Nissan Improves Base Leaf But Tells No One

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Suppose an automaker improved a terrible-selling vehicle but didn’t bother to tell anyone about it. Chances are they didn’t just forget, so there has to be some fundamental reasoning behind that choice. This is the mystery Nissan has left us with after silently and suddenly replacing the battery in their base model Leaf with a larger one.

We only know about this change due to an eagle-eyed staff member at Green Car Reports, who noticed that Nissan increased the size of the Leaf S battery in a September order guide.

The Leaf is one of fastest depreciating vehicles money can buy, and its sales have fallen dramatically since a 2014 peak. The model is desperate for any edge it can get, and effective range is one of the most important factors a person considers when choosing any electric vehicle. So why Nissan opted against notifying the press that they were replacing the old 24-kilowatt-hour battery with the superior 30 kWh one — already found in the SV and SL models — is bit of a conundrum.

The larger battery pushes the Leaf’s EPA-estimated range up from 84 miles to a much improved 107. But there’s a trade-off — Nissan has increased the price quite a bit. A base model Leaf S now starts at $32,450, up from the $29,000 range. This increase includes the Quick Charge Package and places it a couple thousand dollars behind the slightly nicer Leaf SV. The new price also places it dangerously close to base models of the Kia Soul EV and Fiat 500E, while actually making it more expensive than a basic Volkswagen e-Golf or Ford Focus Electric.

However, if you still want the shorter-ranged, cheaper version, there are still plenty of 24 kWh cars left over at dealerships. Actually, come to think of it, that may have something to do with Nissan’s silence.

[Image: Nissan]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

More by Matt Posky

Join the conversation
4 of 31 comments
  • Jmo Jmo on Oct 11, 2016

    Matt, If a new Leaf is $13k can you explain your deprecation math for me?

    • See 1 previous
    • Here4aSammich Here4aSammich on Oct 11, 2016

      Again, it's not. He financed the car, his loan is $28k. Yes, he will get tax credits that offset the cost. But he drove it off the lot after agreeing to pay $28,000 for the car.

  • Seth1065 Seth1065 on Oct 12, 2016

    ugly as sin or not I still see this as a great car for a collage student or high school kid, used ones are dirt cheap, now getting kids to make sure it is plugged in may be a problem but if someone could figure out to do the charging via a app collage kids would be fine.

  • Stephen Never had such a problem with my Toyota products.
  • Vulpine My first pickup truck was a Mitsubishi Sport... able to out-accelerate the French Fuego turbo by Renault at the time. I really liked the brand back then because they built a model for every type of driver, including the rather famous 300/3000GT AWD sports car (a car I really wanted, but couldn't afford.)
  • Vulpine A sedan version of either car makes it no longer that car. We've already seen this with the Mustang Mach-E and almost nobody acknowledges it as a Mustang.
  • Vulpine Not just Chevy, but GM has been shooting itself in the foot for the last three decades. They've already had to be rescued once in that period, and if they keep going as they are, they will need another rescue... assuming the US govt. will willing to lose more money on them.
  • W Conrad Sedans have been fine for me, but I were getting a new car, it would be an SUV. Not only because less sedans available, but I can't see around them in my sedan!