New Nissan Leaf leaks: Mainstream style prompts controversy

Chris Davies - Aug 7, 2017, 12:34pm CDT
New Nissan Leaf leaks: Mainstream style prompts controversy

Nissan may be playing it safe with the new Nissan Leaf EV, opting for uncontroversial styling as it continues to target the mass market with electric cars. The replacement for the current Leaf – which remains one of the strongest selling all-electric cars, despite its age – is expected to be officially revealed in September. However, a leak showing what’s purported to be the new Leaf has prompted arguments among EV fans.

According to the source tweet, the WSJ reports, the sighting of the new Leaf came out of a Japanese inspection plant. The user, “Blue Miata”, claims to “work at a Nissan-related workplace,” and that they “discovered the new Leaf on the inspection line at the Oppama plant.” Two blurry images of the car in the distance were attached.

According to a person the newspaper says is familiar with the new Leaf, the photos do indeed show the upcoming car. Until now, Nissan has only teased the refresh, showing off a portion of its new grille and suggesting that we’ll see the whole thing on September 6. Unfortunately, while that grille may look fairly striking, the rest of the car doesn’t really move the needle.

It’s a fact that was quickly jumped upon by would-be Leaf upgraders. Some have criticized Nissan for ignoring the broadly popular reception of recent concepts like the Nissan IDS, which was revealed at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2015. Although some cues from the concept do seem to be echoed in what little we’ve seen of the new Leaf – like the diamond patterning of the grille – its more dramatic shape has not followed over.

Of course, the main factors on which the new Leaf’s success will hinge are pricing and range. The former remains under wraps, though is not expected to stray too far from the current price of the 2017 Leaf. That’s listed as from $30,680, before any federal and state credits and incentives.

Range, though, looks set to make a significant leap. The current car can do up to 107 miles on a single charge, but Nissan has said that the new 2018 Leaf should extend that to 200-300 miles. That would make it competitive not only with the new Tesla Model 3, deliveries of which have – slowly – begun, but Chevrolet’s Bolt EV too. Nissan is also looking to include its ProPilot semi-autonomous driving suite, which should compete with Tesla’s Autopilot system.

While what we’ve seen of the new Leaf may not be quite as striking as many might have hoped, it’s arguably a sensible route for the company to take. As Chevrolet had discovered when they launched the second-generation Volt hybrid, although there’s a market for alternative-energy cars that wear their unusual green credentials on their sleeve, if you want mass-market sales then you need something that doesn’t stand out too obtrusively. The most vocal may be unimpressed with the new Leaf, but the critical factor will be whether those who head to Nissan dealerships with the intention of picking up a gasoline Note or similar can be swayed into the electric car.

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