2023 Nissan Leaf sprouts a new look and pared down lineup

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The 2023 Nissan Leaf blooms into another model year, with a freshened face but a model line pared down to just two trims from five last year, Nissan announced Tuesday in advance of the New York International Auto Show. 

The changes are mostly cosmetic, with a blacked-out front fascia instead of the chrome wings of its predecessor. Nissan illuminates the badge up front, and the SV Plus gets standard 17-inch wheels with a funky pinwheel design featuring five sets of six fingers. Less obvious changes enhance aerodynamics. 

The interior features new graphics in the cluster, but the biggest changes add up to what isn’t there: only the Leaf S and Leaf SV Plus grades remain for 2023, with Nissan discontinuing the SV, S Plus, and SL Plus grades. 

The base and Plus model had been differentiated by battery sizes: The Leaf S has a 40-kwh battery and 147-hp electric motor, and a  range of 149 miles; the Leaf SV Plus uses a 60-kwh battery and 214-hp motor for 226 miles. Both models are front-wheel drive. 

The SV Plus model comes with more sophisticated features, including Nissan’s limited hands-free driver-assist system that uses adaptive cruise control and active lane control that can come to a complete stop in traffic then restart and reach the set speed without driver intervention. 

The minor changes for 2023 conspire with a slimmed down lineup to suggest that the Leaf’s waning sales might lead to its exit. But in these supply-constrained times, the original EV plugs into at least one more model year. 

The Leaf hatchback that launched in 2010 has gotten modest upgrades over the years, but the onslaught of electric crossovers ranging from the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model Y to the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Ford Mustang Mach-E, has relegated the Leaf to a budget electric car.

There’s nothing wrong with that given the record new car prices peaking at more than $46,000. That’s about the starting point for most new electric crossovers, including the latest twins in the 2023 Subaru Solterra and 2023 Toyota BZ4X. Nissan said the Leaf S and its limited range should start near the 2022 Nissan Leaf’s starting price of below $29,000, including destination. Improbably, the Leaf still qualifies for the $7,500 federal EV tax credit, as well as available state incentives that make it the most affordable EV on the market. 

Pricing is expected before the 2023 Nissan Leaf’s summer sale date.  

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