seats and 56.6 cubic feet with the seats folded. Rear-seat passengers have 33.5 inches of legroom to the Bolt's 36.5 inches. The Nissan Leaf seats five people.

Technology

Although it's not as advanced as Tesla's system, Nissan offers semi-autonomous driving technology on the Leaf. Dubbed ProPilot Assist, this tech provides automatic steering, acceleration, and braking inputs to assist highway driving. It sometimes wants to veer toward the left side of a given lane, but overall, we found this feature eases the burden of driving in traffic.

The Leaf comes standard with an 8.0-inch touchscreen.

Trim Levels

Five trim levels are offered on the Leaf with the following standard content:

2021 Nissan Leaf S: 40-kWh battery, keyless entry, push-button start, Bluetooth, four-speaker sound system, and 60/40 split folding rear seats

2021 Nissan Leaf SV: 40-kWh battery, adaptive cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, voice recognition, and a six-speaker sound system

2021 Nissan Leaf S Plus: 62-kWh battery, 100-kW quick charge port, portable charge cable (240V), and similar feature content to the S trim

2021 Nissan Leaf SV Plus: 62-kWh battery, 100-kW quick charge port, portable charge cable (240V), and similar feature content to the SV trim

2021 Nissan Leaf  SL Plus: 62-kWh battery, LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, 360-degree camera system, Bose premium audio system, leather-appointed seats, and heating for front seats and steering wheel

Key Competitors:

  • Chevrolet Bolt EV
  • Hyundai Kona EV
  • Kia Niro EV
  • Tesla Model 3

2021 NISSAN LEAF SPECIFICATIONS
OVERVIEW
FEATURES
WARRANTY/RECALL
SAFETY
Engine Name
Transmission Name
Trim
S Hatchback
Class
Horsepower
Standard MPG
Body Style
Hatchback
Drivetrain
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Seating Capacity
Package Invoice Retail
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IIHS Best Pick
NHTSA Rating Front Driver
IIHS Front Moderate Overlap
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IIHS Overall Side Crash
NHTSA Rating Overall
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NHTSA Rating Rear Side
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NHTSA Rating Rollover