It’s not too often that the cheapest and stingiest choice ends up being the most enjoyable, but such is the case with Nissan’s Micra.  Cheap? How does $10,488 sound? If you were in the market for…

2019 Nissan Micra S Road Test

2019 Nissan Micra S
Now that’s an easy face to fall for. Nissan’s 2019 Micra even looks good in base S trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

It’s not too often that the cheapest and stingiest choice ends up being the most enjoyable, but such is the case with Nissan’s Micra. 

Cheap? How does $10,488 sound? If you were in the market for this little city car last year it probably sounds $500 too high, because the Micra was one of Canada’s only new sub-$10k cars for its entire four-year existence (except for the $9,995 Chevy Spark and Mitsubishi Mirage when it went on sale to clear out end-of-year stock), but thanks to a new standard 7.0-inch centre touchscreen featuring an integrated backup camera and some other updates, it’s a bit pricier this year. You can see all of the trims and check out previous years’ pricing at CarCostCanada, where you’ll also find rebate info and dealer invoice pricing. 

Its new list price still beats inflation (according to the Bank of Canada inflation calculator), as well as the Mirage by $510, and now that I think of it the Micra also beats the Mirage by 31 horsepower, 33 lb-ft of torque, 400 cubic centimetres of engine displacement, one cylinder, one rear suspension stabilizer bar, one-inch of standard wheel diameter, 20 millimetres of standard tire width, 32 litres of additional passenger volume, 41 mm of front headroom, 29 mm of rear headroom, 0.5 inches of standard centre touchscreen, six litres of fuel tank volume, and the list goes on. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
Its tall hatch profile and retrospectively rounded design adds a classic small car touch. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

All said it would be unfair not to mention that, while the Mirage is about as sporty as a Kenmore dryer on spin cycle, its claimed fuel usage nears hybrid levels of efficiency at 6.5 L/100km combined city/highway in manual form and just 6.2 with its optional continuously variable transmission (CVT), compared to 7.9 L/100km for the Micra’s five-speed manual and 8.0 for its available four-speed automatic. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
Even the Micra’s backside looks good thanks to well proportioned taillights. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Mirage beats the Micra in a number of other notable ways too, such as standard auto off headlamps, LED taillights, body-colour mirror caps, exterior door handles and liftgate handle, a chrome rear garnish, standard power door locks with remote access, power-adjustable side mirrors, powered front windows, air conditioning, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, two more standard stereo speakers, a driver’s knee airbag, 79 additional litres of cargo capacity behind the rear seats, 511 more litres of cargo space with the seats folded, two more years or 40,000 more kilometres of basic warranty, five more years or 60,000 more km of powertrain warranty, etcetera, while year-over-year sales of the Mirage were off by just six percent compared to 39 percent for the Micra. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
The Micra’s lower fascia looks quite sporty thanks to a big gaping engine vent and smaller corner ducts. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

That last point might make it look as if more people like the Mitsubishi, but just 2,351 Canadians took a Mirage home last year compared to 5,372 that opted for the Micra. It’s easy to see they didn’t make their choice by comparing standard features and fuel economy, because the Mirage clearly comes out on top in these categories, so why all the Micra love? 

2019 Nissan Micra S
They might only be covers over steel wheels, but their 15-inch diameter makes for better performance than some rivals. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Take both cars for a drive and you’ll immediately understand. The Micra is so much fun you’ll be wondering why everyone’s making such a fuss about SUVs, whereas the Mirage feels best when idling in bumper-to-bumper traffic. If the latter describes your commute and you never plan on driving up to Whistler or Kelowna via the Coquihalla for a weekend getaway, by all means go all in on the Mitsu, but if you want a car that has the power to keep up with traffic while climbing steep grades, let alone is sporty enough in stock trim to compete in its own spec racing series, choose the Micra, and while you’re at it watch a few segments of the highly entertaining Micra Cup (see below for Race 1 of the 2018 season). 

2019 Nissan Micra S
A cool detail that normally goes unnoticed are these sculpted curves on the rooftop that may or may not aid aerodynamics. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Rather than applying lipstick to a pig and trying to pass it off as the prom queen, Nissan invested its Micra money into a formidable direct-injection 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine good for 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque, compared to 78 and 74 respectively for the Mirage, plus a sporty feeling five-speed manual transmission with nice, progressive clutch take-up, wonderful steering feel, a front strut, rear torsion beam suspension with stabilizer bars at both ends, 15-inch wheels on 185/60 all-season tires, and overall driving feel that punches way above its 1,044-kilo welter curb weight. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
The taillights’ classic design enhance the Micra’s rear styling. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, how a city car takes to the corners may not matter as much to some folks as others, but let me know how you feel about that after you’ve just managed to avoid an accident thanks to the fleet footedness of your much more agile Micra. Due to such well-engineered suspension systems, I’m thankfully able to share a number of near misses that could have been bent metal at best, so handling is as much of a safety issue as braking performance, which I must say is pretty good on both cars despite their front disc, rear drum setups. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
We’re not going to try and pretend the Micra has an upscale interior, but it’s roomy and everything works as advertised. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I know, many buying into this class will likely care more about colour choices and styling than performance and safety, and when it comes to visual appeal I think the Micra has an edge in this respect too. While both are quite seasoned, this generation of Mirage Hatchback having arrived on the scene in 2012 and the current Micra in 2011, albeit in Canada during the spring of 2014 as a 2015 model, the little Nissan looks well proportioned and actually quite sporty from all angles. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
Hey kids, this little toggle is for manually adjusting the side mirrors, which is a lot easier to use than what I had to do to adjust the mirrors in my parents car when I was a kid. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Inside my base S trimmed tester, the word spartan comes to mind. Maybe minimalism might be kinder, because it does brighten things up with silver metal-like accents in key areas, and a nice, sizeable 7.0-inch centre touchscreen filled with a colourful interface, this especially true when placing the shifter in reverse and enjoying the big new backup camera on the display, while Bluetooth audio, Siri Eyes Free, and plenty of other functions provide a fully up-to-date user experience, but the black cloth seats come up a bit short on creativity, and the three-dial HVAC system is, while perfectly functional, easy to use, and adorned with blue and red highlights on the temperature knob and some backlit orange elements elsewhere, hardly exciting. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
Here’s another one for the kids: see the hand crank below the door handle? It’s for manually winding the window up and down. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The steering wheel is new, and in its most basic form gets a fresh set of metallic silver audio system and Bluetooth phone switchgear on its leftmost spoke, but the two-dial gauge cluster hasn’t changed for as long as I’ve been testing this car, my first review being a 2015 version of this very Micra S, with its only option being a sparkling coat of Metallic Blue paint. This 2019 tester’s $135 worth of Magnetic Gray paint aside (the price of optional paint hasn’t gone up one cent), the gauge package is large and easy to read in any light, while the little LCD gear selector, odometer, fuel gauge, and trip computer display, capable of showing current and average fuel economy plus distance to empty) is kind of cool in a retro Seiko digital watch sort of way. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
The base Micra S looks a lot more modern with steering wheel switchgear and a display audio system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I reviewed 2016 and 2017 examples of the top-line Micra SR too, the former in a beautiful blue-green Caspian Sea hue (that’s still available), and the second in a less playful Gun Metallic grey (that’s been replaced by this car’s aforementioned Magnetic Gray—Metallic Blue is now only available in upper trims, incidentally), but Charcoal Cloth (black) is the only interior colour choice, albeit upper trims get some patterned colour woven into the seat inserts that’s a big move up in visual stimulation. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
Now you can adjust audio volume, search for stations and answer a call from this new steering wheel switchgear. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

What else do you get with the base Micra? The new infotainment system and steering wheel switches aside, the Micra S comes with thoughtful little luxuries like rubberized knobs for the manual winding windows, cool little toggles for manually adjusting the side mirrors (although you’ll need to stretch across the car or ask for help to set up the one on the passenger’s side), carpeted floor mats front to back, and did I mention the genuine cloth seats? Of course, I’m poking a little fun at the expectations of our first world life, because very few cars available on the Canadian market have wind-up windows these days, let alone require a key to get into each front door as well as the rear hatch. Seriously there’s not even an interior latch to remotely release it, but once it’s unlocked you have the luxury of opening and closing it at will. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
I happen to have a fondness for ’70s-era LCD watches, so the Micra’s gauge clusters is kind of cool in a retro sort of way. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Standard features of note that have not yet been mentioned include tilt steering, micro-filtered ventilation, variable intermittent wipers, an intermittent rear wiper, two-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio with Radio Data System (RDS) and speed-sensitive volume control, a USB port and aux-in jack, a four-way manual driver’s seat, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, and more. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
The base model’s centre stack now gets a 7.0-inch touchscreen above a classic three-dial DIY manual HVAC system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If you want air conditioning and/or cruise control, not to mention an upgraded steering wheel featuring switchgear on its right spoke, simply opt for the Micra S with its available automatic and these features come standard. That upmarket move requires a surprisingly hefty $3,810 resulting in a new total of $14,298 before freight and fees, which, once again to be fair to the Mitsubishi, is $2,100 more than the Mirage CVT that already includes the autobox-infused Micra upgrades as standard. The thing is, you’ll be hard pressed to get up a steep hill in the Mitsubishi, while you’ll be hard charging in the Micra. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
Bright and colourful, the new touchscreen is a car cry more advanced than the old Micra’s LCD centre stack readout. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The fancier cloth isn’t all you get when moving up from the Micra’s base S trim to its $15,598 mid-range SV or $17,598 top-tier SR grade, with the former trim’s standard features list swelling to include the automatic transmission, body-coloured mirror caps and door handles, power locks with auto-locking, powered windows, heated power-adjustable side mirrors, chrome interior door handles, cruise control, air conditioning, four-speaker audio, a six-way manual driver’s seat with a folding armrest, etcetera, while factory options for this trim include a $400 SV Style Package with 15-inch alloy wheels and a rear spoiler. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
Now that’s a decent sized backup camera, providing a nice clear image that really helps when parking. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The top-line Micra SR gets the same rooftop spoiler and its own set of aluminum wheels, although its standard machine-finished rims grow to 16 inches and ride on 185/55 all-season rubber, while the rest of its standard features list includes upgraded sport headlights and taillights, front fog lamps, side sill spoilers, chrome exterior accents, a chrome exhaust tip, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift lever with the manual transmission (which once again comes standard), even nicer Sport cloth upholstery, and more. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
It might be simple, but the MIcra’s HVAC system is perfectly functional. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Paint colours aside there aren’t any factory options for the Micra’s two upper grades, but Nissan provides plenty of dealer-installed accessories no matter the trim, and some really celebrate the car’s sporty nature. For instance, there are Colour Studio packages that include contrasting coloured mirror covers and sport stripes available across the line for $219, or alternatively you can swap out the body-colour door handles on SV and SR models with the same contrasting colour from the aforementioned City Package by choosing the $461 Trend Package, while the $599 Intensity Package ups the ante with a contrasting coloured rear hatch finisher and a custom “Premium Package” emblem. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
This is the transmission performance drivers will enjoy most, while top-line SR trim includes a leather-wrapped shift knob. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Alternatively you can get all of the above individually, as well as colour centre wheel caps, a rear rooftop spoiler (for S and SV trims), a chrome exhaust tip (ditto), etcetera, plus a whole host of more conventional accessories like all-season floor mats, a cargo mat, bicycle and ski/snowboard/wakeboard carriers, and more. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
The driver’s seat is comfortable and headroom impressive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I should mention that the Micra and Mirage aren’t the only hatchbacks vying for your attention in this class. As noted earlier, Chevy’s little Spark is also a credible competitor for about $500 less than the Micra, while it bridges the gap (more like a chasm) when it comes to performance thanks to 98 horsepower and 94 lb-ft of torque (still 11 hp and 13 lb-ft less than the Micra), and fuel economy that’s rated at 7.2 L/100km combined, plus it offers an identically sized 7.0-inch touchscreen with standard CarPlay and Android smartphone integration, etcetera. It was redesigned for 2019, which spurred the strongest year-over-year growth within Canada’s entire small car sector (including larger subcompact and compact models) at 24.2 percent, resulting in 4,945 units and second place in the city car segment. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
Rear seat roominess is good, and the outboard positions quite comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

At the other end of the positivity spectrum Fiat’s much pricier $22,495 500 lost even more ground than the Micra at -68 percent and just 269 units down the road during the same 12 months—year-over-year Micra sales were down 39 percent, incidentally. The Smart Fortwo, which doesn’t really face off directly against any of these five-place competitors due to having just two seats, now being solely electric and thus starting at $29,050 and wearing a new EQ badge, saw its sales shrink by 13.9 percent to 317 units last year, while the entire city car segment has been contracting in recent years due to the cancellation of the all-electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV last year and the Scion iQ the year before. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
The 60/40-split rear seatback comes standard, and should provide enough of space for most small car owners’ needs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Glancing back at that list of rivals and it’s not too unreasonable to surmise some future cancellations. Truly, if it weren’t for Daimler’s brilliantly innovative Car2Go sharing program (it was first) it’s highly unlikely the Smart brand would exist anymore, at least in our part of the world, while both Fiat, which is repositioning itself as a boutique premium brand like Mini, and Mitsubishi, that’s only having any notable success with Outlander compact SUV that saw growth of nearly 50-percent last year due to a plug-in hybrid version, may not make it through the next inevitable recession. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
You don’t get a flat loading floor, but I’d rather have more cargo space. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I mean, if Fiat only managed to sell 596 vehicles brand-wide up until October of 2018, which is a 73 percent drop from the year prior, and then conveniently forgot to mention the brand in its monthly and yearly totals in November and December, there’s a pretty good chance they’re about to say arrivederci to the North American markets sooner than later. We sourced the information from Automotive News Canada that reported 645 calendar 2018 sales for a 72.4 percent downturn compared to the 2,339 units sold in 2017, but that’s still got to be beyond challenging for the Italian brand’s 55 independent retailers. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
This is a formidable engine for such a small, lightweight car, and reason enough for the Micra’s straight-line performance advantage. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I’ve driven all of the above so therefore it’s easy for me to understand why the Micra is Canada’s best-selling city car, not to mention more popular than plenty of other small cars including the Mini Cooper at 4,466 units, the Honda Fit at 3,520 (although a flood at its Mexican assembly plant was the cause of its 29.9 percent downfall), Chevrolet Sonic at 2,836 (which will soon be discontinued), Volkswagen Beetle at 2,077, Ford Fiesta 1,323 (also cancelled), and Hyundai Veloster at 1,077 units (but it’s more of a niche sport model). I’m not saying this final list of cars aren’t more appealing than the Micra overall, but when value is factored into the mix, only the Honda Fit measures up. 

While we most likely won’t see a redesign of our Canadian-exclusive Micra anytime soon (most other markets received an all-new Micra in 2017), because it’s not available in the U.S. and therefore may not warrant the investment, it’s possible that a change in market conditions could see it quickly become even more popular than it already is with price- and interest rate-sensitive first-time and fixed-income buyers. Still, as much as I’d like to get my hands on the more up-to-date version, the current Micra offers so much value for its asking price and provides so much fun at the wheel that it’s impossible to beat, and now that Nissan has given this base model new life with a fresh infotainment touchscreen it’s even better than ever, putting the new 2019 Micra S high on my budget conscious shoppers recommendations list.

Nissan Micra Cup 2018 – RACE #1 (37:56 – Note: race starts at 4:55):

The Qashqai might only be second-most popular amongst Nissan models in Canada, but since arriving two years ago it has quickly swept into first place within its subcompact crossover SUV segment thanks…

2020 Nissan Qashqai receives mid-cycle refresh and more

2020 Nissan Qashqai
The refreshed 2020 Qashqai will get Nissan’s more U-shaped Vmotion 2.0 grille as well as plenty of other styling updates. (Photo: Nissan)

The Qashqai might only be second-most popular amongst Nissan models in Canada, but since arriving two years ago it has quickly swept into first place within its subcompact crossover SUV segment thanks to 19,662 unit sales during calendar year 2018, a 119.2-percent increase over the previous year. 

All the more reason to give the upcoming 2020 Qashqai a mid-cycle refresh, featuring Nissan’s more rugged looking Vmotion 2.0 grille surrounded by revised headlamps with LED signature daytime running lights, a more dynamic lower fascia, and a new sculpted hood design up front, plus available 19-inch alloy wheels down each side and reworked rear styling with sharper looking combination taillights. From front to back the new Qashqai has been modernized with a sportier yet still classy look for a subcompact SUV. 

2020 Nissan Qashqai
The renewed Qashqai’s rear styling has been updated more subtly, the highlight being new taillight lenses. (Photo: Nissan)

The Qashqai received Intelligent Emergency Braking (IEB), radar-based Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), and Nissan’s Rear Door Alert (RDA) system, that reminds if you’ve left something or someone in the back seat, across its the entire for 2019, and these important safety features continue into the 2020 model year, but even better the upgraded Qashqai will get the entire Nissan Safety Shield 360 system in base S trim too. 

2020 Nissan Qashqai
Everything up front has been changed, including the hood. (Photo: Nissan)

Nissan Safety Shield 360, currently available in SV and SL trims, upgrades the Intelligent Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, plus adds Rear Intelligent Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning (LDW), and High Beam Assist (HBA) to the 2020 Qashqai’s list of advanced driver assistance systems, for a full slate of Nissan Intelligent Mobility strategy functions. 

Of note, Nissan made its ProPilot Assist semi-autonomous single-lane “hands-on-wheel” driving system standard on the top-line Qashqai SL for 2019, while making it optional on the SV model. ProPilot Assist has the ability to completely drive itself, but due to safety concerns only lets you remove your hands from the steering wheel for about eight seconds at a time. Still, it can reduce driving fatigue by limiting the need to apply acceleration, steering and braking inputs and, together with the aforementioned Nissan Safety Shield 360 system, may even help to avoid a potential accident. 

2020 Nissan Qashqai
The LED enhanced taillights add more character to the Qashqai’s rear design. (Photo: Nissan)

“Our Qashqai is a critical vehicle in Nissan’s popular CUV lineup; slotted strategically between the Nissan Kicks and Rogue,” said Steve Rhind, director of marketing, Nissan Canada Inc. “We’re committed to keeping our crossover/SUV portfolio fresh – which also includes the redesigned Murano, new Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition and flagship Armada. Nissan is on a roll and we’re not letting up heading into 2020.” 

2020 Nissan Qashqai
The Qashqai’s interior is already current, so therefore stays mostly unchanged. (Photo: Nissan)

The current Qashqai also received a standard 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen for 2019, complete with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, satellite radio, live navigation, plus mobile apps and services. The upcoming 2020 Qashqai appears to have the same centre display included, which would certainly keep it up to date with others in the subcompact crossover SUV segment. 

2020 Nissan Qashqai
A standard 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto was added for 2019. (Photo: Nissan)

Like the current Qashqai, the new 2020 model will once again be available with both front-wheel and “Intelligent” all-wheel drivetrains, depending on whether choosing base S, SV or SL trims. Today’s 141-horsepower 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine will continue as the standard powerplant for the 2020 model year as well, mated to either a six-speed manual transmission in base S trim, or with an optional Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT). Expect additional trim and pricing information closer to its launch date later this year.

The Rogue is Nissan Canada’s most popular model, and one look should make it easy to understand why. It was refreshed for the 2017 model year with Nissan’s wider, more U-shaped Vmotion 2.0 grille…

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
The Rogue moves into 2019 looking just as handsome as it did last year. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The Rogue is Nissan Canada’s most popular model, and one look should make it easy to understand why. It was refreshed for the 2017 model year with Nissan’s wider, more U-shaped Vmotion 2.0 grille that we think is more handsome than the original V, while its then-new quad-beam headlamps with LED daytime running lights, and its updated LED brake lights added premium-level sophistication to the look. 

That facelifted 2017 model included additional styling tweaks on the outside plus updates within, a personal favourite being its flat-bottom steering wheel that still makes a sporty statement in the otherwise elegantly appointed top-line 2019 Rogue SL Platinum trimmed model currently in our garage. So equipped, that steering wheel is leather-wrapped with a heatable rim, a much appreciated mid-winter feature, as are the Quick Comfort heated front seats that come standard across the entire Rogue line, albeit the Platinum’s perforated leather upholstery is exclusive to this model. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
There isn’t an angle that doesn’t look proportional, the Rogue’s sharp styling a key reason it sells so well. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The Rogue in our garage isn’t merely a regular SL Platinum, mind you, but rather includes a $500 SL Platinum Reserve Interior Package that replaces the regular Charcoal black or Almond tan leather seat surfaces with special quilted leather upholstery in an even richer looking Premium Tan hue, that comes across more like caramel or saddle brown. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
LED DRLs are standard across the line, and auto on/off functionality gets added with the SV, but these LED headlights with auto high beams are included with SL Platinum trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

There’s actually more to the seat design than that, the quilting just used for the centre inserts, whereas perforated leather gets added to the inner bolsters and contrast-stitched black leather on top of those bolsters for a little more sport mixed in with the luxury, the seats’ upholstery complemented by the same Premium Tan on the door armrests, centre armrest, padded knee protectors on each side of the lower centre console, and even the dash facing, which gets a similarly classy looking stitched leather pad ahead of the front passenger. 

Icing on the proverbial cake comes in the form of Piano Black interior door inlays surrounding the usual chromed door handles, which match up nicely next to the same glossy black treatment rimming the dash vents, centre console, gear lever surround and otherwise leather-wrapped shift knob. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
SL Platinum trim adds these gorgeous machine-finished 19-inch alloys, while the fog lamps get pulled up from mid-range SV trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The latest Rogue SL Platinum doesn’t just look like a premium ride, its standard feature set is replete with top-drawer gear that one-ups plenty of luxury brands. For instance, the official name given to this trim level is Rogue SL Platinum with ProPilot Assist, the latter technology standard with all SL Platinum models and really quite impressive. It’s a semi-autonomous “hands-on-wheel” driving system, which means it has the ability to completely drive itself, but due to safety concerns only lets you remove your hands from the steering wheel for about eight seconds at a time. Still, it’ll impress your friends and might be useful to those who find highway driving intimidating, as it helps keep the Rogue centered within its lane and, along with its Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Intelligent Lane Intervention systems, may even help avoid an accident. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
Ritzy enough for you? This caramel brown quilted leather comes as part of the $500 SL Platinum Reserve Interior Package. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

These latter two advanced driver assistance systems get pulled up to the SL Platinum from mid-range SV trim, as does Intelligent Emergency Braking (P-IEB) with Pedestrian Detection, High Beam Assist (HBA), and Intelligent Cruise Control, while a Rear Sonar System, Moving Object Detection (MOD), Backup Collision Intervention and Rear Intelligent Emergency Braking (R-IEB) join ProPilot Assist as options with the SV and come as standard equipment with the top-line model. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
The SL Platinum’s standard split-screen monitor with its 360-degree overhead view really helps when parking. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Along with all the usual active and passive safety features, some advanced tech pulled up from the base Rogue S to upper trims include Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) with a display showing individual tire pressures and an Easy-Fill Tire Alert, Intelligent Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Intelligent Emergency Braking (IEB), plus two features normally relegated to top-line trims, Blind Spot Warning (BSW) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), while Rear Door Alert is an oddly named albeit very welcome feature that actually warns against leaving something or someone in the back seat unattended after turning off the engine, by remembering that you opened a rear door before setting off on your drive. Smart. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
Roomy enough for you? (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I could go on and on listing the Rogue’s myriad features and talking engine, transmission, AWD tech, specifications, etcetera, but will leave such details to the upcoming road test review, at which point I’ll also talk about life with the Rogue during our weeklong test, and of course my driving impressions that included cruising down the highway with ProPilot Assist turned on and my hands off the wheel for longer than the recommended duration. Until then, scroll back up to enjoy our comprehensive photo gallery…

Nissan’s Altima has long placed mid-pack in popularity amongst the dozen or so mid-size family sedans available to Canadian new car buyers, but the dramatically styled new 2019 model, featuring standard…

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One Road Test

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
Nissan has given its 2019 Altima a bold new face, shown here in limited top-line Edition One trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Nissan’s Altima has long placed mid-pack in popularity amongst the dozen or so mid-size family sedans available to Canadian new car buyers, but the dramatically styled new 2019 model, featuring standard all-wheel drive, should help move it closer to the top-selling Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, a target made more achievable due to key rivals Ford and GM cancelling their third- and fifth-place Fusion and Chevy Malibu respectively. 

Certainly the mid-size family sedan segment has taken a beating in recent years, but imported brands are staying the course while domestics are pulling up shop and walking away from the entire car market despite comparatively strong sales. Ok, it’s not as if Ford and Chevy have been selling anywhere near as many Fusions and Malibus as Toyota and Honda delivered Camrys and Accords, the latter models’ numbers reaching 14,574 and 13,504 units respectively during model year 2017 (2018 numbers have yet to be tallied), but the 9,736 Fusions and 8,152 Malibus certainly proved stronger than the 7,827 Hyundai Sonatas or 6,626 Altimas sold during the same 12 months, or for that matter the 4,496 Kia Optimas, 4,145 VW Passats, 2,842 Chrysler 200s (a domestic sedan that has also been cancelled), 2,541 Mazda 6s, 2,451 Subaru Legacys (the only other car on this list with standard AWD), and 695 Buick Regals (strange GM chose to cancel the Malibu instead of this sales laggard). 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
The new Altima’s rear design is tastefully sporty, highlighted by distinctive floating C pillars. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Dubbed Intelligent AWD, the Altima’s four-wheel propulsion system utilizes an advanced torque split design that automatically distributes power from 100 percent up front and zero at the rear, all the way to an even division of 50 percent front to rear. The bias depends on road conditions and resulting wheel slippage, with the default system being front-wheel drive to save on fuel and reduce emissions. Additionally, Nissan claims its new Intelligent AWD works seamlessly with the Altima’s standard limited-slip differential, as well as its Hill Start Assist system. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
Big grilles are all the rage, and this one digs deep in an effort to catch attention. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Powering it all is a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine that’s good for 182 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque, which is 9 horsepower and 3 lb-ft stronger than the engine it replaces. Nissan promised smoother and quieter operation, plus better efficiency than the outgoing four-cylinder, and I must say it lived up to such claims during my test. Smooth is probably the best word to describe the updated powertrain, but much of this has to do with the revised Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) that’s ideal for drivers looking for relaxed comfort, ease of use and efficient operation. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
The base Altima S uses projector-type halogen headlamps, but all trims above incorporate these full LED lights. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

In default mode it goes about its duties with near seamless perfection, the CVT’s “seams”, or rather shift points, only added in order to mimic the feel of a conventional automatic transmission, as has been en vogue in continuously variable camps for a number of years. It all results in truly realistic shift intervals that never had me missing an old-school automatic. Driven modestly at legal city and highway speeds the Altima’s CVT is a perfect match for the equally modest powerplant, plus Nissan includes a Sport button on the backside of the shift lever for maximizing performance. It allows revs to climb higher before a more assertive “gear change”, although with no manual mode available driver engagement is minimal. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
The lower fascia detailing is sporty, and optional LED fog lamps a nice touch. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This brings up an important point. Nissan’s U.S. division offers the Altima with steering wheel paddle shifters and a sportier 2.0-litre variable-compression-ratio turbocharged four-cylinder engine good for up to 248 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, but due to Nissan Canada’s insistence on standard AWD this FWD-only model won’t be heading north of the 49th. 

More importantly in this class, the new CVT features an expanded lock-up area for enhanced fuel economy, this helping the new Altima achieve a claimed 9.1 L/100km city, 6.5 highway and 7.9 combined in S and SV trims, or 9.3 city, 6.7 highway and 8.1 combined in Platinum or as-tested Edition One trims. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
Edition One trim is limited to 250 examples in Canada, and includes these exclusive matte grey 19-inch alloys. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Unfortunately I had no time to head up one of Vancouver’s snowcapped local mountains to test out the all-wheel drive this time around, but the aforementioned system certainly gripped well in wet weather and there was no noticeable slip during takeoff. Adhesion was further aided by standard traction and stability control systems, while Active Understeer Control and Intelligent Trace Control enhanced the Altima’s admirable mechanical cornering capability, plus the car’s comfort quotient was improved upon via Intelligent Ride Control. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
As every limited edition should, the Altima Edition One gets unique branding on the lower front door panels. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Balancing ride quality and handling has been an Altima strength for as long as I can remember, memories of which go back to the third-generation model’s Canadian launch program in 2001, and to this end the mid-size segment’s usual fully independent front strut and rear multi-link suspension setup takes care of comfort and control, with the expected stabilizer bars at each end and dual-pinion electric powered steering providing direction. The combination works well, no doubt helped along via my tester’s aforementioned 19-inch alloys on 235/40 VR-rated all-season tires. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
A tasteful rear spoiler is part of the Edition One upgrade, but the LED taillights come standard across the line. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Features in mind, the 2019 Altima starts at just $27,998 plus freight and fees for base S trim, $31,498 for the SV, $34,998 for Platinum, and $35,998 for the 250-example limited-production launch version dubbed Edition One. I’ll go into some of the standard and optional features available with other trims in a moment, but being that I’m actually covering this special model I should first mention that those just noted 19-inch alloys look really nice thanks to a matte grey finish and large chunky spokes. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
This sporty diffuser-style rear apron incorporates dual chrome tipped exhaust pipes in SV trim and above. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Edition One also gets a larger than usual body-colour rear spoiler, “EDITION ONE” exterior badges on the lower portion of the front doors, ground lighting that emanates from below each side sill, illuminated “ALTIMA” metal kick plates, and really upscale grey carpeted floor mats with large “ALTIMA EDITION ONE” logos embroidered in a lighter silver/grey tone, along with the Platinum model’s standard feature set. By the way, you can find out all 2019 Altima pricing details at CarCostCanada, including dealer invoice pricing and rebate info that could save you thousands. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
The new Altima gets a nicely styled, impressively finished front passenger compartment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Those Platinum features pulled up to Edition One trim include interior accent lighting, wood-tone inlays on the instrument panel, leather upholstery, two-way driver’s memory, a four-way power-adjustable front passenger’s seat, an Intelligent Around View Monitor, navigation, voice recognition for navigation and audio, SiriusXM-powered NissanConnect Services featuring compatible smartphone and smartwatch access to functions like remote engine start/stop, remote door lock/unlock, valet alert, etcetera, Door to Door Navigation that provides seamless transfer from a personal device using NissanConnect to the car’s infotainment interface, Premium Traffic that improves ETA accuracy, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link, nine-speaker Bose premium audio, and Traffic Sign Recognition. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
The Altima’s dash design provides an open, airy and uncluttered interior ambiance. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Items found on the Platinum and Edition One that get pulled up from SV trim include advanced LED headlamps with signature LED daytime running lights (DRLs) and High Beam Assist (HBA), plus LED fog lights, dual chrome exhaust finishers, acoustic laminated glass, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift knob, Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, rear parking sensors, a powered moonroof, satellite radio, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear passenger air conditioning vents, Blind Spot Warning (BSW) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Pedestrian Detection added to the otherwise standard Intelligent Emergency Braking (IEB), Intelligent Lane Intervention, Rear Intelligent Emergency Braking, and last but hardly least ProPILOT Assist semi-automated driving capability, an exclusive Nissan Intelligent Mobility technology that can totally take over steering duties for short durations on the highway, and aid steering (if you keep your hands on the wheel) for as long as you want, by helping to keep your Altima centered within its lane. While ProPILOT Assist is engaged, ICC gets used to maintain a safe distance behind vehicles ahead, resulting in one of the more advanced semi-self-driving systems currently available. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
A well laid out cockpit is highlighted by a really sporty flat-bottomed leather-wrapped steering wheel. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Advanced driver assistance in mind, the new Altima not only comes standard with Intelligent Emergency Braking, but it also features standard Intelligent Forward Collision Warning (I-FCW), Intelligent Driver Alertness (I-DA), and Rear Door Alert that reminds you of anything/anybody left in the back seat when exiting your car, while additional base S trim features pulled up to our top-line Altima include the aforementioned automatic Xtronic CVT and AWD, plus remote engine start, proximity-sensing keyless access, pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, auto on/off headlights, LED turn signals within the side mirror housings, LED taillights, active grille shutters, a UV-reducing solar glass windshield, an Advanced Drive-Assist display within the otherwise analogue Fine Vision electroluminescent gauge cluster, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a backup camera, Bluetooth hands-free smartphone connectivity with streaming audio, hands-free text messaging, Siri Eyes Free voice recognition, two illuminated USB ports and two of the smaller USB-C ports, plus more, while the standard menu continues with micro-filtered air conditioning, heated front seats, an eight-way powered driver’s seat, etcetera. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
Bright, attractive Fine Vision electroluminescent gauges are flanked by a large colour multi-info display. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

When climbing inside I was first impressed with the Altima’s clean, contemporary design and better use of higher quality premium materials when compared to the outgoing Altima. When seated up front, most surfaces above the waistline are made from soft-touch synthetic, the dash and instrument panel particularly attractive in their minimalist design, albeit the woodgrain used for the latter feels a lot more genuine than it looks. Fortunately there’s no wood on the door panels, only extensions of the tasteful satin-silver accents used for the instrument panel and centre console, plus some French-stitched leatherette over soft padding found on the inserts and armrests. Nissan uses this treatment for the primary instrument hood too, not to mention down each side of the lower console, providing a premium treatment that’s not unlike its larger, fancier Maxima sedan. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
The centre stack is nicely organized, but fake looking faux woodgrain? That’s so 1990s. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

A personal favourite item is the thick leather-wrapped steering wheel rim that gets a slightly flattened bottom section for a sporty look and feel. It’s enhanced with Nissan’s usual high-quality switchgear, while the aforementioned instrument cluster is bright, clear and filled with a large colour TFT multi-information display at centre. This said it’s up against a couple of rivals that feature fully digital gauges in top trims, but I doubt this will be a deal-breaker for the majority of mid-size sedan buyers. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
The available navigation system is accurate, but was surprisingly slow to respond. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The infotainment touchscreen sits high atop the centre stack in the usual fixed tablet design, and as tested comes crammed with all the top-tier features mentioned earlier. Along with the usual tap gesture control, you can pinch and swipe its surface in certain applications, such as the navigation system’s map, but I must say I wasn’t certain of this at first try because it took so long for the system to respond. Some of its dulled reaction seemed to be due to having just started up the car, but even when it allowed me to zoom in and out or move the map around it wasn’t as immediately engaging or as smooth as some other systems in the class. The map graphics are very nice, however, and its route guidance worked flawlessly, while the infotainment system’s interface is well thought out on the whole. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
This split-screen backup and overhead camera made parking easy. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Likewise, the clarity of the display is excellent, as is its depth of colour and contrast, this made especially noticeable in the audio system’s satellite radio panel that provides colourful station branding and album cover artwork, while the Bose system’s sound quality was very good. Also impressive, my tester’s parking monitor was a split-screen design with a regular reverse camera featuring active guidelines to the left and an overhead 360-degree surround camera system to the right, a best of both worlds scenario. This, combined with the previously noted rear sensors, made parking very easy. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
Nissan incorporates two sizes of USB ports, the smaller USB-C version expected to be industry standard moving forward. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Also positive, the Altima’s “Zero Gravity” seats are wonderfully comfortable, with good lower back support plus the addition of two-way driver’s lumbar support that fit the small of my back almost perfectly. What’s more, I was pleased with the amount of rake and reach found in the tilt and telescopic steering column, allowing me to set up the driving position ideally, which isn’t the case with some rivals. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
The little button just below the leather shift knob is for switching on Sport mode, but take note the Canadian-market Altima doesn’t offer manual shifting. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Rear seat roominess is very good too, with 10-plus inches of space between the front seatback to my knees when the former was set up for my five-foot-eight frame, plus I had plenty of room to stretch the legs out with my feet below the front seat. Likewise, the Altima offered about five inches of open air next to my outside hips and shoulders, plus about three inches above my head, which means its rear quarters should be roomy enough for most adults. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
Comfort is king in the new Altima, these leather-clad seats particularly supportive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

An armrest with cupholders folds down at centre, while additional rear seat amenities include reading lights overhead and, as noted earlier, two sizes of USB ports on the backside of the front centre console. Other than a set of air vents on that same console, that’s about it for niceties in back, which means that fans of rear seat heaters need not apply. I was also surprised to find hard plastic rear door uppers, not to mention the same hard plastic used for most of the mid and lower door panels. Not only is this rare for the mid-size sedan segment no matter the trim level, but the outgoing Altima featured soft-touch door uppers in back. Only a small portion of this 2019 model’s door insert comes fitted with padded leatherette, along with the armrest, which results in a lower level of rear seat luxury than most in this segment. In fact, even this full-load Altima Edition One’s rear doors are no nicer than what you’d find in an entry-level compact car, and therefore they’re disappointing. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
The Altima’s back seats are comfortable and passenger compartment roomy, but amenities are sparse and finishings below average. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Moving farther back still, some might be put off by the new Altima’s lack of trunk space. At 436 litres (15.4 cubic feet) it’s larger than most compacts, but it’s smaller than the Camry, Accord and others it’s up against. Release pulls allow 60/40-split rear seatbacks to tumble forward when more space is needed for transporting longer cargo, but this is par for the course in this class. Unusually good, however, is a front passenger’s seatback that can be fully reclined to house extra-long cargo. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
Cargo space is less than the class average, but should suffice for most owners. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Speaking of space up front, I could have used more cubbies on or under the centre console, and the glove box isn’t as cavernous as the outgoing model’s, but kudos to Nissan for correcting a constant complaint of mine, the overhead sunglasses holder now fits all types of shades thanks to the removal of a nosepiece holder that was previously ridiculously oversized. 

As for styling, the new 2019 Altima’s exterior design speaks for itself, and most should find its assertive new face to their liking. Its predominant feature is a go-big-or-go-home version of the brand’s Vmotion 2.0 grille, surrounded by those sleek new LED headlamps mentioned earlier, unless choosing the base S model that comes with a set of projector-type halogen headlights that are just as sleek, albeit not as bright, while the rest of the car portrays an athletic stance from front to back. 

2019 Nissan Altima Edition One
The usual 60/40 split rear seatbacks allow for longer cargo when needed. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

All said, the new Altima delivers big on style, interior design and execution up front, comfort and passenger roominess all-round, plus infotainment, handling, fuel economy, and advanced driver assistance systems, while its safety rating should at the very least measure up to its peers. I don’t think Nissan has hit the new Altima out of the park, meaning the Camry and Accord should still reign supreme in the mid-size sedan segment, but it should satisfy most current Altima owners that aren’t already planning to upgrade to a Murano, Pathfinder, or some other crossover SUV like so many of today’s consumers are. Then again, the all-season stability and safety that comes with standard AWD combined with the unmatched security of a lockable trunk should be considered, and the new Altima is one of few vehicles on today’s mainstream volume-branded market providing both.

Nissan has taken a very different tack by normalizing its second-generation Leaf, which is both good and a bit of a shame. Don’t mistake me for being negative about its more familial design direction,…

2019 Nissan Leaf SL Road Test

2019 Nissan Leaf SL
The sharp looking second-generation Nissan Leaf takes on an entirely new more sophisticated personality. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Nissan has taken a very different tack by normalizing its second-generation Leaf, which is both good and a bit of a shame. Don’t mistake me for being negative about its more familial design direction, because the first version’s whacky styling almost made a balloon look square, but much if not all of the initial model’s whimsy is now gone, replaced by a slick, efficient, business-first compact. 

I like the look. With the Leaf’s original Dr. Seuss-inspired styling now relegated to EV history, a design that must have fully appealed to the plug-in masses that snapped it up faster than any EV before, a matured interpretation of the monobox design is all crisp, clean creases of trademark V-motion, floating C-pillar, Z-like taillight Nissan goodness, a sharp contrast to the ovoid Leaf of yore. 

2019 Nissan Leaf SL
The new Leaf’s wedge-like profile makes it much sportier than the outgoing model. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Alas, open the tiny hood just above that new V-shaped grille and the old car’s beautifully detailed metal “engine” cover with blue and chrome “NISSAN zero Emission” branding is gone, replaced by a much more advanced 110kW electric motor topped off with a much less inspiring black plastic cover, the branding now simply stating its “NISSAN” maker. 

Yes, the electric vehicle industry is growing up, and with its maturation our once fun and funky Leaf teenager is becoming an older, more responsible adult. This said there’s much good that can be said for a more conservative approach when it comes to car design, especially when factoring in the need for aesthetic longevity, which translates into higher resale values due to greater appeal within the used market. 

2019 Nissan Leaf SL
A rooftop spoiler, diffuser-style rear bumper cap and Z-like taillights make the Leaf stand out. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

That new 110kW motor may do even more to bolster pre-owned Leaf values than styling, thanks to a lot more get-up-and-go and much greater range. Imperially that number reads 147 horsepower, a 40 hp gain over its predecessor, while torque is up 30 lb-ft to a much more motivating 236. 

A more potent 40kWh Li-ion battery now powers the uprated motor, a 16kWh improvement over the previous generation without any increase in physical size. This means it can now travel up to 241 kilometres on a single charge compared to just 172 km for the old model, and this 69-km extension makes all the difference in the world. 

2019 Nissan Leaf SL
Nissan refers to its now trademark grille design as “V motion”. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Depending on the length of your commute or the complexity of your errand list, the new Leaf lets you drive around for days without recharging. What’s more, the range anxiety some might have experienced with the outgoing model should be all but gone, as long as you top it up well before the little blue battery graphic shows a need. 

Replenishing from near empty takes about seven hours from a 240-volt charger or more than an entire day when hooked up to a regular 120-volt household socket. I recommend you purchase a proper Level 2 charger so you can fill up overnight, or you’ll be making a lot more impromptu stops at retail outlet charging stations than your schedule may allow for. Then again, if you can find a Level 3 DC fast-charging station you’ll be able to fill it from near zero to 80 percent in about 40 minutes, while recharging to 80 percent is always significantly quicker than trying to top it off the final 20 percent, no matter which charging process you’re using. 

2019 Nissan Leaf SL
LED headlamps with LED signature DRLs come standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Fortunately, owning a plug-in allows for some front-of-the-line exclusivity when it comes to parking spots. In my city the majority of shopping malls, big box stores, hotels, and government buildings offer free charging for their greenest customers, and more often than not these specialized parking spots are located right next to the front doors of their establishments, providing a level of VIP convenience to EV ownership. 

Livability in mind, the Leaf has always been roomy and comfortable. The new one is not noticeably improved for occupants or cargo, with the latter measuring a fairly generous 668 litres (23.6 cubic feet) with the 60/40-split rear seatbacks upright and 849 litres (30.0 cubic feet) when they’re folded. What’s more, there’s no battery awkwardly protruding into the cargo area like some other EVs, with the Leaf SL’s load floor nice and flat other than a smallish Bose Acoustic Wave System boombox butting up against the rear seatbacks, the seven-speaker audio upgrade making the most of the otherwise near silent Leaf interior. 

2019 Nissan Leaf SL
A closer look shows some very nice Leaf detailing. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Leaf cabin is certainly quiet thanks to a lack of engine and exhaust notes, the wind rushing past and the road below the only noticeable aural intrusions, and the latter two variables are kept to a hush thanks to ample sound-deadening insulation, plenty of plush surfaces, and soft-touch composites on the dash-top and door uppers, resulting in a fairly refined environment for this class. Of course, such should be expected of a compact hatchback costing upwards of $36,798 (check out CarCostCanada for all 2019 Nissan Leaf pricing including trims, options, rebate info and even dealer invoice pricing), a seemingly steep price until considering the smaller Chevrolet Bolt starts at a cool $44,400. 

2019 Nissan Leaf SL
These sporty 17-inch alloys wrapped in 215/50 low resistance all-season tires are standard with SV and SL trims. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Even with provincial rebates of up to $5,000 in BC and $8,000 in Quebec (Ontario no longer offers a plug-in incentive program), that’s a lot of coin for a vehicle class that normally starts well under $20,000, whereas the Leaf’s second-rung SV trim will set you back $40,698, and the top-line as-tested SL rings in a total of $42,698. Again, that’s chump change compared to the top-tier Bolt’s $49,300, while a similarly sized BMW i3 I recently tested topped $70k. 

You can bet that both the BMW and Bolt come fitted with leather seats and plenty more, but so does the Leaf SL. In fact, the SL’s partially perforated leather upholstery was ultra-luxe thanks to a two-tone black and grey design, the latter comprised of the same microfibre-like Bio Suede PET cloth used for the two lower trims’ upholstery, while plenty of blue contrasting thread was joined by the same stitching on the armrests, all complemented with blue accented graphics in the gauge cluster and infotainment touchscreen, not to mention a cool blue glowing gear selector. 

2019 Nissan Leaf SL
These sharp looking Z-inspired taillights are really nice. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The seats are plenty comfortable too, with decent two-way powered lumbar support that seemed to fit the small of my back quite well, but much to my surprise and disappointment the otherwise beautifully finished leather-wrapped, flat-bottom steering wheel has a standard heatable rim but no telescopic capability, only moving up and down marginally via its tilt feature. This posed a problem when trying to get comfortable and maintain best possible control, as I had to stretch my arms too far to reach the steering wheel rim when the pedals were set up for my admittedly long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight body. 

The rear seating area is fairly roomy, albeit it’s still easy to tell you’re in a compact car. I had about five inches ahead of my knees and plenty of room for my feet when the driver’s seat was set up for my aforementioned height, although the latter isn’t raised up very high so it was difficult to get my shoes underneath when wanting to stretch out my legs. Likewise, the Leaf only provided about two and a half inches above my head, and it’s pretty narrow side-to-side with about three inches to the door panel from my outside shoulder and hip. There’s also no folding centre armrest in back, while my next gripe isn’t really a complaint, but more of a “What were they smoking?” oddity, in that the outboard rear passengers will need to reach forward to the sides of each front seat bolster in order to turn on their two-way cushion warmers. 

2019 Nissan Leaf SL
Just in case you forgot… (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Some might also find hauling larger cargo items challenging too, because the load floor doesn’t even come close to lining up with the 60/40-split rear seatbacks when lowered. This latter point is a tradeoff that I’d be willing to live with due to all of the extra stowage space within that deep loading area, and I must say it really works well when hauling taller, fragile items like plants, but a moveable shelf system would provide a best of both world’s scenario when requiring a larger, flatter load floor. 

Now that I’m complaining, the cargo compartment isn’t finished any nicer than you’d find in a $15,000 hatchback, while when back up in front I’m forced to point out fewer pliable plastic surfaces than I’d like in any car, let alone one that hardly comes cheap, but I don’t want to totally thrash on a car that does so many other things well, particularly its digital interfaces. 

2019 Nissan Leaf SL
The new Leaf’s interior is a mix of pleasant surprises and surprising shortcomings. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Before getting into the good, I might as well tell you about the big yellow “Warning: Malfunction See Owners Manual” alert that kept taking over the multi-information display throughout my weeklong drive, especially because the graphic included showed two cars crashing. Restarting the car seemed to reboot the system so that the warning disappeared for a time, but it kept coming back annoyingly, showing something needed attention. 

That warning graphic showed up on a 7.0-inch high-resolution colour TFT display that makes up the left two-thirds of the aforementioned gauge cluster, an attractive package filled with blue, green and white eco info plus more, whereas the right-side speedometer is analogue yet circled with the same stylish aqua blue hue. 

2019 Nissan Leaf SL
The Leaf’s cockpit looks great, but its steering wheel unacceptably offers no telescopic reach adjustment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Over on the centre stack is a large 7.0-inch tablet-style touchscreen on SV and SL trims (the base audio display is 5.0 inches) complete with quick-access switchgear to each side and a couple of traditional rotating knobs that came in very handy for adjusting the audio volume and scrolling through the infotainment system’s various functions, not to mention pushing to make audio sound adjustments. The graphics are attractive, and depth of contrast quite good for having a more fingerprint-friendly matte finish, plus the system is easy to operate and responds quickly to tap, pinch and swipe gestures, the navigation mapping especially reactive and the GPS guidance very accurate. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration is standard, as is a smartphone app that lets owners monitor their Leaf’s charging status, schedule a future charging time, find recharging stations, pre-heat/cool the interior, and more. 

2019 Nissan Leaf SL
This mostly digital gauge cluster is a real treat for the eyes. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

A unique bowtie-shaped single-zone automatic climate control interface sits just below in all trims, while standard two-way front seat heater switches are included within a collection of buttons that also house a 12-volt charger, USB and aux ports, and the car’s illuminated start-stop ignition button. Giving it a press brings the Leaf to life, with the only choices left being the option of default or Eco mode, and selection of the E-Pedal before releasing the electromechanical parking brake (that’s strangely not standard) and taking to the streets. 

The E-Pedal is essentially the Leaf’s fourth driving mode, after default “D” for drive and “B” for increased regenerative braking, the latter two found by pulling the gear selector to the left and rearward once and then twice respectively, while Eco mode dulls response to throttle input and helps to eke out a little more range when driven economically. The new E-Pedal is more of an automated B-mode, in that it immediately applies regenerative braking when lifting off the throttle. It can be a little disconcerting at first, because it feels as if some mischievous gremlin is getting hard on the brakes without your consent, nearly bringing the Leaf to a full stop if you don’t get back on the throttle, but once familiarized it performs well and quite smoothly, while helping to recharge the battery effectively. 

2019 Nissan Leaf SL
A closer look at the standard 7.0-inch TFT display that makes up the left two-thirds of the primary instruments, and the analogue speedometer to the right. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

B-mode still exists because some owners prefer recharging their battery manually, and to that end truly skilled drivers can probably get more kinetic charging from B-mode than the E-Pedal, or at least they claim to in forums, but those new to the Leaf lifestyle might be better off leaving the E-Pedal on and Eco mode engaged when trying to extract the most from a depleting battery. Nissan claims the E-Pedal is good for 90 percent of driving requirements, with the regular brake pedal only needed for the other 10 percent, and if used this way the Leaf won’t need its brake pads replaced very often. 

As long as Eco mode is turned off, throttle response is quite strong, especially when compared to conventional internal combustion engine-powered compacts. It won’t accelerate faster than a Bolt, which is a comparative pocket rocket, but it certainly won’t cause any disgruntled honking from behind. 

2019 Nissan Leaf SL
The Leaf’s nicely laid out centre stack is filled with an impressive infotainment touchscreen and automatic climate control. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The ride is firm, this probably due to its standard Michelin Energy Saver low roll resistance tires, but it’s hardly punishing. Roughly finished inner-city streets, irregular pavement on the highway and bridge expansion joints will be immediately noticeable, but the suspension has a reasonable amount of compliance for such a small hatchback, and as noted the seats are comfortable. 

The previous Leaf wasn’t exactly sporty, so I was pleasantly surprised that the new version handles quite well, at least as far as small hatchbacks go this side of a Golf GTI, while it’s nice and stable at high speeds. To get more from the battery you’ll probably want to leave it in Eco mode at speeds under 120 km/h, while I found the default Drive position better for higher speeds, as it coasts more effortlessly. 

2019 Nissan Leaf SL
The SL includes split-screen parking camera with a 360-degree overhead view. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Speaking of effortless highway driving, the Leaf offers the option of Nissan’s new ProPILOT Assist semi-autonomous self-driving in SV trims and above. It combines the Leaf’s all-speed adaptive cruise control with steering assist so you can let your hands off the wheel for short durations while traveling down the highway. While I found it more of a novelty, it helps keep the Leaf centered within its lane and is kind of fun to use. 

Automatic high beams are also standard on the Leaf’s two upper trims, as is Intelligent Lane Intervention, Blind Spot Warning with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Pedestrian Detection for the otherwise standard Automatic Emergency Braking system, while Driver Attention Alert that warns of drowsiness is standard with the SL. 

2019 Nissan Leaf SL
Love this blue glowing shifter! (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I found the automatic emergency braking system’s warning system worked very well, mostly because it didn’t flash its big orange warning very often. It only lit up when I was getting too close too fast, exactly like it should. Likewise, lane keep assist gently tugged the Leaf back into place when it started to leave its lane or I tried to nudge it into an adjacent lane that already had a car occupying it. 

Now that I’ve started talking trims and features, the base Leaf S includes a generous supply of standard equipment such as the aforementioned heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, while the standard Leaf package also incorporates a battery heater, auto on/off LED headlamps with LED signature DRLs, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, cruise control, a rearview monitor, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, text message reading and response, four-speaker audio, satellite radio, and all the usual active and passive safety features. 

2019 Nissan Leaf SL
The black leather is perforated and the grey strip and bolster trim is microfibre-like Bio Suede PET cloth. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Moving up to SV trim adds the previously noted advanced driver assist systems, the electromechanical parking brake, the larger infotainment touchscreen with navigation and voice recognition, ProPILOT Assist, NissanConnect EV telematics, a hybrid heater system, 17-inch alloy wheels on 215/50 all-seasons (the base steel wheels are 16s wrapped in 205/55s), fog lamps, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a Homelink universal garage door opener, six-speaker audio, an eight-way powered driver’s seat with powered lumbar support, and a cargo cover, while the top-tier SL gains all the extras already mentioned plus LED turn signals integrated into the side mirror housings, Nissan’s very helpful 360-degree Intelligent Around View Monitor, and the impressive seven-speaker Bose audio upgrade noted earlier. 

2019 Nissan Leaf SL
The rear seat is reasonably size for the Leaf’s compact class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

On a side note, I was glad to see a sunglasses holder in the overhead console, and yes it’s still marred by an oversized nosepiece holder that oddly doesn’t fit normal eyeglasses causing them to flop around within, but it’s better than nothing. I also appreciated LEDs used for the overhead reading lights up front. There are no rear reading lights in the rear, however, and the centre dome lamp is an old-school incandescent bulb, plus there’s no sunroof available at all, an issue that might bother some folks in need of light therapy during dark, cloudy days. Its unavailability may possibly be a weight saving issue, but when automakers are forced to compromise to such levels when going electric, it’s reasonable that some consumers just won’t go. 

Yet to Nissan’s credit plenty of Canadian consumers are buying into the Leaf lifestyle, the thought of never again being gouged by greedy oil companies and greedier provincial governments too fantastical to pass up. I must admit that I’d rather plug in than pump, and as of Q3 2018 there have been exactly 10,000 Canadians that have chosen likewise. 

2019 Nissan Leaf SL
The rear cargo hold is very deep, but a movable shelf would help flatten the floor for large items. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Leaf’s popularity has grown exponentially since it launched in 2011, with its first year of sales only resulting in 170 deliveries, its second calendar year just a bit more at 240, and the following years following suit with 470 units sold in 2013, 1,085 in 2014, 1,233 in 2015, 1,375 in 2016, a dip to 946 in 2017 due to the new model changeover, and now, wait for it, 4,481 new second-generation Leafs sold in the only first nine months of 2018 (believe it or not this hodgepodge of numbers actually added up to an even 10,000). 

That’s significant growth, and a great deal more per capita than Nissan’s U.S. division has achieved this year. They were only able to sell 10,686 units over the same three quarters, resulting in 2018 sales numbers that may not even reach half of the Leaf’s 2014 high of 30,200 units, showing Canadians are serious about their EVs (spurred on by much higher fuel costs. How such poor U.S. results will impact investment in the Leaf and other Nissan EVs in the future is anyone’s guess, but at the very least the Japanese brand can also take a deep bow for creating the best-selling electric car of all time, with more than 300,000 Leafs delivered globally since inception. 

2019 Nissan Leaf SL
If you’re considering a plug-in for your next car, put the value-focused Leaf high on your list. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

In the end, the new Leaf is hardly perfect, but it’s a considerable improvement over the quirky original and is apparently much more acceptable to Canadian EV buyers. Even considering the new Leaf’s 1.9 Le/100km city and 2.4 highway fuel economy equivalent rating, the $20k or so surcharge over a similarly sized and equipped conventionally powered compact hatchback will keep it and all other EVs in the fringe, however, especially in markets where provincial rebates aren’t offered, selling in similar numbers to performance-oriented sport compacts like the VW GTI/Type R, Subaru WRX/STI, and others. 

After all, going electric requires the same level of enthusiasm and even greater financial and personal dedication than most performance car fans put into their rides, so it only makes sense for the target market to remain niche at best.