- All-electric range
- Normal looks
- Perky powertrain
- Big touchscreen
- Economy car roots show
- Spartan base model
- Still not a crossover
- Only front-wheel drive
features & specs
The 2020 Nissan Leaf has outgrown its nerdy, commuter-car phase and steers now toward mainstream.
All-electric driving is hardly what it used to be. The 2020 Nissan Leaf was among the first electric cars to enter the mainstream consciousness, but not for all the right reasons.
Now two years removed from the bulbous hatchback with limited range, the new Leaf looks like a regular car—and it has a regular range.
Like last year, the Leaf is available this year in 150-mile range Leaf and 226-mile Leaf Plus configurations with 40- and 62-kwh lithium-ion batteries, respectively. Base Leaf S models with 150 miles of range cost $32,525, before any applicable state or federal tax incentives, and the top Leaf SL Plus with 215 miles of range costs $44,825.
We give the 2020 Leaf a 7.0 TCC Rating thanks to its perfect efficiency score and good features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
This year, every Leaf is equipped with an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and active safety features including automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and blind-spot monitors.
The Leaf looks better than before and fits more seamlessly into the Nissan lineup. All the buzzy looks are there: Nissan’s corporate grille boomerang-type thing, a floating roof, big touchscreen. Wrapped around all those features is a relatively normal hatchback shape—that’s a good thing.
Under the body panels is an electric motor and 40- or 62-kwh battery that powers the Leaf alone. The Leaf Plus models offer more than 200 miles of range—more than enough for many drivers—and standard Leafs still manage 150 miles. Most Leafs will charge on a Level 2 home charger completely in about 12 hours, or can quick-charge at a nearby fast-charging station up to 80% in about 45 minutes.
The Leaf will comfortably seat about four adults, but five is a stretch. Leg room may be an issue for tall rear-seat riders, but the upright seating position helps. Behind the second row, the Leaf stows more than 23 cubic feet of cargo.
Every Leaf gets automatic emergency braking, and top trims combine active lane control and adaptive cruise control in a driver-assistance system that Nissan calls ProPilot Assist. Although far from a hands-free system, ProPilot can ease the burden of a commute home by taking over some of the driving tasks (though attention is still desperately required).
Base Leaf S models are thin on creature comforts and lack a standard fast-charger. They get cloth trim, 16-inch wheels with covers, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, active safety features, and a 3-year/36,000-mile bumper to bumper warranty and an 8-year/100,000-mile battery warranty.
Top Leaf SL Plus add 17-inch wheels, leather upholstery, a heat pump for cabin heating, heated seats and steering wheel, ProPilot Assist, and navigation.
2020 Nissan Leaf
The 2020 Leaf looks like just about any other car on the road now, and that’s a good thing.
Two years removed from its awkward beginnings, the 2020 Leaf is more normal and more stylish than before without going overboard.
In fact, it’s only the charge port and “Zero Emissions” badge that are a dead giveaway that the Leaf is anything different than a regular hatchback.
Starting from an average score of 5 the Leaf gets a point above average for its exterior. It’s a 6.
The blacked-out portions of the Leaf are clever and complex, a nod to other vehicles in the Nissan stable that have nothing to do with electrification at all. The new design is more cluttered than the old, bug-like look—and infinitely better, too.
In profile, the Leaf looks similar to the outgoing car but with a longer hood that could almost (almost) have an internal combustion engine beneath. The hood sports a deeply bending grille trim piece found on other Nissan vehicles, but on the Leaf it frames the charge door.
The rear end gets some parting creases that complete the look, along with the “floating” roof pieces, a la Murano.
Inside, the Leaf looks more conventional, but with an odd-looking mushroom shifter that we’d like to send back into the woods. The seating position is more upright in the Leaf than in other cars, which gives it more interior room than we expected. The dash and instrument cluster are more conventional this time around, which we like. The only demerit: In direct sunlight, the touchscreen washes out and some of the hard plastics look thin.
2020 Nissan Leaf
Its eco credentials firmly intact, the 2020 Leaf is somewhat fun to drive.
As the longtime “weird-looking” electric car from Nissan, the Leaf’s performance has been largely overlooked. This year, like last year, there are two different flavors for the Leaf and both are bright and relatively fun to drive owing to their all-electric powertrains.
We rate the Leaf based on the Leaf Plus, which is more powerful and has the longer range of the two, and the most popular among buyers. It’s a 6 for performance.
The Leaf Plus makes 214 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque from its electric motor that drives the front wheels only. Its range from a 62-kwh battery is 215 or 226 miles, depending on trim level and tire size, although that range is diminished by 10% or more in very cold weather.
The standard Leaf makes 147 hp and 187 lb-ft from its electric motor and its 40-kwh lithium-ion battery is rated for about 150 miles of range.
Nissan retuned the suspension and steering in the Leaf two years ago for a more natural feel that wasn’t overboosted like the last generation. Like every other electric car, the Leaf has instant torque off the line that makes it feel perkier and brighter than its economy-car looks might suggest.
The Leaf’s performance is changed depending on drive mode. In normal modes, the Leaf Plus has enough performance to chirp its front tires on the way out of a parking lot—less impressive when we consider that it’s rolling on low-resistance tires—and speed along at highway speeds without issue.
In Eco mode, the off-the-line performance is diminished perceptibly, although range increases by 5% to 10% depending on state of charge. (Eco also dents air conditioning performance as well.)
With the e-Pedal active, the Leaf becomes a one-pedal driver, which is ideal for electric cars. Although the Leaf has the same accelerator and brake pedal as every other car, the e-Pedal setting uses the electric motor to recoup energy when the accelerator isn’t pressed, similar to what you might find in a golf cart. It’s the most efficient way to drive a Leaf and it’s actually fun; the gamification of electric cars is unique and retrains our brains to drive those cars.
Beyond those systems, the Leaf is entertaining to drive, although it doesn’t do much to hide its considerable weight. Leaf Plus models ride a half-inch higher too, which can add more lean in corners.
2020 Nissan Leaf
Comfort & Quality
The 2020 Leaf isn’t palatial inside, but it’s a hatchback—and quiet—and that’s fine.
Among small cars, the 2020 Nissan Leaf is more spacious than others thanks to its electric drivetrain that maxes out interior space by skipping conventional fixtures like a transmission tunnel and, well, an internal combustion engine.
It’s quieter than just about every other small car on the road—it’s nearly silent actually. But its small-car roots show through in some interior materials and seat comfort. Starting from an average score of 5, the Leaf gets a point above average for its cargo room—it’s a hatchback after all.
The front seats were new a couple years ago and have more hip and back support than previous iterations, although they’re lacking in shoulder bolsters for taller drivers. Long legs will be accommodated up front with plenty of leg room, although long arms should be attached as well; the Leaf’s tilting steering wheel doesn’t telescope for shorter arms.
There’s 33.5 inches of rear seat leg room, which is slightly better than the numbers indicate; the seating position is upright and it’s possible for 6-footers to sit behind other 6-footers. The middle position in the rear seat is a non-starter, there’s just not enough room for a grown adult to sit between other grown adults.
With the second row upright, the Leaf holds 23.6 cubic feet of cargo. With the second row tumbled forward that expands to 30 cubic feet.
No Leaf feels like a luxury car, but the electric car is quiet and offers better interior materials than Nissan’s smaller, less expensive cars such as the Nissan Versa.
2020 Nissan Leaf
The 2020 Leaf lacks official crash-test data but offers comprehensive safety features that other automakers don’t.
Federal and independent crash-test authorities haven’t fully rated the 2020 Leaf, so we’ll withhold our ratings here. We’ll update this space if those numbers are made available.
Outside of official ratings, the Leaf is well-equipped with active safety features that we appreciate in every car.
Automatic emergency braking (forward and rear), active lane control, and blind-spot monitors are standard on all cars. Leaf SV and higher trims get standard adaptive cruise control and can be fitted with active driving assistants that can help steer, stop, and start the Leaf on long drives or in stop-and-go traffic. Called ProPilot Assist, Nissan’s system is helpful but not without its flaws. The system beeps in nearly every circumstance: lane changes, when it detects a car ahead, when it starts, when it stops, etc.
Nissan is nearly alone among mainstream automakers to offer a comprehensive system, which is laudable. But compared to similar offerings from luxury competitors, ProPilot feels a half-step behind.
2020 Nissan Leaf
With an 8.0-inch touchscreen and active safety features standard, no 2020 Leaf is poorly equipped.
This year, the 2020 Nissan Leaf gets a standard 8.0-inch touchscreen on every model and standard active safety features that can help prevent a crash.
Starting from an average score of 5, the Leaf gets two points above average for that infotainment screen and good base equipment. It’s a 7 for features.
Like last year, the Leaf is sold in S and SV trim levels, while the Leaf Plus is sold in S, SV, and SL trims. Base cars with 150 miles of range cost $32,525, before any applicable state or federal tax incentives, and the top Leaf SL Plus with 215 miles of range costs $44,825, including destination. Upgraded the Leaf’s 40-kwh battery to a 62-kwh battery costs about $6,000, although it varies between S and SV trims.
The base Leaf S gets cloth trim, 16-inch wheels with covers, an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Bluetooth connectivity, active safety features (that we cover above), and a 3-year/36,000-mile bumper to bumper warranty and an 8-year/100,000-mile battery warranty.
The Leaf S Plus costs $6,600 more for a bigger battery and is equipped nearly identically but includes a fast-charger that’s optional on the base version for $1,690.
We’d step one level up to the Leaf SV Plus that costs $40,675, including destination ($35,115 for the Leaf SV and a 40-kw battery). It adds 17-inch wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, upgraded audio, navigation, and adaptive cruise control. The Leaf SV is perhaps more remarkable for its available options that include heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and heat pump for $900, and driver-assistance features and upgraded headlights for $1,600 or $2,000 depending on battery size. Depending on applicable state and federal tax breaks and dealer incentives, which should be plentiful, the effective price for a Leaf SV Plus can drop below $30,000.
The Leaf SL Plus is well-equipped, but doesn’t feel $5,000 dearer than an SV Plus with all-weather options. The SL Plus makes standard most of the optional equipment on the Leaf SV and adds leather upholstery that, depending on your worldview, may not be desirable in an electric car.
2020 Nissan Leaf
All-electric 2020 Nissan Leaf vehicles are some of the most efficient vehicles on the road.
The 2020 Nissan Leaf’s fuel-economy tale changes depending on model but every hatchback runs on electrons alone, which helps it climb to the highest rungs of our green scale.
We give the 2020 Leaf a 10 based on Leaf Plus models that are more popular among buyers and that have ranges beyond 200 miles.
The EPA rates Leaf Plus models more popular with buyers at 215 miles of range. (Base Leaf S Plus versions are rated at 226 miles thanks to different wheels.)
With a smaller battery, the regular 2020 Leaf is rated for 150 miles of range.
Compared to other electric cars, the regular Leaf lags well behind. The Leaf Plus keeps pace with cars such as the Chevy Bolt EV and Kia Niro EV, although electric cars from automakers such as Tesla are near 300 miles of range from a charge.
Nissan says that its Leaf Plus can recharge up to 80% on a 240-volt Level 2 charger (commonly found at charge points in cities and installed at home for new EV owners) in about 11.5 hours. On a 50-kw fast-charger found at some larger charge stations, the Leaf can charge up to 80% in about 45 minutes.