2023 Nissan Leaf First Look: Wild New Wheels, Illuminated Badge, Same Batteries
As the first true EV made by a major manufacturer—not just as a limited model or something for the buyer looking to invest in a startup—the 2010 Nissan Leaf was an early staple of low-priced, electrified vehicles for the masses. Just over 12 years and 500,000 cars later, the 2023 Nissan Leaf bows at the 2022 New York International Auto Show with some updated styling and a streamlined lineup that’s down to two trim levels, the Leaf S and Leaf SV Plus; the range-topping SL offered for 2022 is gone.
Since its generation changeover in 2017, the Nissan Leaf has become a rather handsome looking thing, at least for a compact five-door hatchback. While the Leaf’s driving range has increasingly left more to be desired—the rest of the EV world, including other affordable EVs, have long since passed it by—it has always remained a good deal for those looking to purchase their first EV, as it offered many trim packages to choose from and, last year, Nissan slashed prices drastically.
Now, however, it looks like Nissan is consolidating the Leaf lineup even further into affordable territory, reducing the trim levels from three—each with range extending “Plus” versions—down to just two: the S and SV Plus, with the S limited to the smaller 40-kWh battery and the SV getting the 62-kWh pack. Nissan claims that this “tailored” lineup “reflects the most consumer-requested features and technologies” with “the best value.”
A Better Leaf On The Wind, But Will It Soar?
To coincide with offering only two new trims, the 2023 Leaf features updated looks that work to equally enhance its aerodynamics. The front grille, bumper molding, and headlights feature a black inner finish to help contrast itself from the 2022 model. The “Nissan” badge—as with any model that’s going EV nowadays—is also now illuminated and in the new and simplified design Nissan is carrying on with. To help it cut through the air, its aerodynamic parts have been reshaped for better flow.
The tire deflectors, rear under diffuser, and rear spoiler are all modified from the 2022 model and allow the Leaf to truly slip as it sips energy from its battery pack. On the SV Plus version, a new set of five-spoke, 17-inch wheels feature a more aggressive look without interfering with the aerodynamic profile of the Leaf. While some of us here at MotorTrend do like the new design, others feel the there’s too much black for the tiny amount of machining on the wheel. It’s a very drastic design, regardless, and in motion they don’t look horrible and the machining does bring some contrast when the SV Plus’ wheels are rolling.
Familiar Interior Space
Inside, the Leaf hasn’t changed much but the steering wheel features the newest “Nissan” badging and start-up video of the instrument panel has changed. Both the S and SV Plus feature black cloth with gray finishes on the S and gloss black finishes on the SV Plus differentiate the two trims inside. The SV Plus also features ProPilot Assist, which includes the “stop and hold” function that brings the Leaf to a complete stop, hold, and return to speed when traffic moves again.
Powering This Green Leaf
Looks like Nissan is not budging on the Leaf’s smallish battery pack options, though like we mentioned earlier, the packs are now trim-specific—a 40-kWh on the S and the 62-kWh on the SV Plus. The automaker also is sticking with its old-style charging connector as the CHAdeMO plug remains, along with the J1772 Level 2 AC charger for the U.S. This means you’ll either have to charge overnight or while you work using Level 2 AC or hope to find a CHAdeMO charger that will potentially take up to 45 minutes to reach 80 percent. That’s if its 100-kW rate remains from 2022. Why Nissan remains committed to this harder-to-find and slower system over the more available and faster CCS Fast Charging System remains a mystery to us, especially since the upcoming Ariya will skip CHAdeMO for that quicker infrastructure. Why couldn’t the Leaf get it, too?
With a 110-kW motor in the S, that entry-level model puts down 147 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque while the SV Plus uses a 160-kW motor (214 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque). Range figures for either car have not been released yet, but we’re fully expecting the same performance as the 2022 model, and Nissan hints at as much in its announcement. That means the 2023 Leaf S should come close to 140 miles per charge with its 40-kWh battery, while the SV Plus and its 62-kWh battery lays down about 220 miles.
Small battery choices and slower “fast charger” aside, the 2023 Nissan Leaf still looks great in this current field of EVs. If Nissan can keep the price close to the 2022 Leaf, something it indicates it plans on doing, then the Leaf still offers a great deal for first time EV buyers and those who don’t need stratospheric range numbers. We’d still just like to see a bigger battery and a higher charge rate on an easier-to-find charging network. Or, you know, a powerful all-wheel-drive NISMO Leaf would be hilarious, too.
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