Around since late 2010, the Nissan Leaf has yet to receive an overhaul, but while a second-generation model might still be a few years away, the Japanese did launch an update for the 2016 model year. Those of you waiting for a visual facelift will be disappointed, though, as the body carries over unchanged. On the other hand, there are plenty of upgrades to talk about in the drivetrain department, as well as a mildly updated interior.
With 180,000 units sold globally as of June 2015, the Nissan Leaf is the world’s all-time, best-selling, highway-capable electric car, a distinction it’s likely to retain following this update. The 2014 Nissan Leaf topped the EV/hybrid segment in the U.S. too, delivering 30,200 examples in 2014, a massive 33 percent increase over 2013 and the first time an electric car has sold 30K units. By comparison, its closest competitors (in terms of sales, of course), the 2014 Chevrolet Volt and 2315 Tesla Model S, sold only 18,805 and 17,410 units, respectively.
Will Leaf sales continue to grow now that the hatchback can be had with an upgraded drivetrain? It remains to be seen really, but with a range that now surpasses the 100-mile mark, the Leaf is likely to get a lot of attention. Keep reading for the full details.
Continue reading to learn more about the 2016 Nissan Leaf.
Though most Nissans receive visual facelifts after four or five years, the Leaf remains unchanged for the 2016 model year. The Japanese do offer three new exterior colors, called Forged Bronze, Coulis Red and Deep Blue Pearl.
Track width front/rear
Angle of approach
Angle of departure
Coefficient of drag (Cd)
While exterior updates are basically nonexistent, the car’s interior received a lot more attention, especially in the technology and convenience departments. All trims gained upgraded entertainment system which Nissan says it’s more user-friendly than the previous version. The entry-level Leaf S got a five-inch color display with Bluetooth connectivity, audio streaming, hands-free text messaging, and NissanConnect, which includes mobile apps for Facebook, Pandora, and iHeart Radio.
Moving up the range, the SV and SL trims come with everything found in the Leaf S, but also feature a seven-inch display that supports multi-touch, voice recognition, navigation, SiriusXM satellite radio, and additional apps. The graphic interface of the display is also new, while the charging screen information is updated every 12 miles.
This is where the 2016 Leaf got its most important update, consisting of a boost to its battery capacity, which results in an increased range. Specifically, battery capacity was increased from 24 kWh to 30 kWh, giving the Leaf an EPA-estimated range of 107 miles on a single charge.
Battery capacity was increased from 24 kWh to 30 kWh, giving the Leaf an EPA-estimated range of 107 miles on a single charge.
That’s a 23-mile improvement over the outgoing model. However, the upgrade is only available if you opt for the more expensive SV and SL trims, meaning the entry-level S model still uses the 24-kWh battery pack.
Though the two packs are the same size and feature the same number of cells, the 30-kWh battery is 46 pounds heavier, making the Leafs using it slightly less efficient. While the S trim returns the same 126 city, 101 highway, and 114 combined mpge of the 2015 models, the SV and SL come with EPA estimates of 124 city, 101 highway, and 112 combined mpge fuel economy.
Despite this mild drop, the extended range is great news for the Leaf, which received a lot of heat for being able to travel for only 84 miles on a single charge until now.
While the battery gained a significant upgrade, the 80-kW AC synchronous motor remained unchanged, delivering the same 107 horsepower and 187 pound-feet of torque as the previous Leafs.
The 2016 Leaf comes with the same safety features as the previous model, including
driver airbag, passenger airbag, side head airbag, rear head airbag, Brake Assist, Electronic Stability Control, and child safety locks. The hatch received a four-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), it scored "Good" ratings in four out of five trials, receiving a "Poor" grade in the small overlap front crash test.
Pricing for the Leaf S starts from 29,010, which is carried over from the 2015 model year, but only because the entry-level model comes with the old battery. For the SV and SL, equipped with the updated 30-kWh battery, the sticker sits at $34,200 and $36,790, respectively, an increase of around $2,000 for both models. These prices don’t include the potential federal tax incentive of $7,500.
With the Tesla Model S definitely out of the Leaf’s league in terms of pricing and performance, the i-MiEV is more suited for this comparison, even though it’s significantly more affordable and less powerful than the Nissan. A bit smaller too, the i-MiEV features a rather odd (not to mention somewhat dated) appearance, and an interior that’s far from stunning. However, the I-MiEV is decent electric car, delivering 66 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque powered by a lithium-ion battery pack. Though it’s rated at 126 mpge city and 99 mpge highway, not far behind the Leaf, the i-MiEV will only cover 62 miles on a single charge. Pricing starts from $22,995 before the $7,500 federal tax credit.
Described as "an electric car with extended range" by GM, the Volt is actually a plug-in hybrid, and it uses a small gasoline engine as a range-extending generator. The electric motors crank out 149 horsepower and 294 pound-feet of torque in the redesigned 2016 model, and return an electric range of 50 miles. When the battery is depleted, the 101-horsepower, 1.5-liter engine kicks in to extend the range. Overall mileage, including fully charged batteries and a full tank of fuel, is estimated at an impressive 420 miles. The Volt retails from $33,995, but rebates can drop the net price to as low as $25,000, which is comparable to the 107-mile capable Leaf.
Though it’s not as good-looking, powerful, and quick as the Tesla Model S, the Nissan Leaf meets one very important criteria in today’s market: It’s affordable. This is probably why it is the best-selling electric car yet and will probably remain at the top until Tesla’s $35,000 2017 Tesla Model III hits the market. Despite using the same exterior since 2010 and having received just a mild tech update, the 2016 Leaf is actually big news, thanks to its enhanced battery pack and extended range. This update could lead the way to a second-gen model that returns up to 200 miles on a single charge.
Enhanced battery and range
No exterior updates
Not exactly quick
107-mile range is far from spectacular
Nissan was a pioneer in bringing electric vehicles (EVs) to the mass market when the first Nissan LEAF was delivered in December 2010. Nissan is again leading the charge with the new 2016 LEAF, featuring an available 30 kWh battery that provides an EPA-estimated best-in-class* range of 107** miles – a 27-percent increase over the previous 24 kWH battery.
With more than 185,000 current Nissan LEAF owners around the world, it’s clear that Nissan LEAF gives drivers the space and range to meet everyday needs; an exceptional value proposition due to zero spending on gas, lower operating and maintenance costs; and a starting price after tax incentives comparable to a similarly sized gas-powered car.
Along with saving money, Nissan LEAF owners commend its value as a primary everyday vehicle – with High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) access (check local regulations), range that is more than twice the average driver’s daily need*** and LEAF’s instant, smooth acceleration and fun-to-drive handling characteristics.
The Longer Range LEAF
For the 2016 model year, LEAF adds a number of significant enhancements – beginning with a new 30 kWh battery for LEAF SV and LEAF SL models that delivers an EPA-estimated driving range of 107 miles* on a fully charged battery. The range of a LEAF S model is 84 miles, giving buyers a choice in affordability and range.
"The new battery offers more advantages than just the 27 percent increase in driving range – it also offers improved battery performance," said Andrew Speaker, director, Nissan EV Sales & Marketing, Nissan North America, Inc. "Nissan has been a leading developer of lithium-ion battery technology for more than 20 years. The new LEAF battery is a great example of how rather than just increasing battery capacity, we’ve achieved a balance between capacity, packaging, durability and affordability."
Often when battery capacity is simply increased, the battery’s durability and compatibility with quick chargers may deteriorate. The new 30 kWh battery design adds capacity without increasing battery package size by improving the cell structure of the laminated lithium-ion battery cells. Improved electrode material with revised chemistry results in higher power density and contributes to enhanced battery durability upon charge and discharge.
While the 24 kWh battery is composed of four cells per module (192 cells total), the new 30 kWh battery’s modules contain eight newly designed cells per module (192 cells total). Unlike conventional cylindrical batteries, the thin, compact laminated cells offer more flexibility in packaging and design applications. The 30 kWh battery pack weighs just 46 pounds more than the 24 kWh battery pack and has the same battery pack size and footprint.
The battery powers a high-response 80kW AC synchronous motor, rated at 107 horsepower and 187 lb-ft of torque, which drives the front wheels through a single-speed reducer. The 2016 LEAF SV and SL have MPGe ratings of 124 city, 101 highway and 112 combined fuel economy, while LEAF S has MPGe ratings of 126 city, 101 highway and 114 combined.
Additional Enhancements for the 2016 LEAF
The new battery is only the beginning of the enhancements to the 2016 LEAF. Audio, entertainment and connectivity features have been upgraded, starting with the addition of standard NissanConnectSM with Mobile Apps with 5.0-inch color display for LEAF S models. The system includes Bluetooth® Hands-free Phone System, Streaming audio via Bluetooth®, Hands-free Text Messaging Assistant and USB connection port for iPod® interface and other compatible devices.
2016 LEAF SV and SL grades add standard NissanConnect with Navigation, Mobile Apps and EV – featuring a 7.0-inch color display with multi-touch control, Nissan Voice Recognition for navigation and audio, HD radio, and SiriusXM Travel LinkTM for weather, fuel prices, movie listings, stock info and sports (SiriusXM subscription required, sold separately). The menu screen graphics and customization process have been improved and charging screen information is now automatically updated every time the ignition is turned on and with every 12 miles of driving.
The NissanConnect EV telematics system (no-charge subscription required) allows remote connection to the vehicle, providing monitoring of battery state-of-charge, start charging event control and turning on the heating and air conditioning system prior to entering the vehicle.
Other enhancements for 2016 include a new graphic interface display with improved readability and improved voice recognition system performance with the new beam forming microphone and one-shot functionality. Both the LEAF owner website and mobile app have been updated with new features and a more user-friendly interface.
"The enhancements to the 2016 LEAF in terms of graphic interface design and user friendliness are significant," added Speaker. "We’ve listened to our owners and added features they can use every day, such as the automatic updating of charging stations while driving and one-shot destination entry with voice recognition."
In addition, three new premium-look exterior colors (eight total) have been added for 2016: Forged Bronze, Coulis Red and Deep Blue Pearl.
A Dedicated EV Platform, Two Available Battery Sizes
As in previous years, the front-wheel drive LEAF uses a dedicated Nissan EV platform with batteries housed in the floor for optimum vehicle packaging and weight distribution. The body design includes a rigid-mounted battery frame, which helps provide greater body rigidity compared to a conventional compact car.
Nissan LEAF rides on a 106.3-inch wheelbase, with a 175.0-inch overall length, 69.7-inch width and 61.0-inch height. LEAF provides room for five adults and 24 cubic feet of cargo space. Placing the batteries in the floor of the vehicle provides optimum weight distribution to help enhance handling and allows for five-passenger seating by not intruding into the cabin space.
The 2016 Nissan LEAF offers a number of charging options. A charge port is located in the front body for the 240V charger and portable trickle-charge cable (110V). A charge port light and lock are standard. The available Quick Charge Port (standard on SV and SL, optional on S) allows charging to 80 percent capacity in about 30 minutes at public charging stations using a CHAdeMO fast charger. There is also a standard photovoltaic solar panel spoiler on SL models, which supports charging of the 12-volt battery for vehicle accessories.
LEAF SV and SL grades feature a 6.6 kW onboard charger that, using a 240V outlet, will charge the battery to 100 percent in about six hours. The system is an option on LEAF S, which in standard form utilizes a 3.6 kW onboard charger. All LEAF models come with a standard portable trickle charge cable.
Unlike a conventional internal combustion engine, LEAF has virtually 100 percent of its torque available from start, delivering smooth, consistent acceleration and driving feel similar to a conventional V6 engine. Smooth ride and handling are provided through use of an independent strut suspension with stabilizer bar in front and a torsion beam rear suspension with integrated stabilizer bar. Nissan LEAF utilizes a vehicle-speed-sensitive electric power steering system, while responsive braking is provided by power-assisted front vented disc/solid rear disc brakes with Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist.
The standard regenerative braking system in LEAF helps increase range. By applying the brakes or reducing speed by letting off the accelerator, the electric motor acts as an electric generator, converting energy that would otherwise be wasted into battery energy. The "B-mode" (standard on all grades) allows the driver to engage an even more aggressive level of regenerative braking while decelerating, such as when going down hills. B-mode is offered in addition to the normal and Eco drive modes.
Because Nissan LEAF does not have an internal combustion engine, Nissan has incorporated an "Approaching Vehicle Sound for Pedestrians" system, which is designed to alert pedestrians that a vehicle is approaching.
When driving at low speeds, the system emits a sound from a speaker at the front of the vehicle. When the vehicle’s speed reaches 19 mph, pedestrians are able to hear the car moving and the "approaching sound" automatically turns off. If the vehicle speed drops below 16 mph, the sound comes on again.
Uniquely Styled Exterior
The Nissan LEAF exterior features a fusion of sophisticated aerodynamic management with the design freedom provided by the EV layout. The smooth, elegant movement of the body starts from the low, compact hood, moves through the iconic shoulder character line and on toward the large rear spoiler. The long, up-slanting headlights split and redirect airflow away from the door mirrors, reducing wind noise and drag.
LED low-beam headlights, which consume about half of the electricity of halogen headlights, are standard on LEAF SL. Heated outside mirrors are standard on SV and SL grades. In the rear, the slim-type aerodynamic LED taillight design and crisp corners combine with the aerodynamic rear bumper with rear diffuser to manage the aerodynamics of the rear end without compromising rear interior roominess. Nissan LEAF’s coefficient of drag is 0.28.
The exterior also utilizes a flat underbody (including a large front flat floor cover, electric motor area undercover, front undercover and rear diffuser with fins) to help manage airflow under the vehicle. An innovative vortex-shedding, roof-mounted antenna is one of many design elements used to help reduce wind noise. Other noise-reduction features include a quiet-operation windshield wiper motor, a sound-insulation windshield design and a dual-isolated, motor-mounting system. The five-door hatchback design also features chrome door handles, aerodynamic outside mirrors and a large greenhouse to provide a bright interior environment.
Two different wheel designs are offered: 16-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers for LEAF S and split five-spoke, 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels for LEAF SV and SL. Bridgestone Ecopia 205/55R16 all-season tires are used with the S grade, while 215/50R17 Michelin Energy Saver all-season tires are standard on SV and SL.
Eight exterior colors are available: the new premium-look Forged Bronze, Coulis Red and Deep Blue Pearl, along with Gun Metallic, Brilliant Silver, Super Black, Glacier White and Pearl White.
Distinctive "EV Touch" Interior
The roomy Nissan LEAF interior offers a pleasingly modern design with a bright, welcoming atmosphere. The wide, high tech instrument panel design is dominated by a twin combination meter display in front of the driver and a center "floating" C-stack with a 5.0-inch color LCD display (S grade) for use with the standard NissanConnect with Mobile Apps.
The digital "eyebrow" display at the top of the instrument panel provides high visibility for the Eco indicator and speedometer, while the lower liquid crystal meter display houses the percentage style state-of-charge meter, power meter, battery temperature gauge, multi-function display, remaining energy gauge, capacity level gauge and distance-to-empty display.
A 7.0-inch display with multi-touch control is standard on SV and SL grades. The flat panel center C-stack cluster includes the color monitor for the standard RearView Monitor and control of the audio and climate systems, as well as the Around View® Monitor (available on SV and SL).
Standard on SV and SL grades is the Nissan Navigation System with NavTraffic (SiriusXM subscription required, sold separately). EV-IT highlights include an "Eco route" feature for the available navigation system that includes suggested power-saving alternative routes, plus Google® local search and iPod® cover art.
The system also displays "reachable area," as well as showing a selection of nearby charging stations, which is updated with every 12 miles of driving.
The Google Places search function allows LEAF owners to look for area restaurants, shops and other points of interest and browse user reviews using Google’s POI database to get the most up-to-date information at all times.
The 7.0-inch display also provides access to the NissanConnect EV telematics system telematics system (standard on SV and SL), which allows for a remote connection to the vehicle. Nissan LEAF drivers can use web-enabled mobile phones to turn on climate control and set charging functions remotely (SV and SL models only), even when the vehicle is powered down. An onboard timer can also be programmed to start the charging event (standard on all grades).
With the standard Hands-Free Text Messaging Assistant (part of NissanConnect with Mobile Apps), drivers can manage incoming text messages via voice control without taking their hands from the wheel or eyes off the road. Drivers are alerted to an incoming text and, after initiating the system, can hear the text read out loud and respond via voice recognition, or via the steering wheel switches using pre-set answers such as "driving, can’t text," "on my way," "running late," "okay" or a custom message.
The Nissan LEAF interior also includes standard heated front bucket seats and a 60/40 split folding rear seat and rear HVAC duct. LEAF SV seat fabric is made with bio-PET materials, which are also used for the back door trim, roof trim and headliner, carpeting and a number of other interior pieces such as the door panels and center console storage cover. LEAF SL includes standard leather-appointed seats. Rear cargo space measures a full 24 cubic feet with the 2nd row seat upright. There is 30 cubic feet of cargo space with the standard 60/40-split rear seat folded down.
The center console area includes the palm shifter for the "shift by wire" drive selector. The standard three-spoke, steering wheel (heated and leather-wrapped on SV and SL grades) houses controls for cruise control (now standard on all grades), audio system and standard Bluetooth® Hands-free Phone System. SiriusXM Satellite Radio (SiriusXM subscription required, sold separately) is also standard, with HomeLink® Universal Transceiver standard on SL models.
Three audio systems are offered, starting with an AM/FM/CD with MP3/WMA CD playback capability, four speakers and 5.0-inch color LCD display for LEAF S. LEAF SV and SL add two additional speakers and the 7.0-inch display. The Energy Efficient Series Bose® premium audio system with seven speakers is part of the Premium Package option on SV and SL grade vehicles.
Two interior colors are offered: Black (S, SV, SL) or Light Gray (SV only).
Standard LEAF safety systems include Nissan Advanced Air Bag System (AABS) with dual-stage supplemental front air bags with seat belt sensors and occupant classification sensor, front seat-mounted side impact supplemental air bags, roof-mounted curtain side impact supplemental air bags for front and rear-seat outboard occupant head protection, three-point ALR/ELR seat belts (driver’s seat ELR only) with pretensioners and load limiters, child seat upper tether anchor, LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) system and child safety rear door locks. Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and Traction Control System (TCS) are also standard on all LEAF models.
Three Well-Equipped Models, Two Option Packages
The 2016 Nissan LEAF is offered in three well-equipped models, LEAF S, LEAF SV and LEAF SL. Standard features include a six-way manual driver’s seat, four-way manual front passenger’s seat, trip computer (instant and average energy consumption, driving time, outside temperature and autonomy range), Automatic Temperature Control (ATC), center console storage, RearView Monitor and 3.6 kW onboard charger. Other standard equipment includes Nissan Intelligent Key® with Push Button Start, power windows with driver’s window one-touch auto up/down, power door locks with auto locking feature, remote charge port door release, two cupholders, four bottle holders, variable intermittent windshield wipers, a 12-volt power outlet and 16-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers and NissanConnect with Mobile Apps.
The Nissan LEAF SV model adds the 30 kWh battery, Quick Charge Port, 6.6 kW onboard charger, NissanConnect with Navigation and Mobile Apps, NissanConnect EV, 7.0-inch color display with multi-touch control, six-speaker audio system, a hybrid heater system that provides superior cold weather performance while consuming less energy, auto-dimming inside mirror, heated outside mirrors and steering wheel, partially recycled cloth seat fabric, passenger side map pocket and 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.
The 2016 LEAF SL model adds a photovoltaic solar panel spoiler, fog lights, LED low beam auto on/off headlights, cargo cover, HomeLink® Universal Transceiver, leather-appointed seats, heated rear seat and cargo cover.
Just two option packages are offered. The Quick Charge Package (S grade only) includes the 6.6 kW onboard charger and Quick Charge Port, while the Premium Package (SV and SL grades) offers the advanced Around View® Monitor and Energy Efficient Series Bose® seven-speaker audio.
A Roadside Assistance program is offered for 36 months at no charge. The advanced lithium-ion battery pack carries an industry-competitive limited warranty**** of eight years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first. Under the New Electric Vehicle Limited Warranty, Nissan will protect against battery capacity loss below nine bars of capacity as shown on the vehicle’s battery capacity level gauge for the first eight years or 100,000 miles for the 30 kWh battery and for the first five years or 60,000 miles, for the 24 kWh battery.
The 2016 Nissan LEAF is assembled in the United States at Nissan’s Smyrna, Tenn., assembly plant, with battery assembly taking place next door.