The 2023 Nissan Leaf parked in front of a garage.
View the Nissan Leaf this week.

There are now lots of electric vehicles on the market, but only two of them can be characterized as affordable alternatives to nonelectric cars.

One of those two being Nissan’s Leaf.

It doesn’t go as far as other EVs, and it’s not nearly as quick, an EV selling point. But the fact that it’s a car within the means of people who cannot afford a luxury-priced car is a selling point all its own.

What It Is

The Leaf is Nissan’s entry-level electric car and one of only two such on the market right now deserving of that designation, the other being Chevy’s Bolt.

Both sticker for about $15,000 less than the next-least expensive EVs, models like the Hyundai Kona, and about $20,000 less than EVs like the Tesla Model 3, which start at well over $40,000.

The Leaf S stickers for $28,040 to start. The catch is that’s with the standard battery that gives you just 149 miles of best-case range on a full charge. If you want more range, it’ll cost you $36,040 for the SV plus, which has a best-case range of 212 miles.

What’s New For 2023

There are just two trims available now — down from five last year. Both trims get revised front-end styling and an illuminated “Nissan” badge.

What’s Good

  • Cost is more within range.
  • About 30% more room for cargo (23.6 cubic feet) behind its back seats than Chevy Bolt has (16.6 cubic feet).
  • Accelerates smartly for an economical car.

What’s Not So Good

  • Range is low — unless you pay more.
  • Bolt has 57 cubic feet of total cargo capacity with its back seats folded down.
  • Regular use of its ability to accelerate smartly rapidly reduces the range remaining.

Under The Hood

The standard Leaf is powered by a 147-horsepower electric motor fed by a 40-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. This version can travel up to 149 miles on a full charge.

The SV Plus comes standard with a 62-kWh battery pack and 212 miles of range.

As with other EVs, you can charge at home using either a standard 120V household outlet, which would be done overnight, or a 240V “Level 2” charger that cuts the time to recharge time down to about nine hours. You can also plug the Leaf into high-voltage commercial fast chargers and get back on the road in about 30-45 minutes.

On The Road

The Leaf, like all EVs, jumps when you touch the accelerator. It’s as quick from a dead stop as V8 muscle cars were, back in the day. The thrust wanes as you pass about 40 mph, but it still goes like a sports car all the way up to about 80. And it can go considerably faster than that.

But as you’re doing that, watch the range indicator. Watch how much power you consume as you go. It is comparable to watching the gas gauge needle in a V8 muscle car lean noticeably toward “E.” But the critical difference is that no matter how much gas you burn, it is fast and easy to get more. It is not fast — and sometimes, far from easy — to get more electricity into an EV’s battery.

At The Curb

The Leaf has significantly more space for stuff with its back seats up than its chief electric rival, the Chevy Bolt, which only has 16.3 cubic feet behind its second row versus the Leaf’s 23.6 cubic feet. The Bolt fires back with 57 cubic feet of total space for stuff, but this is only available if the back seats aren’t filled with passengers.

But the Leaf has enough space with its seats up to be more practical for people and cargo carrying at the same time. The Bolt is better suited to commuter-car duty, even though it has the range that’s lacking in the Leaf.

If the Leaf could go farther, it would be the one to take the family on a trip in.

One of the Leaf’s best features is the location of its charge port. It is not on the left or the right side. It is right under your nose — up front. This makes it much easier to get close to where you need to plug in.

The Rest

You might pay less than MSRP for an EV like the Leaf if you earned enough money to qualify for a $7,500 tax refund. But the catch for most people is they didn’t earn enough to qualify for that much back — or even any. The cost of a Leaf or any EV is much higher than the cost of a non-EV, and you may want to take that into account before you buy one, if you hope to save money by buying one.

The Bottom Line

The Leaf is, arguably, what an EV ought to be — almost.

It is an excellent short-range transportation appliance. It is almost affordable. If it were lighter — which it could be, if it stopped trying to sell quickness rather than efficiency — it might be something more affordable and so economical than this one is. And then, perhaps, Nissan might sell more of them!

Eric’s latest book, “Doomed: Good Cars Gone Wrong!” will be available soon. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

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