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2017 Nissan Leaf Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2017 Nissan Leaf was new.


Performance: 7.5

The 2017 Nissan Leaf is well-suited to city driving. It pulls away from traffic lights quickly thanks to the electric motor's instantaneous power. The Leaf is easy to maneuver in tight spaces, and it offers a comfortable ride.

  • "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)
  • "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)
  • "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

Unlike gasoline-powered cars that have engines of varying sizes under the hood, the 2017 Leaf is instead propelled by an electric motor that makes 107 horsepower. A single-speed transmission is paired with the electric motor. On a full charge, the Leaf can be driven up to 107 miles. That's significantly better than the electric-only ranges of plug-in hybrid rivals like the Chevrolet Volt or Toyota Prius Prime, but it's less than the all-electric BMW i3's range. The Leaf's 112 mpg-equivalent fuel efficiency beats the Volt's 106 mpg-e but falls short of the i3 and Prius Prime's fuel economy estimates.

Electric motors are able to deliver all their power instantaneously, whereas gas engines have a power curve that starts low from a complete stop. This means the Leaf has brisk acceleration off the line, making it perfect for darting through city traffic. Power is less impressive on the highway, but it's still adequate for overtaking other cars or merging from an on-ramp. Because there's no gas engine under the hood, the Leaf is incredibly quiet when on the go.

  • "Thanks to its torque-happy electric powertrain, the Leaf is quick off the line and rather sprightly. However, to achieve the promised 107-mile range, one should avoid hard acceleration." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • While it can be a little slow, highway merging is acceptable, as is passing." --Autotrader (2016)
  • "… getting up to highway speeds can feel a little belabored. Many newer EV or hybrid competitors are a bit quicker." -- Edmunds (2015)


Using the standard 3.6-kW onboard charger and a 110-volt outlet, it will take around 26 hours to fully charge the Leaf's 30-kWh lithium-ion battery. With the optional 6.6-kW charger and a 220-volt outlet, charging time is reduced to around six hours. Using a fast charger (found at some public charging stations), the battery can be charged to 80 percent in as little as 30 minutes. The Toyota Prius Prime and Chevrolet Volt have shorter charge times, but they are plug-in hybrids and have shorter driving ranges than the Leaf.

Handling and Braking

The Leaf's suspension is tuned primarily for ride comfort, and it smooths out rough patches of road. The Leaf is still reasonably agile, thanks to its small size and low center of gravity. Unlike the regenerative brakes in some hybrid and EV competitors, the Leaf's regenerative brakes are reassuringly strong and don't feel mushy or grabby. The Leaf has front-wheel drive.

  • "The ride is supple, and while steering is light, it provides adequate feedback to the driver." -- Autotrader (2016)
  • "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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