Update: Mobile apps for NissanConnect EV are once again available. A newer version of the program is now accessible after the security flaw was patched.
About 50 years earlier than gasoline-powered vehicles, electricity-powered vehicles even outsold their gasoline-powered counterparts at the end of the 19th century. It’s difficult to realize that, in today’s gasoline-dominated market, electric vehicles were once a common sight (by 19th century standards). Oil is a limited resource that will soon run out even if we are in an era of vehicle innovation, performance, and efficiency.
Alternative propulsion can be achieved in two ways, and the automotive sector is divided between hydrogen and electric vehicles (EV). Nissan is betting on electrification and debuted the Leaf, the world’s most popular, reasonably priced family vehicle, in 2010.
Over the course of the last five years, the Leaf has gradually gotten new features, had manufacture moved to Nissan’s plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, and had its battery chemistry changed, but its battery capacity and infotainment system have not changed. A 30 kWh battery, up from the 24 kWh in the base S trim and previous years, is new for the Leaf SV and SL trims for the 2016 model year. This increases the total range rating to 107 miles from 84 miles of gasoline-free driving.
For a week of gas-free driving, Nissan provided techradar with a 2016 Leaf SV with premium package, with an MSRP of $36,620 (£25,640 for the similarly equipped Acenta trim; Australia only has one trim for AU$40,000).
Before I continue, it should be noted that I recently gave my wife a 2015 Leaf SL with premium package. We have been content with the vehicle and are well-versed in Washington State’s public EV infrastructure. However, owning an EV is a unique experience that called for altered driving practices and more careful preparation, which I will undoubtedly go into further.
The Leaf’s styling is not its strongest suit. The front end, with its enormous headlights and smug grin, makes me think of a Pokemon, specifically Bulbasaur. The Leaf SV comes standard with halogen headlights with reflector housings, but if you prefer more energy-efficient low-beams, you can upgrade to the SL trim. Halogens in the SV and LED in my own SL, in my experience, produce just modest lighting improvements. Both headlights use reflector housings and fall well short of projector-based halogen, high-intensity discharge (HID), or more potent LEDs in terms of light production.
When I turn around in the back, I see enormous LED tail lights that make me think of vintage Volvo station wagons. Although the sloped back hatch technically improves aerodynamics, you do sacrifice cargo space in favor of the more rectangular station wagon style, which I find more appealing.
The chrome door knobs on the Leaf are the element of design that I detest the most. All current automobiles have chrome trim, which I detest because it attracts fingerprints, especially on door knobs. My pet peeve is installing something that will show fingerprints on the part of an automobile that gets touched the most. The only place with a design change with the refresh is the door handles; the door lock and unlock button is now black rather than chrome as it was in earlier model years.
When you get inside, you’ll notice that the inside is sparse, more fitting for a tiny car with a low price tag than one that costs more than $30,000. Soft-touch materials are absent from the dashboard, which is instead covered in cheap, harsh plastic. Fortunately, there is soft cloth covering on the door panel and the center armrests to provide comfort when driving.
A two-tier digital cluster that divides the speedometer from the vehicle information can be seen if you look forward. Although the cluster itself is digital, it makes me think of digital gauge clusters from the 1980s rather than the contemporary LCD displays used in modern automobiles.
Although it has a digital speedometer, clock, and outside air temperature, it looks simple yet is quite functional. Since the distance you can drive with an EV greatly depends on the speed, the high location of the speedometer helps keep it in your peripheral view as you concentrate on the road. An eco-meter that “builds trees” on the left side of the digital cluster displays your driving efficiency. There aren’t many trees around me since I drive inefficiently.
A vehicle information display, battery temperature, battery capacity, range estimation, and how much power is used in relation to accelerator pedal use are all present in the conventional gauge cluster that is directly in front of the steering wheel. These features are all helpful to have when operating an EV. In addition to serving as a digital trip counter, the information display also provides access to the vehicle’s settings and displays battery life and charging time.
Since the estimated range provided is overly optimistic and shouldn’t be taken seriously, I typically leave the display on the battery percentage display so I can have a better impression of how much battery is still in the device.
The Nissan Leaf’s shifter is one feature you’ll have to get used to because it differs significantly from the PRNDL arrangement of conventional automatic gearboxes. It is a spherical shifter with a separate park button in its place. The shifter is simple to use, and it didn’t take me long to get used to it. Below is a Nissan illustration that demonstrates how to use it.
There are functions for reverse, neutral, and drive. The shifter is moved to the left and up or down to shift the vehicle into gear. You can move the shifter left and down once more while the car is in drive for more severe regenerative braking, which I’ll cover on the following page. Stopping the vehicle and pushing the P button in the shifter’s center will put it in park.
Finally, I’d like to talk about the seats. The seats in the Leaf don’t have the great side bolster support that I enjoy in sport seats in every car, but they are still incredibly comfortable. Although there is no lumbar adjustment, the lower back’s arch and hardness fits my 5’7″ and 195-pound body perfectly. They are the ideal combination of firm and soft for extended drives that are comfortable and don’t cause aches, pains, or weariness.
Additionally warm and toasty are the chairs. Even the steering wheel, which gets uncomfortable hot quickly, is heated by Nissan. The heated steering wheel and seats in the Leaf help you warm up faster while using less energy than the vehicle’s already effective heat-pump-based climate system, which should increase your driving range.
The NissanConnect infotainment system, which is new for 2016, updates the Leaf to keep up with the rest of Nissan’s model lineup. Nissan precisely replicated the previous model years’ buttons and 7-inch screen size. In reality, when the car is off, at least, there are no apparent variations between the interiors of the 2015 and 2016 versions.
An opening and tilting screen on the double-din-sized infotainment system reveals a CD player and an SD card slot for the navigation maps. Flash drives and iOS devices can connect to the USB port located in front of the cup holders. The whole package also includes NissanConnect EV telematics, HD Radio, and SiriusXM.
There are no surprises in the audio functions. Flash drive music can be accessed via track information or folders. All Nissan and Infiniti infotainment systems have the same one music navigating feature; when you select a music folder, it starts playing the music right away rather than just opening the folder so you can choose a song first. The core features of SiriusXM and HD Radio are functional without time-shifting.
I used my Nexus 6 and iPhone 6S to test the USB port’s power output capabilities using a Drok USB power meter(opens in new tab). The Nexus 6 produced 0.5 amps whereas the iPhone 6S produced 0.8 amps. While the NissanConnect system can charge iPhones at a respectable rate for Android devices, you’re better off using a 12-volt USB charger or USB power bank.
Nissan’s redesigned user interface is a cumbersome mess, but it has better graphics and is more aesthetically pleasant. Simply put, there is too much personalization accessible. You may choose and customize which features and widgets are shown on each of the three screens from the home screen.
Since the Kia Optima, Hyundai Tucson, and Toyota’s home screens provide radio information, a small navigation map, and a few useful buttons, I prefer them over the NissanConnect UI’s 4 x 2 grid arrangement. The NissanConnect 4 x 2 grid can be customized, however because each button and information display takes up one slot and two spaces respectively, you can either have two information displays or four buttons with a single information display.
There are three different home screens available, but I don’t enjoy having to navigate the infotainment system in order to see information that I should be able to see quickly. Nissan should be commended for preserving static menu options for the audio, phone, information, map, navigation, and settings at the bottom of the screen; nevertheless, everything is reproduced by physical buttons on each side of the display.
Despite the fact that I love tactile buttons, I would prefer to have a larger screen (4:3) with knobs for volume control and folder navigation.
Apart from minor visual differences, NissanConnect features smartphone app connectivity, however the functionality is very constrained. With the NissanConnect software downloaded to your smartphone, it only supports Google Online Search, which is incredibly limiting. Unfortunately, there is no support for Pandora or other Internet radio services.
Bluetooth can be used for texting, music streaming, and hands-free calling. My Nexus 6 and iPhone 6S seamlessly connected. It can read your text messages and provide you with quick responses, but you’re better off utilizing Google Now or Siri for similar purposes. Text messaging capability is completely useless. Unfortunately, Siri Eyes Free is not supported.
Nissan includes EV-friendly features in its navigation system that display close-by charging stations and an estimated range of your range on the current charge. They’re lovely gestures, but some of the dealerships who have Level 3 CHAdeMo quick-charge stations aren’t even included in the extremely out-of-date charging station database.
You’re better off utilizing PlugShare or the Nissan EZ-Charge app for mobile devices to obtain a list of the most recent charging stations with user ratings and check-ins. The navigation maps are standard flat maps with various route calculations that can be used to optimize the trip for the longest battery life (slow surface streets mostly).
While planning a route to maximize battery life is useful, I don’t typically use the navigation system for destinations I frequently travel to. As a result, I’m not particularly open to using alternate routes or primarily driving on the streets when the freeway is available in order to conserve battery life.
The Zero Emission’s features are the same as those of the previous Leaf infotainment system, according to previous Leaf owners. The new infotainment system from Nissan essentially has the same features and user interface. Greater energy consumption data for the electric motor, climate control, and other items is provided by the Zero Emission features. Even the increase in range from turning off climate control is estimated.
On hot days when blasting the A/C might mean the difference between getting it to the next charging station or being dragged there, I find the information useful to have.
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