Nissan just unveiled the 2016 model of the best-selling electric vehicle, the Nissan Leaf. And while it's nowhere near a major redesign — like we saw earlier this week with Toyota's hybrid, the Prius — there are a few key changes that make Nissan's all-electric car more attractive.
The biggest improvement is with the Leaf's battery. The 2016 Leaf has gotten a 27 percent boost to its battery capacity, bumping it from 24 kWh to 30 kWh. Nissan says that gives the new version of the leaf an EPA-estimated range of 107 miles on a single charge, which would be good enough for best-in-class status. This new battery only comes standard on the SV and SL models of the Leaf, however, which are Nissan's mid- and high-level trims. The lowest-end version, the Leaf S, will still have the same 84-mile range as last year's model.
The other big improvement to the 2016 Leaf is with the car's entertainment system, which Nissan says is "more user-friendly" than previous versions. The low-end Leaf S gets a 5-inch display color display with Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and audio streaming, hands-free text messaging, and "NissanConnect" — a suite of mobile apps that supports things like Facebook, Pandora and iHeartRadio. The SV and SL versions of the Leaf get even more. They come with a 7-inch display that supports multi-touch, voice recognition, navigation, SiriusXM satellite radio. These trims will also support even more apps, like Google search, Twitter, and Trip Advisor.
Otherwise, the rest of the Leaf is pretty similar. The curvy, aerodynamic exterior remains unchanged, and you still charge the car through a port in the front grill. The same goes for the interior. There are two display screens behind the wheel — one dedicated to time and speed, while the other is for battery information, like how much driving distance remains. There are blue accent lights all around the dashboard, and the strange orb-like shifter is still there, too. Nissan might like to position its all-electric car as an innovative machine, and in many ways it is remarkable that there is an established, truly affordable electric car with decent (and increasing) range on the market. But with the 2016 Leaf, Nissan is really just playing the same "yearly iteration" game that the auto industry at large has played for decades.
The low-end 2016 Leaf S starts at $21,510, the Leaf SV starts at $26,700, and the Leaf SL starts at $29,290. These prices provided by Nissan include the maximum federal tax credit for buying an electric vehicle, and the full retail price may vary from dealer to dealer.