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2016 Nissan Leaf Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2016 Nissan Leaf was new.


Performance: 7.5

According to test drivers, the 2016 Nissan Leaf handles confidently with a smooth ride quality, and drives quietly as well. Acceleration is good for short trips around town, but is less capable for highway passing or cruising.

  • "The Leaf rides on a dedicated EV platform with a multilink front suspension and a torsion beam setup at the rear. Handling is predictable, and acceleration is strong from a dead stop thanks to the nearly-instantaneous torque from the electric motor." -- Left Lane News (2015)
  • "Absent an internal combustion engine, the all-electric 2015 Nissan Leaf cruises with a quiet serenity at all times, with only a vague high-pitched whine audible under heavy acceleration. The lack of engine noise vibration makes wind and road noise that much more noticeable at highway speeds, but overall Nissan's EV is impressively hushed." -- Edmunds (2015)
  • "Whether in stop-and-go traffic, on windy roads or at higher speeds on the freeway, the Leaf is a capable yet mostly unremarkable partner - and we mean that in a good way." -- Kelley Blue Book (2014)

Acceleration and Power

The 2016 Nissan Leaf has a 107-horsepower electric motor. The base S model comes with a 24-kWh battery that provides an EPA-estimated range of 84 miles, which is good for an electric vehicle. The SV and SL models have a new 30-kWh battery that increases the range to 107 miles, which is excellent for the class. According to the EPA, the base Leaf gets 126/101 mpg-equivalent (mpg-e) city/highway, which is good for the class. The SV and SL models get 124/101. Click here to learn more about mpg-e.

Reviewers say the Leaf has adequate but unimpressive power for highway driving. The Leaf has decent acceleration around town, according to critics, and they note that it operates quietly.

  • While it can be a little slow, highway merging is acceptable, as is passing." --AutoTrader
  • "[G]etting up to highway speeds can feel a little belabored. Many newer EV or hybrid competitors are a bit quicker." -- Edmunds (2015)
  • "The first thing you'll notice about the 2014 Nissan Leaf is its smooth, quiet operation. Since there's no gasoline engine, there's none of the associated noise or vibration." -- Kelley Blue Book (2014)
  • "Instantaneous torque from a stop means Leaf accelerates about as well as its gas-powered competition, with better low-end throttle response than most. Merging and passing response are on par with most 4-cylinder compact cars." -- Consumer Guide (2012)


The 2016 Nissan Leaf comes standard with a 3.6-kW onboard charger. A more powerful 6.6-kW charger is optional. Charging time varies significantly based on charger type, battery capacity and power source. With the base charger, base 24-kWh battery and a standard 110-volt household outlet, it takes about 21 hours to fully charge the Leaf’s battery. With the base battery and charger and a 240-volt outlet, which can be installed in your home, charging time is reduced to four hours. Charging time is slower with the larger 30-kWh battery. With the optional Fast Charge port and a Fast Charge power source (available at some public charging stations), you can charge your battery to 80 percent in 30 minutes.

Handling and Braking

The 2016 Leaf has a comfortable ride and unexpectedly composed handling, according to critics. They also appreciate its light yet communicative steering and responsive brakes.

  • "The ride is supple, and while steering is light, it provides adequate feedback to the driver." -- AutoTrader
  • "The Leaf's brake pedal is firm and sure, however, without the vague wooden feel of many regenerative braking systems. And with its battery placement and low center of gravity, the Leaf is surprisingly steady around turns. It responds pretty much like other well-engineered compact cars, and in most ways feels very normal to drive." -- Edmunds (2015)
  • "The Leaf's low-rolling-resistance tires have more grip than expected, allowing a modicum of spirited cornering." -- Kelley Blue Book (2014)

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