2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV vs. Nissan LEAF Plus Compared: Which One Is Best For You?

It's a tougher choice that you might think

2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV vs Nissan LEAF Plus
Now with a 226-mile range, can the 2019 Nissan LEAF Plus measure up to the Chevy Bolt EV?

A couple of years ago, Chevy released the 2017 Bolt with a claimed 238-mile range and a kick in the pants to range anxiety. Nissan, on the other hand, came up short when they introduced the second generation LEAF one year later. With only a 150 mile range, a lot of people were questioning why Nissan’s world EV-car did not deliver a BEV that could go the distance in the neighborhood of 250 miles.

One year later, the Nissan calls their own mulligan and comes back with the 2019 LEAF Plus, which has a range of 226 miles — or 215 miles — depending on the trim level you choose. Now we can perform some real-world testing to see how the long-range LEAF compares to the Bolt EV.

Range anxiety alleviated

Here are the numbers. Just keep in mind that your mileage may vary depending on the weight of your right foot, the amount of time spent running at freeway speeds, and which way the wind is blowing.

As previously mentioned, the Chevy Bolt EV has an EPA-estimated range of 238 miles. Power is derived from a 60 kWh battery that equates to an output of 200 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque from a 150 kW electric motor. Our unofficial zero to 60 test ticked off 7.5 seconds with Sport mode not engaged.

Drain the EV’s lithium-ion battery pack to near zero and wait nine and a half hours for it to recharge back to full capacity when connected to a 240V Level 2 (L2) charger. Charge time on a 480V Level 3 (L3) DC quick charger will get you back up to 80 percent battery capacity in approximately 45 minutes.

The energy source of the Nissan LEAF Plus is a 62 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that powers a 160 kW electric motor. In legacy terms, the output of the LEAF Plus is rated at 214 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. Give it the beans and the LEAF Plus SL dashes to 60 mph in 7.0 seconds.

The EPA-estimated range is 215 miles for the SL and SV trims since they carry more weight and are fitted with 17-inch Michelin Energy Saver tires. The less expensive S trim has a potential reach of 226 miles primarily because it uses 16-inch Bridgestone Ecopia tires and weighs a few pounds less than the upper trim levels. Hook it up to an L3 charger (480V/100kWh), and it takes approximately 45 minutes to recharge up back to 80 percent.

2019 nissan leaf plus and 2019 chevy bolt ev
Image: Norman Woo

Bigger battery = more time at the charging station

One revelation that came about during our testing cycle was the extra time it takes to charge up the batteries in comparison to the older BEVs that have half the range capability of the Bolt EV or LEAF Plus. After nearly depleting the battery of the Nissan, I was only able to bring it up to 84 percent capacity after feeding off a Level 2 6.6kW charger for seven and a half hours.

If you’re thinking of using an L3 DC fast charger that has twice the voltage of an L2, the LEAF’s owner’s manual suggests not using DC fast chargers because it slowly degrades the life of the battery. This little fact was pointed out by our friend and auto vlogger, Jason of Engineering Explained. In another TFLcar video, Tommy points out that recharging at a slow and steady pace helps retain the storage and longevity properties of the big lithium-ion battery packs.

Cabin, Seating, and Interior Features

The Chevy Bolt EV is small – both on the outside and inside. Outside dimensions match up to a VW eGolf, although significantly taller. Lengthwise, the Bolt is shorter by a little more than twelve inches when compared to the LEAF. In addition, the height and width dimensions give it more frontal area than Nissan’s EV hatchback. However, the added height is how it gains its interior volume. Despite its short span, the Bolt boasts more headroom and almost double the cargo capacity compared to the LEAF.

The cab-forward design and placement of the battery pack of the Bolt puts the driver and passengers forward and in higher seating positions, which allows for excellent visibility from any seat. My only quibble is with the A-pillar blocking the view at the 11 o’clock position – something to watch out for when turning left.

The absence of a driveshaft and tunnel open up the center of the interior, which is good for whoever draws the short straw and relegated to the middle section of the rear bench seat. Full-size adults seated in the back get enough headroom, but the high profile of the Bolt causes it to buffet in strong winds. Does anyone know why the LEAF has a hump in the middle of its rear seat floor pan?

A removable floor panel helps level the cargo surface and doubles as a storage compartment cover. The LEAF, on the other hand, has an awkward shaped rear cargo well that loses precious space to the Bose subwoofer and charging cable. For an extra $235, Nissan will sell you a custom-fitted storage box. This factory option resolves not having a flat loading surface and offers more storage cubbies to stowaway small gear.

Interior space vs. the competition:

  Passenger
Volume
Cargo Volume
(seat up/seat down)
Chevrolet Bolt 94.4 ft3 16.9 / 56.6 ft3
Nissan LEAF Plus 92.4 ft3 23.6 / 30.0 ft3
Ford Fiesta SE Hatch 85.1 ft3 12.8 / 25.4 ft3
Honda Fit 93.8 ft3 16.6 / 52.7 ft3
MINI Cooper Clubman 92.5 ft3 17.5 / 47.9 ft3

About those seats. I found the front seats to be too firm and flat, which makes sitting them on long drives more and more uncomfortable as the miles roll by. Unlike the LEAF Plus, the seats in the Bolt are good for all-day comfort and positioning is higher, much like a sub-compact crossover.

If your backside is okay with the seats inside the LEAF, the interior is bound to please. There’s the usual selection of safety gear and an eight-inch display for the infotainment system featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Resolution of the screen and maps aren’t too crisp, but it will help you find the nearest charging station.

In comparison with the Bolt, the LEAF’s interior is on the nicer side. However, some hard plastics make up parts of the cabin if you look hard enough. Overall, the quality is favorable and less likely to offend more conservative car buyers.

A 10.2-inch infotainment screen commands attention sitting dead center in the Bolt’s dashboard. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay come standard, as with wireless phone charging. Not included in any option package is navigation and a charging station locator. In GM’s world, Bolt drivers must rely on their smartphone apps to navigate and find the nearest available charging station. Doable, but an integrated solution is a lot more convenient than searching for a charging station in one app, then mapping how to get there in another app – all executed on a tiny screen.

Driving impressions

Neither the Bolt or the LEAF Plus are known for their engaging driving dynamics, but that is little concern to the average EV driver. What is important is how fast these battery-heavy hatchbacks can launch. Summoning 266 pound-feet of torque is a hoot jumping off the line, and the Bolt has enough power to race at a brisk pace up to 60 mph and beyond.

Overall, Chevy’s compact crossover EV has a better suspension set up than the LEAF Plus. The ride is on the firmer side, cornering is mostly flat, and the eco-focused Michelin Energy Saver tires squeal in protest long before exceeding the suspension’s limits.

Settle into the LEAF Plus, and the ride is noticeably softer with more shaking and bouncing on undulating roads. Diving into corners exhibits a lot of body lean — which reminds me to ease up long before those same Michelin Energy Saver tires signal their limits.

One-pedal driving

The Bolt has two distinct drive modes selectable with the transmission shifter — normal Drive mode and Low range. Shifting to L increases regenerative braking significantly, enough to do one-pedal driving and come to a complete stop without using the friction brakes. I also discovered that L mode does a suitable job of putting juice back into the battery and thereby extending the range a little farther.

One more way to slow down the Bolt and feed some energy back into the system is by pressing a button located on the back of the steering wheel – a convenient alternative but not a substitute for emergency stops.

One-pedal driving with the LEAF requires drivers to activate e-Pedal. This essentially increases the responsiveness of the accelerator and ramps up the aggressiveness of regenerative braking enough such that friction braking is rarely needed. Switch to Eco mode for more efficiency, and you can coax more miles out of the battery.

Other fancy features

For what it’s worth, the LEAF boasts ProPILOT Assist, Nissan’s advanced driving system that uses adaptive cruise control (ACC) and lane keep assist to help the ease the stress of driving. ACC does an excellent job of adjusting vehicle speed and maintaining a set distance between you and the car in front. When engaged, it will even bring the car to a complete stop and resume speed when traffic starts moving again.

What it doesn’t do too well is keep the hatchback centered in the lane. Outboard cameras read the painted lines to the left and right. If it fails to detect the lines for whatever reason, if the road begins to curve, if the roadway is too dark, the system cannot correct itself properly and manual driver control is required to stay within the lane.

Available as an option, the Bolt has lane-keep assist with lane departure warning. Cruise control is standard but it won’t maintain a set distance behind the vehicle you’re following and it certainly won’t automatically adjust the speed once you set it. Opt-in for the Driver Confidence package, which includes forward collision alert and front pedestrian braking, and you’ll get a “following distance” indicator in the driver’s instrument display as an early warning visual signal.

And it costs how much?

The list price for the Bolt LT trim is $37,495 before taxes, destination charges, state and federal tax credits. For the LEAF Plus S – the base trim level – MSRP is $36,550 before price adjustments. Unless Congress passes a bill extending the federal EV tax credits, this year the Bolt will phase-out of the incentive program. As of March, Nissan has to sell 68,000 LEAFs before passing the magic 200,000 sales mark and begin its phase-out of the program.

Without argument, the Bolt is pricier over the LEAF Plus, but availability at a dealership near you is questionable. Residents of California, Oregon, and other ZEV states won’t have a problem finding an electric vehicle that suits their needs. EV usage in Utah and Colorado is growing, but locating a Bolt or LEAF in other regions across the U.S is a little more challenging.

Currently the Bolt and LEAF Plus aren’t the only EVs with a range of 200 miles or better. Other BEV’s to consider, priced $40k or less: Tesla Model 3, Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia Niro EV.

2019 EVs 200+ rangeRange (miles) Battery (kWh) Price
Chevrolet Bolt LT 238 60 $37,495
Nissan LEAF Plus S 226 62 $36,550
Hyundai Kona Electric SEL 258 64 $36,450
Kia Niro EV 239 64 $39,000
Tesla Model 3 220 55 $35,000
Tesla Model 3 Mid-Range 264 62 $40,000

TFLcar’s take

After several hundred miles of hydrocarbon-free driving, adjusting to the EV lifestyle, and a couple of weeks of listening to the whine of electric motors, we couldn’t decide upon a clear winner between the two zero-emission hatchbacks. The Bolt EV can go a little farther than the LEAF Plus, it has more usable cargo room, and drives much better. Comparatively, Nissan’s world electric car is priced a little less, has a nicer cabin, and does a better job of getting to a charging station before range anxiety consumes you.

Respective of their brands, they look and feel like regular, everyday cars. Delve a little deeper and you’ll discover that both have enough safety and tech features to keep you safe and connected. Above all, each has a legitimate range of over 200 miles. Let us know in the comments section which is best for you and why.

Photo credit: Derek Mau and Norman Woo

Specs table: 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV vs. Nissan LEAF Plus

  Bolt EV Premier LEAF SV/SL Plus
MSRP $41,895 $38,510/$42,550
Drivetrain Layout FWD FWD
Passenger volume 94.4 ft3 92.4 ft3
Cargo volume 16.9 ft3 23.6 ft3
Max cargo volume 56.6 ft3 30.0 ft3
Electric motor 150 kW 160 kW
Battery 60 kWh 62 kWh
Thermal management Liquid cooling Passive air cooling
Time to charge battery 9.5 hrs @ 240V 11 hrs @ 240V
Total range 238 215
Efficiency 28 kWh/100 mi. 32 kWh/100 mi.
Charge port connector CCS1 (combined charging system) CHAdeMO

Watch Roman and Tommy go for a long drive and ascend some serious elevation to determine which EV is more energy efficient. Is it the 2019 Nissan LEAF Plus or the Tesla Model 3?