The 2016 Nissan Leaf gets a bigger battery pack and 27 percent more range for the SV and SL trims. All three trims get connectivity upgrades, while the base S trim gets a slightly larger touchscreen. The midrange SV loses its optional foglights but gains a standard quick-charge port.
Now in its sixth year, the Nissan Leaf is the elder statesman of the modern era, mass-produced electric car. Six years without a redesign is a fairly long time in the automotive world, and many other automakers have come out with competitive EVs since the Leaf’s debut. Yet the 2016 Leaf still has plenty of charge left and remains a top choice for those seeking quiet, efficient and peppy all-electric driving without the need to dip into the kids’ college funds.
The 2016 Nissan Leaf has more range than ever and remains a top choice among compact electric vehicles.
The base Leaf can travel 84 miles on a full battery charge and the SV and SL trims can now go up to 107 miles per charge, thanks to a larger-capacity battery pack that’s new this year. Neither distance is impressive compared with the average gasoline-only car’s range, but the bigger 107-mile range is tops among the Leaf’s peers. And, as most EV drivers will tell you, 80-100 miles is still plenty for most daily driving needs. But the Leaf’s acceleration is underwhelming, even by this segment.
Since the Leaf’s introduction, the EV market has sprouted a few similarly priced competitors. The most significant alternatives would be those that received an Edmunds.com “A” rating: the 2016 Kia Soul EV and the 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf. Both are the Leaf’s closest competitors in roominess, features and range, but they aren’t available in most states. For a nationwide alternative to the Leaf, the 2016 Ford Focus Electric could be worth a look. Another option is the BMW i3. It’s admittedly smaller and pricier, but it’s more enjoyable to drive. No car here is a home run, but as EVs go, the pioneering Leaf continues to be a great choice.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2016 Nissan Leaf is a four-door hatchback EV available in three trim levels: S, SV and SL.
Standard features for the base S model include a 3.6 kW onboard charger, 16-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors, full power accessories, keyless ignition and entry, cruise control, a rearview camera, automatic climate control, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat, heated front seats, 60/40-split folding rear seats, a tilt-only steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 5-inch color touchscreen, Nissan Connect with Mobile Apps and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack, a USB port, a media player interface and satellite radio.
Stepping up to the SV trim gets you a 6.6-kW charger and a quick-charge port (both optional on the S) along with 17-inch alloy wheels, heated power side mirrors, a more efficient heating system for better range in cold weather, Nissan Connect EV telematics (remotely monitors and manages charging and climate control), a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel, partially recycled cloth upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 7-inch touchscreen, a navigation system and a six-speaker audio system with HD radio.
The range-topping SL trim adds automatic LED headlights, foglights, a solar panel mounted on the rear spoiler to help power accessories, leather upholstery, heated rear seats and a cargo cover.
The SV and SL models are eligible for the Premium package, which adds a seven-speaker Bose stereo and a 360-degree parking camera system.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive 2016 Nissan Leaf is powered by an 80-kW electric motor (107 horsepower and 187 pound-feet of torque). The system draws power from a lithium-ion battery pack: 24 kWh in the base S model and 30 kWh in the SV and SL trims.
In Edmunds performance testing, a 2016 Leaf accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 10.2 seconds, which is slower than most other EVs — considerably so, depending on the competitor.
Nissan’s 2016 Leaf receives a bigger battery pack this year for the SV and SL trims.
The EPA estimates the 24 kWh pack in the S trim can deliver up to 84 miles of range. The new 30 kWh battery’s range should be good for up to 107 miles. We haven’t tested the 30 kWh battery pack yet, but we found the 24-kWh Leaf’s 84-mile range to be accurate during our own real-world testing. We also confirmed the EPA’s claim that the Leaf, with either battery pack, will typically use 30 kW per 100 miles driven (the lower the number here, the better). These figures are good for the segment.
With a 240-volt power source, a Leaf with a 6.6 kW charger and 30 kWh battery pack can recharge a depleted battery in about five hours (it’s close to eight hours with the base S model’s standard 3.3 kW charger and 24-kWh battery pack). The quick-charge port that’s standard on the SL and SV can be used with a high-power or quick-charge station(assuming you can find one) to recharge the Leaf’s battery to a claimed 80 percent capacity in 30 minutes.
Standard safety features on all 2016 Nissan Leafs include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. A rearview camera is also standard, and the SV and SL trims are eligible for a 360-degree-view parking camera system.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Leaf came to a stop from 60 mph in 122 feet, which is average for both compact hatchbacks and EVs.
In government crash testing, the 2016 Leaf received four out of five stars across the board for overall, frontal and side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Leaf its highest rating of “Good” in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash tests, but a “Poor” rating in the small-overlap crash test. The Leaf’s seat and head restraint design was rated “Good” for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2016 Nissan Leaf’s battery pack is located under the floor beneath the seats, a design that contributes to the car’s airy cabin and rear seats roomy enough even for tall passengers. There’s no shortage of headroom in the first row, though taller drivers are likely to find that their seat is mounted too high and the tilt-only steering wheel is too far away.
The 2016 Nissan Leaf’s interior has a futuristic design. But its ergonomics could be better.
Cargo room behind the rear seats is generous, at 24 cubic feet. Folding them flat increases maximum capacity to 30 cubes. The larger-capacity battery pack in the SL and SV models doesn’t consume any of that space, as it uses higher-power cells that fit in the same package as those of the 24 kWh battery pack.
The interior is surprisingly pleasant, but the interior materials and trim don’t quite live up to the expectations of the purchase price (and fall well short of the e-Golf and i3). There’s at least a strong emphasis on modern design, with split-level instrument panels that reinforce the high-tech feel with sharp graphics. The large center control stack also looks modern, but there are too many look-alike buttons and the touchscreen seems small by current standards.
Absent an internal combustion engine, the all-electric 2016 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 more noticeable at highway speeds, but overall Nissan’s EV is impressively hushed.
The 2016 Nissan Leaf looks pretty much the same as when the car debuted back for the 2011 model year.
Due to its electric powertrain, the Leaf offers brisk acceleration from a stop, though getting up to highway speeds can feel belabored. Most EV or hybrid competitors are quicker. The Leaf’s brake pedal is firm and sure, however, without the vague wooden feel of some other 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
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