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…
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Not long ago the only way you could’ve purchased advanced driver assist systems would have been by upgrading to an expensive luxury brand, but future-think features like autonomous emergency braking,…
Not long ago the only way you could’ve purchased advanced driver assist systems would have been by upgrading to an expensive luxury brand, but future-think features like autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping assist, semi-autonomous self parking, and even self-driving capability are now the stuff of mainstream volume brands, with Nissan being at the forefront of the technology curve.
Rather than merely include them as new features, the Japanese brand has decided to combine six of the most important active safety and driver-assist technologies into a new suite dubbed Nissan Safety Shield 360, and what’s more they’ll provide the package as standard equipment with all of their top-selling models by 2021. This means that more than one million vehicles will be upgraded with new Nissan Safety Shield 360 annually.
Nissan Safety Shield 360, which earns its name by providing front, side and rear sensing technologies, will include Intelligent Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Rear Intelligent Emergency Braking, and High Beam Assist.
“Our philosophy is to bring Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies to market in our most popular and affordable vehicles,” said Denis Le Vot, chairman, Nissan North America. “Safety Shield 360 combines six advanced systems to give models like Altima and Rogue a class-leading package of technologies that can improve safety and the overall driving experience for Nissan owners.”
The U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) claims that Rear Cross Traffic Alert reduces accidents by 22 percent, while the results improve to a 42 percent reduction in crashes when combined with a backup camera and parking sensors. Additionally, accidents are reduced by 78 percent when Rear Emergency Braking is added to the mix, so it’s clear that making these technologies available to more new car owners is of critical importance.
As the program rolls out, Nissan Safety Shield 360 technologies will be made available with the 2019 Rogue compact SUV as well as the entirely new 2019 Altima mid-size sedan, both available now. The 2019 Rogue starts at $26,798 plus freight and fees, while the 2019 Altima can be had for $27,998 (check CarCostCanada for all 2019 Rogue and 2019 Altima features, trims and prices, plus you can get dealer invoice pricing and rebate info that could save you thousands).
Of note, Nissan was one of the first automakers to offer semi-autonomous self-driving capability in its production cars. Introduced with the 2018 Rogue and the 2018 Leaf EV, ProPilot Assist takes over the majority of driving duties, including acceleration, steering and braking inputs when driving in a single lane on the highway. The driver is only required to regularly touch the steering wheel, yet it helps to reduce a driver’s workload by maintaining a set vehicle speed and distance to the vehicle ahead, keeping the car centered within a chosen lane, and easing stop-and-go traffic.
Nissan claims that ProPilot Assist is the foundation for a future of fully automated vehicles, and making the Nissan Safety Shield 360 suite of advanced driver assist technologies available to key models within its lineup certainly furthers that goal.