If any electric car aside from the Tesla Model 3 can be called "long-awaited," it would be the redesigned 2018 Nissan Leaf.
First thought to arrive as a 2016 model, it was widely assumed to be a 2017 to go head-to-head with the 238-mile Chevrolet Bolt EV launched last December.
In the event, the second-generation Leaf has arrived as a 2018 model, with a considerably lower range than the Bolt EV—but at a considerably lower price.
DON'T MISS: 2018 Nissan Leaf review
The new 2018 Leaf, starting at $30,875, is almost $7,000 less expensive than the Bolt EV, which starts at $37,500. (Both prices include a mandatory destination fee.)
Whether its estimated 140 miles is "enough" to make buyers comfortable—final EPA range data isn't out yet—remains to be determined, but it's an interesting question.
The market will determine whether it pioneers a new category of 'mid-range' electric cars when sales begin early next year.
But clearly Nissan has listened to what are now close to 300,000 Leaf owners globally in redesigning the 2018 Leaf.
It may not matter to buyers, but the new Leaf should be viewed as a very comprehensive update to the original 2011 car rather than an entirely new vehicle on a new platform.
That shows up only in a few ways, one of them being a steering wheel that adjusts up and down but doesn't telescope to adjust for differently shaped drivers. That was fine in 2011; it's now an anomaly in cars costing $30,000 and up.
One of the first-generation Leaf's main drawbacks was its rounded, bug-eyed design, often described by reviewers with the adjective "polarizing."
The new Leaf is chunkier, racier, and less upright-appearing. In fact, it could be any small five-door Nissan hatchback, and at a glance, that's exactly what it looks like.
Inside the 2018 Leaf, the interior design follows suit, with only a handful of items—chief among them the mushroom-shaped drive selector—pointing to its non-standard powertrain.
On the road, the second-generation Leaf is faster, with 110 kilowatts (147 horsepower) and 236 pound-feet of torque, against 80 kw (107 hp) and 187 lb-ft in the old car, and only 100 pounds or so of extra weight.
The so-called e-Pedal function, meanwhile, eliminates idle creep to provide one-pedal driving with seamless integration of the friction brakes and regeneration function.
Notably, it's both more powerful and quieter at speeds above 45 mph, meaning for highway travel that's more common among low-density, dispersed suburban U.S. households than it is in either Asian or European markets.
The Leaf is still mildly anodyne against some of its competitors, probably closest in character to the Hyundai Ioniq Electric.
It doesn't have the spunky acceleration of the more powerful Bolt EV, nor the solid, planted roadholding of the Volkswagen e-Golf.
It's still just a tad appliance-like, but that's clearly fine with hundreds of thousands of buyers, and entirely suitable for its likely uses.
2018 Chevrolet Bolt EVEnlarge Photo
2018 Volkswagen e-GolfEnlarge Photo
2017 Hyundai Ioniq ElectricEnlarge Photo
As it enters the market, the 2018 Nissan Leaf promises both to expand the number of electric cars on the road—Nissan hopes to double its sales—and provide a distinct alternative to the Ioniq Electric and e-Golf (at 124 and 125 miles, respectively) and the pricier 238-mile Chevy Bolt EV.
Nissan still has more experience selling battery-electric cars at affordable prices than any other maker in the world.
The new Nissan Leaf promises to take volume sales of electric cars to new levels, and that's why it's a finalist for our Green Car Reports Best Car To Buy 2018 award.