2023 Nissan Leaf Hands-On Preview: Affordable EV Gets Cooler

Kyle Patrick
by Kyle Patrick

Steady updates for the brand’s original, affordable EV.

It’s easy to forget that the Nissan Leaf was one of the very earliest production electric vehicles. The little battery-powered hatchback has been plying our roads for over a decade at this point, and Nissan has shipped nearly 600,000 of them globally.

As more and more EVs arrive on the market, Nissan is giving the 2023 Leaf a chlorophyll injection to keep it happy and healthy. The new model debuted on the show floor at the New York Auto Show, alongside the upcoming Ariya and reborn Z. We spent a bit of time checking it out, and here’s what’s new for 2023.

Get a Quote on a New 2022 Nissan Leaf

Tweaked Looks

Talk about subtle. Nissan has left most of the Leaf’s sheetmetal untouched for 2023, preferring to instead subtly tweak it into line with the rest of the modern family. The grille section is now simpler, with an all-black look. Darkened headlights frame the nose. Nissan’s updated badge sits front and center, and now it’s illuminated, just in case people don’t know what car they’re looking at in the night.

Since range is so important with EVs, Nissan has massaged the tire deflector shapes for improved aerodynamics. Same goes for the rear diffuser and spoiler, which you might notice if you’re particularly keen on Leaf styling.

The most noticeable change is also probably the coolest: the new 17-inch alloy wheels. The multi-spoke, two-tone design gives big ’80s vibes, and we’re here for it.

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Simplified Lineup

For the new model year, Nissan is chopping the Leaf lineup to the essentials. The base Leaf S continues on, which should remain one of the most affordable EVs in the land. No more S Plus, which traditionally signified the larger battery pack. Want that, you’ll have to step up to the SV Plus. Similarly, this higher trim is no longer available with the smaller battery pack. Meanwhile, the SV Plus will take up the mantle of range-topper, as the SL Plus disappears in the US.

Canada will have a slightly different trim walk. The base model will be the SV, with the option of either SV Plus or SL Plus.

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Same Drivetrain Options

Nissan is sticking to its existing two-battery setup. The base Leaf S uses a 40-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, paired off with an 110-kW electric motor working the front axle. The result is 147 horsepower, with a chunky 236 pound-feet of torque.

The move up to the SV Plus unlocks a 50-percent larger battery, hooked up to a more powerful 160-kW motor. Horsepower bumps up to 214, with torque seeing a slight rise to 250 lb-ft.

Nissan hasn’t released EPA range estimates yet, but expects similar numbers to the 2022 models. The improved aero might slightly extend the ranges. For reference, the 2022 Leaf S manages 149 miles (240 kilometers), while the SV Plus pulls off 215 miles (346 km).

SEE ALSO: 2022 Nissan Rogue First Drive Review: New Engine Improves the Package

Small Interior Changes, Too

Nissan is taking a similarly light-handed approach to the 2023 Leaf interior updates. The new badge is obvious, but beyond that owners can expect a new startup animation in the instrument panel. And … that’s about it. Black cloth is the only seating material choice (leather for the SL Plus in Canada); if you haven’t sat in a Leaf yet, expect lots of headroom, but a slightly narrow cabin.

The center stack still features an 8.0-inch touchscreen, and the same bowtie of physical climate control buttons below it. The stubby drive selector remains too, surrounded by a sea of gloss black in the SV Plus. Prepare for plenty of smudge marks.

Standard Safety Kit

Considering its expected low price tag, the Leaf doesn’t skimp on the safety kit. The base model comes with automated emergency braking, lane keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, auto high beams, and blind spot intervention. Plump for the SV Plus and you’ll get Nissan’s ProPILOT Assist, which is a full-range adaptive cruise control that also keeps the car in its lane.

Goes On Sale This Summer

Speaking of price, Nissan hasn’t released that quite yet either. Given the light changes, we expect the 2023 Leaf to carry a sticker close to the previous model. Currently, the entry-level 2022 Nissan Leaf can be had for $28,425 ($39,348 CAD) after destination, but before any tax incentives. Existing SV Plus models carry a $36,425 ($45,048 CAD) price tag.

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Kyle Patrick
Kyle Patrick

Kyle began his automotive obsession before he even started school, courtesy of a remote control Porsche and various LEGO sets. He later studied advertising and graphic design at Humber College, which led him to writing about cars (both real and digital). He is now a proud member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), where he was the Journalist of the Year runner-up for 2021.

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