Simplifying the design and the trim level mix should help keep the electric hatchback affordable and competitive until the Ariya SUV arrives.
Nissan's Leaf -- the affordable, but often overlooked electric People's Car -- is getting a midcycle update for the 2023 model year. The revised model will feature an updated front fascia, eye-catching new wheels and, perhaps most interestingly, a simplified lineup that, according to Nissan, should deliver better value for its customers.
Currently, the Leaf is available in five combinations, mixing two battery packs and the S, SV and SL equipment packages. For the 2023, it's down to just two: There's the base Leaf S with the 40-kilowatt-hour battery and the Leaf SV Plus with the larger 60-kWh pack. Nissan says that this "tailored model lineup" reflects the most popular combinations chosen by its customers and the best value.
Reading between the lines, the Leaf's EV platform is over a decade old at this point and due for imminent replacement by the new CMF-EV platform shared with Renault and Alpine. Simplifying the lineup -- and the supply chain behind it -- is a cost effective way to keep the aging EV on its feet while production for the recently delayed (again) Nissan Ariya electric SUV ramps up.
The 2023 Leaf has a streamlined front fascia with an all-black grille that drops the current model's chrome garnish and translucent blue pattern. The headlamps also feature a blacked-out finish. The Nissan badges on the rear hatch, the wheel center caps, the steering wheel and the grille have been updated with the brand's new corporate design; the front badge is now illuminated at night.
The new five-spoke, 17-inch alloy wheels that are available at the SV Plus trim level are the most striking design change. Like technorganic snowflakes, I'd more accurately describe these as 30-spoke wheels with each glossy black main spoke incorporating multiple V-shaped branches that terminate in a polished segment near the rim. Aerodynamics should see a small improvement thanks to reshaped tire deflectors and diffuser on the Leaf's undercarriage and a resculpted spoiler at the rear.
Inside, you'll find the same 8-inch infotainment that the second-gen Leaf has been rocking since 2018 with a new startup animation for the 7-inch digital instrument cluster. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard via USB connectivity. Nissan's ProPilot Assist hands-on driver assistance system should continue to be an excellent feather in the SV Plus model's cap.
The Leaf S will continue use of its 147-horsepower (100-kilowatt) electric motor that sends 235 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. The SV Plus spec capitalizes on its deeper reserves with a 214-hp (160-kW) motor and 250 lb-ft of torque. Nissan hasn't stated new range estimates but -- with only the mildest of aerodynamic changes -- we're not expecting much difference from the 2022 Leaf S' 149 miles or the 215 miles currently delivered by the SV Plus.
Range like that will draw sneers from BEV size queens who can't hit the road with fewer than 300 miles per charge, but I reckon that the humble Leaf still boasts more than enough range for the majority of American commuters' daily needs. Plus, relative to its newer competition, the Leaf should still boast a sizable price advantage if it doesn't stray too far from the recently lowered $28,425 and $36,425 stickers -- destination-charge inclusive, but before up to $7,500 in federal tax credits -- for S and SV Plus, respectively.
We expect clarification on range, energy efficiency and price to come sometime before the simplified 2023 Nissan Leaf hits dealerships this summer.