By Sean Tucker
The electric vehicle league is full of exciting new players . But there, at the end of the bench, sits one wily veteran with braces on his knees who can still get the job done. And everyone knows those guys are solid investments.
The Nissan Leaf rolls into the 2023 model year, its 13th year on the market, with an updated look and a simpler list of decisions for buyers to make.
The 2023 Leaf starts at $27,800, plus a $1,095 destination fee – unchanged even in a year when most manufacturers are bumping up delivery fees to compensate for the surge in transportation costs.
Last year, Nissan /zigman2/quotes/207656007/delayed NSANY +5.62% sold the Leaf in five trim levels. This year, dealers will stock just the two most popular – the base S and well-equipped SV Plus models.
They’re quite different. The S uses a just-get-me-where-I’m-going 147-horsepower motor and a 40-kilowatt-hour battery good for 149 miles of driving range. The SV Plus has more of everything, with 214 horsepower and 212 miles of range.
Both get updated tailoring for 2023. The grille loses a chrome accent line and gains a backlit Nissan logo. Designers also reshaped the headlights, though the changes are subtle enough to miss.
The Leaf’s best move, though, has always been its price. It remains America’s least-expensive EV, though perhaps not for long.
Chevy recently reduced the price of its Bolt EV to just $25,600 . The Leaf, however, still qualifies for the federal government’s full $7,500 EV tax credit. The Bolt no longer does. Once the credit is accounted for, Nissan’s old guy is still the least expensive way to get into a new battery-powered car.
Also see: The pros and cons of electric cars
However, that tax credit is good on just the first 200,000 EVs a manufacturer sells. Nissan is getting close to the limit and could exceed it as soon as this summer. When that happens, the tax credit cuts in half for the rest of the year, then sunsets completely. The Leaf will then lose its price advantage.
Retirement time may be in sight for the Leaf, though.
Reports emerged last year that Nissan plans to replace the Leaf with an electric SUV by 2025. The brand already has a second-generation EV – the 2023 Ariya – on its way to dealerships. The Ariya sold out before it even reached U.S. ports – a common situation for new EVs this year. But that experience may encourage Nissan to bring in a newer affordable EV soon.
But not yet. The Leaf remains a bargain for the 2023 season, keeping up with the new kids with its reasonable price and the reliability of a platform engineers have had over a decade to tweak.
Nissan also charges $1,095 to deliver the Leaf.
Leaf S: $27,800
Leaf SV Plus: $35,800