2023 Nissan LEAF Refresh: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

Nissan recently announced that it is giving the LEAF a mid-generation refresh. The changes aren’t drastic, like the change from 2017 to 2018 (a generation change), but it’s enough of a change to be noticeable. In this article, I’m going to go through what’s good about the 2023 LEAF, what’s bad about it, and what’s downright terrible. Or, to borrow the name from an old western film, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

The Good

Let’s start with the cosmetics. Personally, I’m a fan of the changes. The smooth front “grille” area, where my 2018 currently has a holographic blue area that mimics a gas car’s radiator area, is unframed and smooth. This looks sleeker, probably has marginally less drag, and just generally looks slick. From the front, you can see a slightly wider stance, which looks cool, too. It appears that Nissan added a small splitter/chin spoiler to the front, which should help reduce drag numbers, while also looking cool. Most of the rest of the car remains the same.

These minor changes aren’t just for looks. They add up to a real reduction in drag that helps the vehicle get better range. The smoother front lets the air slip to the sides. The slightly wider stance helps keep air from hitting the wheels and tires as much. There’s also a refined rear spoiler that’s supposed to make the car just a little slipperier.

When you can make a car look a little cooler and give it more efficiency, that’s definitely the thing to do. Nissan made the right moves when it comes to body styling and aerodynamics, which go hand-in-hand.

2023 Nissan LEAF

There have been some updates made to the interior, but it really doesn’t look that different from the 2018-22 models. The HVAC controls look more like the first generation LEAF, and that’s about the biggest difference I could spot. Other minor things include updated USB ports and some changes to other controls. It’s a small thing, but it’s enough to get into the “good” column.

One last thing for the good column: wheels. But, I’ll revisit the wheels in a minute in the “bad” section. They seem to be decent-looking wheels, and they appear to close up the gap a bit where airflow can come in without using Moon Disc wheel covers (perfectly smooth covers that would theoretically maximize range). They’re also kind of cool looking, so they’re definitely in the good column.

The Bad

To be honest, it was hard to figure out what belongs in this column. The things I noticed right away definitely belong in the next section, but after reading the press release and thinking it over, I did think about a few things that are bad but not “ugly.”

2023 Nissan LEAF

The wheels do partly belong here. First off, the S model seems to come with steel wheels again. The press release said they come standard on the SV, but didn’t mention the S. It makes sense to not make a big deal about something that isn’t great, but I can’t think of any other EV coming with steel wheels and hubcaps. The second issue is cleaning those wheels. Fortunately, you won’t have as much brake dust in an EV, but keeping complex wheels clean is a chore, so they’ll probably get dirty and stay dirty for most owners.

Another problem is general quality. My own experience has been that the second generation LEAF isn’t built as ruggedly or with as high a quality of parts as the first generation model. Lots of little things, like door handles, suspension parts, CV joints, and power lock actuators have failed for me. Talking to a couple of Nissan techs I know, they’ve told me that they’ve seen a lot more minor repairs with the 2G LEAF, so it isn’t just me. Nissan obviously can’t say “we’re using better parts now” in a press release, but I think it’s something that it needs to work on.

A final issue is legally out of Nissan’s hands: dealers. I personally don’t like many things about Tesla, but dealers are horrendous to deal with. It’s a little embarrassing to admit this, but when I bought my 2018 LEAF, the dealer played a paperwork trick and I ended up paying an extra $5,000 for the vehicle. By the time I noticed it, it was too late to change anything or get the people at Larry H. Miller Nissan in Mesa, Arizona, in any trouble over it. But I did leave them a bad review and feel like it’s good to warn people on here to stay away.

The truth is that most dealers will find a way to rip you off if they can get away with it. If Nissan wants to be competitive in the EV space, it needs to at minimum get the dealer network under control and take care of customers when they get screwed. Neither of those things appear to be happening, and it might not be possible to get dealers to be decent. The only winning move is not to play games with dealers.

The Ugly

2023 Nissan LEAFAbove are the charging ports for the 2023 LEAF. Notice anything new? Me neither, and that’s a HUGE problem.

CHAdeMO (the plug on the left) is dying. It’s fixing to be the Betamax of charging ports, while CCS wins. New Electrify America stations won’t come with a CHAdeMO plug. New federal funding for charging stations in the infrastructure bill doesn’t require a CHAdeMO plug. Existing CHAdeMO stations are still going to be around for a while, but when you’re driving a highway route and the only CHAdeMO plug within 50 miles goes down, you can’t just find another stall and get another shot at charging. Get a hotel room for the night and plug in Level 2.

It doesn’t make any sense for Nissan to still be selling the LEAF with a CHAdeMO plug. They really should have switched to the CCS plug with the refresh so that customers would have expanding charging opportunities for the life of the car instead of being left out in the cold.

But, the continued lack of liquid cooling (a major problem I’ve had with anything but around town driving in my LEAF) shows us that Nissan really didn’t mean for the LEAF to ever go on road trips. For in-town driving, it’s a decent vehicle, but if you’re going to exceed the range you’d get from a Level 2 charge, you’re not in as good a position as you’d be with other EVs, including the Chevrolet Bolt EV (which has a CCS plug and liquid cooling, even if it’s limited to 55 kW).

So, the decision to stick with CHAdeMO and air cooling shows us that Nissan just didn’t really think the LEAF was worth putting money into to make it a better highway vehicle. If you can get a deal on one without getting screwed by a dealer, and you’re only looking to commute (within winter driving range) and get groceries, it’s going to be a decent vehicle. If you had any other ideas for the car, I wouldn’t recommend it.


 

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