June 21, 2024

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2022 Nissan Leaf continues to be the EV for the rest of us

The Nissan Leaf entered the market in 2011 as the first truly mass-produced electric vehicle since the early part of the 20th century. Today, Nissan has taken the original sub-100-mile-range EV and put it into the post-200-mile genre. Still the lowest-cost production EV on the market, the second-generation Leaf’s base price has actually been lowered for 2022.

Several other upgrades also come with the 2022 model year. Most advanced driver assistance and safety features are now standard, as is a Level 3 fast-charging port, and some content is added to the upper tier Leaf trim levels … all good things, to go along with the over US$4,000 price drop from 2021.

At a glance

  • Two models to fit budgets and range requirements
  • No active cooling in the battery pack
  • Charge times are relatively good and DC fast charging is standard
  • Comfortable and well-mannered to drive
The 2022 Nissan Leaf comes standard with both a DC fast-charging CHAdeMO plug (left) and a standard SAE charging port (right)

The 2022 Nissan Leaf comes standard with both a DC fast-charging CHAdeMO plug (left) and a standard SAE charging port (right)

Aaron Turpen / New Atlas

As the automotive industry ramps into electrification, the Nissan Leaf remains a mainstay in the market – and for good reason. This new generation of the Leaf has a more contemporary shape to its design, a much-improved range, and several engineering changes that improve on problems discovered in the first generation of the car.

Notable, however, is the retention of passive cooling for the Leaf’s batteries, a hotly-debated topic in EV circles. The merits and downsides of the simpler passive cooling setup are as polarizing to EV enthusiasts as are the differences between turbocharged V6s and throaty V8s in sports car circles. We should point out that the Leaf’s current generation has consistently held high reliability ratings.

The 2022 Nissan Leaf comes in two flavors: the standard Leaf and the Leaf Plus. The difference is all in the batteries, with the base model Leaf (the price of which starts at $27,400) carrying a 40-kWh battery pack with about 150 miles (241 km) of range. The Leaf Plus, which we drove, has a 62-kWh battery pack that has about 215-226 miles (346-364 km) of range, depending on equipment in the car. The standard Leaf has three trim levels, while the Leaf Plus has four, adding the highest-fitment SL model.

As mentioned before, a standard charging port and a CHAdeMO fast-charging point are both standard on the 2022 Leaf. Also standard is a charging cord that plugs into either a 120V household outlet or a 240V four-hole outlet (see our writeup on EV charging). The 240-volt plug accepted 42 amps from our 50-amp wall outlet, drawing maximum available power. The 120-volt plug pulled about 14 amps.

Charging times vary significantly by outlet, but the Leaf Plus charged to full from about 30-percent charge in roughly 8 hours on the 240-volt plug. Nissan lists charge times from empty at about 11.5 hours for the larger battery and eight hours for the smaller battery. With DC fast charging, the Leaf can be charged to 80 percent in under an hour, Nissan says.

Probably the greatest point about the Leaf, besides its low price, is its surprisingly useful design. While similar to the Nissan Versa Hatchback in general shape, the Leaf has a more forward-looking design quality, but retains the Versa Hatch’s versatile interior … with the exception of folding back seats, which we think is odd. The rear seats in the Leaf remain upright, but cargo room is larger than expected thanks to the Leaf’s square rear hatch.

Ride quality and comfort are also good in the 2022 Leaf. The car is zippy and confident, smooth to operate with a well-balanced feel, and amazingly quiet and comfortable for a budget vehicle – even on the highway. It’s a testament to the Leaf’s slippery aerodynamics.

Those who live in extreme climates may want to consider the fact that the 2022 Leaf doesn't have thermal management for its batteries

Those who live in extreme climates may want to consider the fact that the 2022 Leaf doesn’t have thermal management for its batteries

Aaron Turpen / New Atlas

The EPA rates the 2022 Nissan Leaf at 99 MPG-equivalent (2.4 l/100km) on the highway. Our test had it getting close, getting about 3.45 miles (5.55 km) per kWh. The range estimation on the car dropped significantly on our highway drive, losing about 30 miles (48.3 km) of range on top of the 42-mile (67.6-km) loop we performed. The math, however, said the Leaf’s computer was being conservative, as our drive rate meant the total range for the car was closer to EPA estimates than the computer was suggesting.

The aerodynamics of the Leaf allow it to perform well on the highway, despite the inherent range losses all EVs suffer at higher speeds. We did not measure city mileage in the Leaf, but suspect it’d be well over 4 miles (6.4 km) per kWh. Measurements were from actual electricity pumped, not the Leaf’s internal computer, with the exception of its gauge cluster’s range estimations.

As a car to live with on the daily, the 2022 Nissan Leaf is a great companion. Its low cost, very low maintenance, and solid range performance are all high points. Its comfort and fun factor are also good points. As the unofficial People’s EV, the Leaf hits all the marks.

Product Page: 2022 Nissan Leaf