2020 Nissan Leaf

2020 Nissan Leaf Review: Honest Entry Into World Of EVs

by Michael Butler

The Nissan Leaf was one of the first modern electric vehicles to crack the broader car buying market when it was first introduced to the US market back in 2010. We Are now entering a new decade, and the Nissan Leaf is more capable than ever, but instead of trying to compete in the premium class against the likes of the BMW i3 and Jaguar I-Pace, the Leaf keeps things humble, and relatively low-priced. We aren't big fans of the exterior styling and plastic-filled interior, but the Leaf does offer good in-town performance, a competitive range, and a number of standard features such as pedestrian detection and blind-spot assist that makes this little EV worth every penny. A Tesla Model 3 will blow the doors off of this electric hatchback, and the Chevy Bolt might look better, but the Leaf offers an honest and affordable entry into the world of electric motoring.

2020 Nissan Leaf Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2019 Leaf?

The new Nissan Leaf gets a good helping of fresh feature upgrades for the new decade. Those who own, or have experienced a Leaf will be happy to learn that the sub-par five- and seven-inch infotainment displays have been replaced with a more contemporary eight-inch unit, and all models now feature standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Driver assistance features that were optional on last years' car are now standard; these include automatic forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, automatic headlights, rear auto braking, lane-departure warning, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert. The low-speed chime of the Leaf has also been replaced by something more audible, but a track off of Slayer's 1986 classic, Reign In Blood, would've likely had better effect.

Pros and Cons

  • Competitive driving range on extended range models
  • There's lots of space inside
  • Available semi-autonomous driving mode
  • Effortless acceleration
  • Back seats don't fold flat
  • It's not the most entertaining to drive
  • Lower spec models don't have the best range
  • Sound systems lack punch

2020 Nissan Leaf Trims

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
S
Electric
Single Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$31,600
SV
Electric
Single Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$34,190
S PLUS
Electric
Single Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$38,200
SV PLUS
Electric
Single Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$39,750
SL PLUS
Electric
Single Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$43,900

2020 Nissan Leaf Exterior

Let's be honest; the Nissan Leaf has never been an icon of design or good looks. It's as if being an EV gives you the right to let yourself go. The second-generation car, which has been around since 2017, is definitely a far more attractive car than the abomination that was the first Leaf, and its sharper edges and more aggressive front end brings it in line with its contemporaries; still, the Tesla Model 3 makes it look like runner up at a county-fair beauty contest. All but the range-topping SL Plus get auto on/off halogen headlights, while the SL Plus lights the way with LED headlights with LED signature daytime running lights. All trim levels get power side mirrors, and SL Plus cars add heating. SV, SV Plus, and SL Plus cars feature a set of foglights, and all Leaf trim levels get a charge port with light and lock, as well as UV-reducing solar glass. 16-inch wheels are standard, upgrading to 17s on higher trims.

2020 Nissan Leaf Front Angle View Nissan
2020 Nissan Leaf Front Angle View 1 Nissan
2020 Nissan Leaf Side View Nissan
See All 2020 Nissan Leaf Exterior Photos

Dimensions

Compared to popular EV cars such as the Chevy Bolt and Tesla 3, the Nissan Leaf slots somewhere in the middle in terms of its dimensions. Its total length of 176.4 inches is over ten inches longer than the Bolt, but the Tesla Model 3 is around eight inches longer. Total width comes in at 70.5 inches, and the Leaf sits 61.4 inches off the ground, but SV and SL models sit slightly higher at 61.6 inches. The leaf rolls on a 106.3-inch wheelbase and weighs in at 3,433 pounds in base form, and steadily picks up weight as you climb up the trim ladder, ending with 3,853 lbs for the SL Plus.

  • Length 176.4 in
  • Wheelbase 106.3 in
  • Height 61.4 in
  • Max Width 70.5 in
  • Front Width 60.6 in
  • Rear Width 61.2 in

Exterior Colors

Nissan gives new owners a choice between a mature color palette that suits its demure exterior design, and a few out there options that shout "look at me, I drive electric." Base models are available with a limited choice which includes Glacier White, Brilliant Silver Metallic, and Gun Metallic. Moving up to the SV opens up an exciting range of colors which helps to lift the Leaf out of the styling doldrums; two-tone Pearl White Tricoat and Super Black look sporty, and Sunset Drift Chromaflair, a cool-looking orange, stands out as one of the best. You'll have to pay a $395 premium for some of the more exotic colors. If it were up to us, we'd have one in two-tone black and white.

  • Brilliant Silver Metallic
  • Glacier White
  • Gun Metallic
  • Super Black
  • Deep Blue Pearl
  • Scarlet Ember Tintcoat
  • Pearl White Tricoat
  • 2-Tone White/Black

Leaf Performance

The Leaf electric car delivers the kind of performance that we've come to know and love about EVs. Acceleration is instantaneous and leads one to believe that this little eco-friendly car is much quicker than it actually is, making city driving a pleasure; you'll be able to exploit gaps in traffic better than a lot of turbocharged performance hatches. Once the Leaf is up to cruising speed on the highway it still has enough pep to get around slow-moving trucks and Sunday drivers. Independent testing has shown a 0 to 60 time below eight seconds, but it feels much faster when you're behind the wheel. First-time drivers will have to learn to balance addictive acceleration with battery life: flooring the Leaf at every stoplight and pushing it to top speed will result in a serious drop in range.

2020 Nissan Leaf Front Angle View 2 Nissan
2020 Nissan Leaf Charge Port Nissan
2020 Nissan Leaf Engine Bay Nissan

Engine and Transmission

The base model and SV, is powered by a 110 kW AC synchronous electric motor, which develops 147 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque and is mated with a 40 kWh lithium-ion battery. Power is sent to the front wheels via a single-speed transmission. The Leaf has some nifty tricks up its sleeve such as its e-Pedal system which is able to toggle between two regenerative braking modes: one lets you coast without any resistance when you lift your foot off the throttle, the other uses the resistance of the motor to slow the car down at an impressive rate. If the 110 kW power plant sounds a bit underpowered, Plus model cars offer a 160 kW motor that develops 214 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque and comes with a bigger 62 kWh battery. Plus trim Leaf cars don't feel nippy when you stomp on the loud pedal - they feel fast. The low-output power plant should offer enough power to satisfy most needs. The 6.6 kW onboard charger gets things going at a much quicker rate than the first-gen car, and Nissan includes a 120-volt portable trickle charger on S and SV cars, while a 120/240-volt comes standard on SV Plus. Plus-monikered models also get a higher output quick charge port than the entry-spec trim.

  • Engine
    Electric
  • Transmission
    Single Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrain
    FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

Driving a Leaf is a serene experience. There are no V8 rumbles or turbo flutters here; the only sound you'll hear is a bit of tire noise, and You Raise Me Up by Josh Groban, a standard feature on all Nissan Leaf models. The Leaf is clearly set up to deliver a comfortable ride, especially with the active ride control set in its most cushy setting. That doesn't mean that its a complete boat; it will remain composed at high speed and always feels planted, but try to drive it like a sports car, and it will quickly remind you that it's not. The electrically assisted power steering is as light as a feather, which is a boon for city driving, but it just adds to the fact that the Leaf is no Porsche Boxster. If you want a more engaging driving experience, then we'd suggest looking at the athletic Tesla 3.

Leaf Gas Mileage

Electric cars are getting closer to offering the same range as traditional gas-powered cars, but the Leaf is still some ways off, even with the bigger battery onboard. Resist the urge to drive the Leaf like a rented golf cart, and you should see top mileage figures of 123/99/111 mpg city/highway/combined on S and SV models, according to the manufacturer. That number drops down to 118/97/108 on the more powerful S Plus and drops down even further to 114/94/104 on SV Plus and SL Plus cars. According to Nissan, the Leaf will get up to 226 miles on a single charge in its most economic guise, but real-world driving tends to see those numbers drop. These numbers are disappointing when you compare them to the Tesla 3 Long Range with its 322-mile range. Charging the battery to 80% takes just under an hour at a Quick Charge station, but filling up with protons on a standard household charger is a lengthy, overnight exercise.

  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 124/99 mpg
* 2020 Nissan Leaf S Hatchback

2020 Nissan Leaf Interior

There's nothing special about the interior design of the newest Nissan Leaf, in fact, it comes across as a bit utilitarian; all knobs and buttons are logically lain out, and you won't struggle to find what you're looking for, but compared to the competition, it is underwhelming, especially when compared to the beautifully elegant Tesla 3. For 2020, standard interior features across the range include automatic climate control, keyless entry with push-button start, rear door alert, and sun visors with vanity mirrors and extensions. All trim levels up to SV Plus get a six-way manually adjustable driver's bucket seat, and SL Plus cars get an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat with two-way adjustable lumbar settings. All trim levels get a four-way manually adjustable front passenger's seat, driver assistance features such as automatic forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, automatic headlights, rear auto braking, lane-departure warning, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert are standard on all trim levels for 2020 - impressive stuff. At the top end of the lineup, premium features such as adaptive cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink, and a hybrid heater system become standard.

2020 Nissan Leaf Dashboard Nissan
2020 Nissan Leaf Steering Wheel Controls Nissan
2020 Nissan Leaf Rear Passenger Seats Nissan
See All 2020 Nissan Leaf Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

The Leaf will seat five adults, and front-seat passengers will appreciate the heavily cushioned seats and generous legroom, but unfortunately, the same can't be said about the rear, which gets tight and won't be the most comfortable place for adults to sit on longer journeys. Headroom in the front is measured at a roomy 41.2 inches, while those in the rear get 37.3; there is 54.3 inches of shoulder room in the front and 52.5 in the rear. Legroom comes in at 42.1/33.5 front to back. It's worth noting that both the Chevrolet Bolt EV and the Tesla 3 offer more legroom in the back.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 42.1 in
  • Front Head Room 41.2 in
  • Rear Leg Room 33.5 in
  • Rear Head Room 37.3 in

Interior Colors and Materials

The interior of the 2020 Nissan Leaf is awash with plastics, but to Nissan's credit, interior panels fit snugly, and there's no hint of squeaks and rattles when out on the road. More premium models such as the Tesla Model 3, Jaguar I-Pace, and Audi e-tron offer more refined interiors if that's what you're after. All trim levels up to and including the SV Plus come standard with cloth upholstery, more specifically black cloth, which has a quality feel. Only the SL Plus car is available with leather seats, and owners will have a choice between light gray, or black leather. SV models get a grippy leather-covered steering wheel, as do SV Plus and SL Plus cars.

Leaf Trunk and Cargo Space

The Nissan Leaf offers more cargo space than most other non-SUV type electric vehicles, and compared to the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3, the Leaf offers almost double the carrying capacity with the rear seats in the upright position. Leave the rear seats upright, and the Leaf will offer 23.6 cubic feet of space; that's enormous when compared to the Tesla's 15 cubic feet, and the Bolt's slightly roomier 16.9 cubic feet. Fold the 60/40 split fold-down rear seats, and the Nissan Leaf offers up to 30 cubic feet of space. We managed to fit a low-flow toilet and a case of energy-saving light bulbs in the back with the rear seat folded down. Passengers get to store smaller items in front of the shift knob, inside the front passenger glove box, or inside the center console storage bin. Front passengers get two cupholders, and there are four bottle holders, too.

2020 Nissan Leaf Trunk Space Nissan
2020 Nissan Leaf Charger Nissan
2020 Nissan Leaf Top View Nissan
  • Maximum Cargo Space
    30 ft³

Leaf Infotainment and Features

Features

Nissan has certainly stepped up its game when it comes to the features list on the 2020 Leaf, especially when it comes to active driver assistance tech. A quick rundown of the main features for every trim reveals how much bang you're going to get for your eco-friendly buck: the base model features active ride control, halogen headlights and steel wheels on the outside, while the interior sees the inclusion of cruise control, automatic climate control, keyless entry with push-button start and driver assistance features such as auto emergency braking with pedestrian detection. Move up one notch in the trim ranking, and you get alloy-wheels, integrated navigation, fog lights, and a 50 kW quick charge port. S Plus models gain a larger 62 kWh battery and a more powerful 160 kW AC synchronous electric motor as well as a 100 kW quick charge port. SV Plus cars get adaptive cruise control, and SL Plus cars finish things off with premium features such as a surround-view monitor, leather seats, and intelligent driver awareness assistance.

Infotainment

With no gas or diesel engine thrumming in the background, things can get eerily quiet, and sometimes even straight-up awkward if you have others driving with you, so a well-functioning infotainment system is crucial. For 2020, Nissan has dropped the previous year's five- and seven-inch displays and now offers a larger eight-inch screen, which is more in line with what's offered elsewhere in the market. The new NissanConnect eight-inch touchscreen display is a giant leap forward in terms of ease of use and intuitiveness, and includes modern necessities such as Bluetooth streaming, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and SiriusXM satellite radio across the board. The standard six-speaker system is somewhat disappointing, but the Bose Energy-Efficient premium sound system on the top-spec model, with a total of seven-speakers, does a much better job of filling the Leaf's cabin with eco-friendly classics such as Man Made Hell by grindcore legends Extreme Noise Terror. HD radio and navigation comes standard on SV, SV Plus and SL Plus models.

2020 Nissan Leaf Common Problems and Reliability

The second-generation Nissan Leaf, first launched in 2017, has enjoyed a relatively trouble-free life. Since 2017 there have been three recalls, most of which have been for minor issues relating to the back-up camera. The 2019 Leaf scored a reasonably good 76 on the J.D. Power consumer verified reliability rating scale. Nissan backs up their EV with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty, which includes a five-year/60,000-mile warranty for the drivetrain. Automobiles like the Leaf need to have their hybrid/electric components covered too, and Nissan includes this for five years or 60,000miles, as well as adding a three-year roadside assistance plan.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Hybrid/Electric Components:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    3 Years \ Unlimited Miles

Leaf Safety

Unfortunately, the 2020 Nissan Leaf hasn't been thoroughly tested by any of the USA's major rating agencies. The NHTSA has completely skipped out on a review of the Nissan Leaf, but the IIHS did give it a quick once over, only testing the head restraint and child seat anchors. The IIHS found that the head restraints and seats were up to scratch, but that the LATCH system was placed too deep in the seat, and that it was difficult to maneuver around the anchors. The Leaf's now-standard range of active driver assistance features were not tested, but we believe that standard systems such as automatic forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection would put it in good standing with most rating agencies.

2020 Nissan Leaf Key Safety Features

The 2020 Nissan Leaf takes a notable step forward in terms of its list of standard safety features: all 2020 models now come with standard intelligent forward collision warning, auto-forward braking with pedestrian detection, as well as intelligent lane intervention, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear auto braking, and high-beam assist. SV, SV Plus, and SL Plus cars get adaptive cruise control. The range-topping SL Plus gets advanced safety features such as Nissan's ProPilot Assist, which offers semi-autonomous driving capability, a surround-view camera system, and intelligent driver alertness. All 2020 Nissan Leaf cars come with ten airbags, front and rear crumple zones, a slide-away brake pedal assembly, and a rearview monitor.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2020 Nissan Leaf a good car?

The Nissan Leaf has been a staple of the EV market for a decade, and is a tried and trusted entry-point to the world of gas-free motoring. In the past few years, there has been a small explosion of new entries to the EV market by major brands such as Volkswagen and BMW, but their offerings have been focussed on the premium image, so you won't find any cheap and cheerful cars. The Nissan Leaf then is a no-nonsense practical five-door hatchback that does away with luxury features such as wood-grain inserts, massive sound systems, and sub-five-second sprint times. Instead, you get moderate performance and range, a comfortable ride, and enough features to make everyday driving feel like less of a chore. Nissan has made some notable changes, such as upgrading the infotainment system and adding driver assistance features such as auto-forward emergency braking with pedestrian control, which goes a long way to boost the appeal of this little electric hatchback, but prices get close to the much more impressive Tesla Model 3 when you get to higher trim levels.

🚘What's the Price of the 2020 Nissan Leaf?

The price of electric vehicles is still higher than that of similarly equipped gas-powered cars, and the Nissan Leaf is priced at the lower end of this scale - but climbing up the trim ladder will see the price increase to Tesla Model 3 levels, a car that offers a longer range, more performance and a better overall driving and ownership experience in general. The 2020 Nissan Leaf starts off with an MSRP of $31,600, which excludes registration, taxes, and a destination fee of $925. By comparison, the base model Chevy Bolt starts at $36,620, and the Tesla Model 3 goes for $39,990 for the Standard Range Plus RWD. From the base model, the Leaf moves up to the SV, which goes for $34,190. The S Plus starts at $38,200. The SV Plus is on par with the Tesla Model 3 in terms of price at $39,750, and the SL Plus will cost you $43,900: over $2,000 more than the top-of-the-line Chevy Bolt. We would recommend the Nissan Leaf for those who are looking for a relatively low-cost entry point into the world of EVs.

2020 Nissan Leaf Models

Nissan offers buyers five trim levels, which provides a good spread of features and levels of range and performance, this includes the S, SV, S Plus, SV Plus, and SL Plus. Starting off with the Leaf S, which gets a 40 kWh lithium-ion battery and 110 kW AC synchronous electric motor, the smallest capacity motor and battery combination on offer, and shares it with the SV. The S includes automatic climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as keyless entry with push-button start, SiriusXM satellite radio and automatic emergency braking.

SV Models include equipment and features found on the base model, but add premium and advanced features such as Nissan door-to-door navigation with Premium Traffic guidance, a set of foglights, and a 50 kW quick charging port.

S Plus models gain a more substantial 62 kWh lithium-ion battery, a 100 kW quick charging port and the more powerful 160 kW AC synchronous electric motor as well as Nissan's e-pedal system which allows the driver to pull away, accelerate, slow down, and stop the vehicle by using only the accelerator pedal.

Getting into the SV gets you NissanConnect EV with services and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and SL Plus cars come with a standard surround-view camera system, leather systems, a premium Bose sound system with seven speakers, and intelligent driver alertness.

See All 2020 Nissan Leaf Trims and Specs

2020 Nissan Leaf Additional Options

Starting with the base model, Nissan offers a charging package, which, for $1,690, will add a 50kW quick charge port and a portable charge cable that can be plugged into a 240-volt wall outlet without the need for a charging box. SV models are offered with two optional packages, the first being the $900 all-weather package, which adds features such as heated outside mirrors, heated front seats, and a heated steering wheel. The $2,000 technology package adds a portable charging cable, an electronic parking brake, a surround-view camera system as well as driver alertness, LED headlights, and more. SV Plus models equipped with the $1,600 tech package include an auto-dimming rearview mirror and an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat with two-way lumbar adjustment.

🚗What Nissan Leaf Model Should I Buy?

The Leaf might start off as an affordable alternative to the more premium offerings from Tesla, BMW, and others, but costs for the Nissan Leaf do get quite high at the top tier levels, and prices get dangerously close to some of its more competent rivals. For that reason, we'd suggest test driving the SV, one step up from the base model. The SV shares its low-output 110 kW AC synchronous electric motor and 40 kWh lithium-ion battery with the base model, and delivers more than enough go for regular driving situations in and around town. The SV shares features such as automatic forward braking with pedestrian detection and automatic climate control with the rest of the range and builds on the base model's offering by adding adaptive cruise control, navigation, fog lights, and a 50kW quick charge port for added practicality.

2020 Nissan Leaf Comparisons

Chevrolet Bolt EV Chevrolet
Tesla Model 3 Tesla
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Nissan Leaf147 hp124/99 mpg$31,600
Chevrolet Bolt EV 200 hp127/108 mpg$36,620
Tesla Model 3 258 hp138/124 mpg$35,000

2020 Nissan Leaf vs Chevrolet Bolt EV

The Chevrolet Bolt, just like the Leaf, is a five-door hatchback that will seat five adults. The 2020 Bolt is available in LT and Premier trims, and both get the same 200 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque, which blow the lower-powered variants of the Leaf out of the yard and onto the sidewalk. The Bolt will return an impressive 127/108/118 mpg city/highway/combined and will reach 259 miles on a full charge, besting the Leaf by quite some distance. We think the Botl is the better-looking car, and it's interior feels more 2020 than the Leaf. On the road, the Bolt is a comfortable thing to drive, and although it is at its best on city roads, it can manage highway driving just fine. Its low center of gravity means minimal body roll in corners. Unfortunately, the Bolt misses out on a good amount of the standard features offered on the Leaf, such as blind-spot monitoring and pedestrian detection. Go for a mid-range Leaf instead of the more expensive entry-level Bolt with fewer features and a higher asking price.

See Chevrolet Bolt EV Review

2020 Nissan Leaf vs Tesla Model 3

Tesla has been grabbing headlines for a good few years now, and their EV cars have been dominating sales figures. One of their latest offerings, the low-cost Model 3 has taken the market by storm and offers great performance, comfort, driving dynamics, and style at a reasonable price. Powering the Model 3 is a single three-phase induction electric motor that produces between 258 and a serious 450 hp depending on spec-level. So not only will the Model 3 leave the Leaf in the dust, but it will also get more distance out of a single charge; standard cars will reach up to 250 miles, while long-range versions will reach well over 300 miles on a single charge. The interior of the Tesla Model 3 is a beautifully minimalist space that truly feels ahead of our time. Cabin space is good, but the Leaf offers more cargo space. Out on the road, the Tesla Model 3 is by far the better car to drive; it's comfortable enough around town, but can also engage the driver with entertaining dynamics. Starting at close to $40,000, we'd rather get a Model 3 than a top-end Leaf.

See Tesla Model 3 Review

Nissan Leaf Popular Comparisons

2020 Nissan Leaf Video Reviews

Check out some informative Nissan Leaf video reviews below.

Nissan Leaf