2018 Nissan Leaf: Why 29,990 is More Important to Some Than 150


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The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV and 2018 Tesla Model 3 are good cars that happen to be fully electric. What’s even more extraordinary is that those cars’ base prices are within reach of the average new-car consumer today, though that’s only true of the Tesla if you can patiently leave your name on a waiting list before wanting to bolt. So far, neither car has attempted to reach the Nissan Leaf’s lower price point, and an extraordinary car means nothing to new-car consumers if they can’t afford it.

That’s where the 2018 Nissan Leaf enters the picture. Now with a projected EPA driving range of 150 miles, the Leaf easily leaps ahead of the 2017 model’s 107 miles, as well as the ranges of every other EV currently available that’s not a Tesla (the Model 3 is projected to have a range around 225 miles) or Chevrolet (the Bolt EV is rated at 238 miles of range). Well, for now. Ford has confirmed interest in building electric cars (including a 300-mile electric SUV), Hyundai and Kia are pushing harder on EVs (the Ioniq EV already has a 124-mile range), and EVs will become an increasingly important part of Volkswagen’s future. So the EV market is expanding, but many new-car buyers can’t wait a year or more for a car to become available.

Many others aren’t willing to pay for the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV’s $37,495 and 2018 Tesla Model 3’s $36,200 base price. The 2018 Nissan Leaf falls far short of those two in terms of EV range, but it also falls well short in price. The 2018 Leaf starts at $29,990, or $30,875 including destination. That puts the 150-mile Leaf more than $5,000 below the Model 3 and more than $6,000 below the Bolt EV. In this price class, that’s a ton of money saved.

Will Chevrolet respond by adjusting the price of the Bolt EV, just as the Volt plug-in got price cuts after its initial release? With so many more EVs available compared to five and 10 years ago, we’ll see how the market reacts. Tesla recently cut the price of its most powerful Model S and Model X variants, but with the Model 3’s long waiting list, we’d be surprised to see any price cuts for now.

In our thorough 2018 Nissan Leaf First Drive review, we called the new Leaf “satisfyingly quicker and more responsive” than its predecessor, with a quiet interior and “supple yet controlled ride quality.” That car is going up against our 2017 Car of the Year, the Chevrolet Bolt EV, and the also superb Tesla Model 3. Before the 2019 Nissan Leaf arrives with a more powerful variant with more range to go head to head with those two, the Leaf will also do battle with EVs in the low $30,000 range.

The impressive 200-plus-mile range of the Bolt EV and Model 3 should help convince more buyers to make the switch to a fully electric car, but when your budget doesn’t allow for a near-$40,000 car (you’ll pay extra on the Model 3 for any exterior color besides black), the less expensive 2018 Nissan Leaf is more significant than its 150-mile range might suggest. You’ll still need to like the car itself, but simply having a low $30,000 base price opens the door for some, especially those who were already set on an EV.

Lots of factors go into new-car purchases, from styling and performance to interior quality, safety tech, and, perhaps most important, budget. Whether the 2018 Nissan Leaf is passed by in favor of more expensive competitors with more impressive overall driving ranges remains to be seen; the sales battle begins when the Leaf goes on sale early in 2018.

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