Nissan on Tuesday unveiled its 2018 Leaf to relatively little fanfare. Starting at $29,990, the Leaf comes with a 40-kWh battery providing 150-mile range. That range falls short of the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3, but it does come at a cheaper price point and that's key. A low base price could help chew into Model 3 demand, particularly among buyers entering the electric-car market for the first time. The Leaf is still the best-selling electric car on the planet, and the range bump may do the trick for people who tend to use their cars for short trips.Where Nissan could give the Leaf a bit more intrigue for those who want a Model 3 but don't want to wait or pay up for it is what it calls ProPilot Assist. This is is essentially an advance cruise-control that allows the car to stay in its lane and continue performing in stop-and-go traffic — not revolutionary, and not nearly as ambitious as Tesla Autopilot — but it is a very nice addition.
As the electric car space is set to become more crowded, automakers have to compete beyond battery range to reclaim Tesla buyers that possess Apple-like brand loyalty. In a sense, the 2018 Leaf is sort of like a baby Tesla; it's not a high-tech machine with loads of power, but it is a savvy and cheaper alternative.
Nissan is exploring tech upgrades across its line of vehicles. The automaker has also designed a smart rearview mirror that can stream a video feed from a camera mounted on the back of the car, which will first be installed on the 2018 Armada.
Nissan is a solid brand for those in the market for affordable and functional vehicles. But if it wants to compete with Teslas of the world without breaking bank, these tiny additions could go a long way, especially if they become options across Nissan's line of vehicles one day.