2021 Nissan Leaf

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2021
The Car Connection
2021
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
December 26, 2020

Buying tip

Commuters might do well with the 149-mile Leaf, but we’d pick the Leaf Plus for more than 200 miles of driving on a single charge.

features & specs

S Hatchback
S PLUS Hatchback
SL PLUS Hatchback
MPG
Coming Soon
MPG
Coming Soon
MPG
Coming Soon
MSRP
$31,670
MSRP
$38,270
MSRP
$43,970

The 2021 Nissan Leaf has matured from its awkward early years into a useful, efficient, mainstream electric hatchback.

What kind of car is the 2021 Nissan Leaf? What does it compare to?

The 2021 Nissan Leaf is a five-seat electric hatchback that comes in two different versions, the 149-mile Leaf and the 215- to 226-mile Leaf Plus. It’s a rival for cars like the Chevy Bolt EV, the Tesla Model 3, and the Ford Mustang Mach-E.

Is the 2021 Nissan Leaf a good car?

Review continues below

We give the 2021 Leaf a 7.2 TCC Rating thanks to its good features and a perfect green score. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What’s new for the 2021 Nissan Leaf?

Almost nothing has changed for the new model year. The Leaf soldiers on with the hatchback style it adopted for its second generation—a more conventional and appealing look that’s paired with a cabin dressed in digital displays and cut-above economy-car threads. No one will know it’s an electric car until you point out the “Zero Emissions” badge, for better or worse.

They’ll know when you pull into the Electrify America station instead of the Exxon pumps. The Leaf’s battery brings it range ratings of between 149 and 226 miles, and it gives it strong acceleration that outmatches its economy-car handling. It’s quick off the line, but the Leaf’s a leadfoot with very light steering—it’s a combination that’s evolving out of newer electric cars. 

Five adults can fit in the Leaf, but four will be happier, and they’ll have plenty of head and leg room. Seat comfort is OK; its cargo space is the real draw, with more than 23 cubic feet of space under the Leaf’s hatchback.

The Leaf has automatic emergency braking and good NHTSA crash-test scores. Expensive versions get the ProPilot driver-assistance system which can steer, stop, and start the car in a wide range of driving situations for short periods of time.

How much does the 2021 Nissan Leaf cost?

The base $32,545 Leaf S comes with the lower-range battery and an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The bigger pack costs $6,600 more. We like the Leaf SV Plus, which gets fast-charging, adaptive cruise control, and 17-inch wheels. It costs $41,395, before any federal or local tax incentives.

Where is the Nissan Leaf made?

In Japan. 

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2021 Nissan Leaf

Styling

The Leaf has an interesting shape, minus its former quirks.

Is the Nissan Leaf a good-looking car?

Nissan’s first Leaf hatchback had an ungainly look that signaled it as an electric car. The current Leaf sports an interesting shape and a pedestrian interior, so we give it a 6 here.

Scan the Leaf’s body and the “Zero Emissions” plate may be the only cue it’s an electric car. The shape’s gone more conventional in this second generation, with a deep V-shaped grille like the one on other Nissan cars, and a blacked-out trim panel on the rear end that makes the roof appear to float, as it does on a Murano, an Altima, a Sentra...you get the idea.

Inside, the Leaf has a mostly conventional look, aside from the odd mushroom-like shifter that sprouts from the center console. With its upright seating position and upright dash, digital gauges, and touchscreen interface, it’s a bit like sitting in an office park—a nice office park, but still more a workplace than an after-hours club.

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2021 Nissan Leaf

Performance

The Leaf leaves a stronger impression of speed than of handling prowess.

Nissan sells two different Leaf hatchbacks, and the more powerful version is more popular—and a better choice. Based on the Plus and its larger battery pack we give the Leaf a 6 here, with an extra point for acceleration.

Is the Nissan Leaf 4WD? 

No, all Leafs are front-wheel drive.

How fast is the Nissan Leaf?

The base Leaf has a 40-kwh lithium-ion battery pack and an electric motor that develop 147 hp and 187 lb-ft of torque, good for 149 EPA-rated miles of driving range. Acceleration’s fine: it’s reasonably swift and nearly silent, which is above average for economy cars. With a 62-kwh battery, the Leaf Plus has a more assertive 214 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque, good for 0-60 mph times of less than seven seconds, and good for a driving range of between 215 and 226 miles, depending on trim level, tires—and, we’ve found, outdoor temperature. Very cold weather is anathema to the Leaf’s range and can cut those EPA ratings by 10% or more.

The instant torque makes the Leaf feel more perky than the average economy car, but its electric-car heft and very light steering bring it back down to earth. In normal drive mode it can spin its front tires, but its steering has almost no feel or feedback. Leaf Plus models ride slightly higher and lean slightly more into curves. The suspension can smooth down freeway pockmarks, but the car’s weight amplifies city-street blemishes. It can be entertaining to drive the Leaf thanks to a one-pedal drive mode that turns it into a videogame-like experience—but it, like so many electric cars, is a generation away from the engaging feel of a GTI.

Review continues below
6

2021 Nissan Leaf

Comfort & Quality

The Leaf’s a quiet hatchback, with space for four adults.

The Leaf is a small car, but it’s more spacious thanks to its all-electric drivetrain. With no engine or transmission tunnel, interior space spreads out to hold four adults in good comfort. We give the Leaf an extra point for cargo space under its hatchback, for a 6 here.

Nissan fitted new front seats to the Leaf when it was redesigned a few years ago, and they have more bolstering and firm padding, but they still lack support at the shoulders. There’s enough room in front for tall drivers, but the Leaf’s steering wheel doesn’t have a telescope function.

In back, Nissan carves out 33.5 inches of leg room, which is on the smaller side for similar hatchbacks. The tall roof grants bigger passengers fine head room—6-footers can sit behind 6-footers. It’s just not very wide, which means more than two adults in back will be tight for space.

Behind the rear seat the Leaf has 23.6 cubic feet of cargo space. Fold that bench forward and it’s good for 30 cubic feet.

The Leaf is no luxury car, but it’s blessed with a quiet interior thanks to electric power. Interior materials are better than in the Versa or Sentra, but the difference is minimal—though the Leaf’s price tag is considerably higher.

Review continues below
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2021 Nissan Leaf

Safety

Crash tests aren’t complete, but the Nissan Leaf’s already a winner.

How safe is the Nissan Leaf?

The Nissan Leaf earns a five-star rating from the NHTSA—and combined with standard automatic emergency braking and available driver-assist features, it’s an 8 here.

The IIHS has yet to report scores for the Leaf. 

Other standard safety gear includes blind-spot monitors and active lane control. Leaf SV and SL cars get adaptive cruise control and Nissan ProPilot Assist, which helps stop, start, and steer the Leaf in stop-and-go traffic and on long drives. It’s a helpful system but it beeps incessantly when it detects lane changes and cars ahead in the lane.

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2021 Nissan Leaf

Features

The Leaf’s stocked well in less expensive versions.

Every Nissan Leaf comes with good infotainment and standard features. We give it a 7 here, since its options and warranty are just average.

Which Nissan Leaf should I buy?

The base $32,545 Leaf S has 16-inch wheels, cloth upholstery, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. It’s covered by a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty and an 8-year/100,000-mile battery warranty. Add $6,600 and Nissan will turn that into a Leaf Plus with the bigger battery pack.

We recommend the $41,395 Leaf SV Plus, which has navigation, adaptive cruise control, fast-charging, and 17-inch wheels. Options include a cold-weather package and upgraded headlights.

How much is a fully loaded Nissan Leaf?

The $44,845 Leaf Plus SL gains most of that equipment as standard, and adds leather upholstery, a power driver set, LED headlights, a surround-view camera system, and ProPilot Assist.

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2021 Nissan Leaf

Fuel Economy

The Leaf’s among the most efficient vehicles you can buy.

The Leaf runs on electricity alone, and that makes it one of the greenest new-car choices. We give it a 10 based on its EV range of more than 200 miles in the more popular Plus edition.

The base Leaf is rated at 149 miles of range. In Plus spec, it’s good for 215 or 226 miles of all-electric driving, depending on wheel size and added equipment that saps range. That’s good, but well below cars like the extended-range Mustang Mach-E, Tesla Model 3, and Chevy Bolt EV.

The Leaf Plus can pull an 80-percent recharge on a Level 2 240-volt charger in under 12 hours. On 50-kw fast-charging, it can do the same in about 45 minutes.

Review continues below
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$31,670
MSRP based on S Hatchback
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7.2
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 6
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 6
Safety 8
Features 7
Fuel Economy 10
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2021 Nissan Leaf Pricing Insights

  • 2021 Nissan LEAF includes both 40kWh and 62kWh options
  • Lease: From $199 per month for 36 months
  • Rebates: Up to $7,500 off + eligible for tax credits
  • Finance: From 0% APR for 72 months + $6,000 bonus
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