To help members understand the latest automotive technology so they can purchase vehicles that best suit their needs, the Automobile Club of Southern California's Automotive Research Center (ARC) began testing and reviewing vehicles nearly a decade ago in the AAA Green Car Guide, which initially focused entirely on rating fuel-efficient, low-emitting vehicles.
For the 2020 edition, we're expanding the focus of the guide to include testing and ranking cars and light trucks with the latest technology, including having at least one advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) feature. To further reflect this change, we've renamed the guide: It's now the AAA Car Guide. In addition to vehicle evaluation, the guide covers a number of pertinent automotive topics in detail-for example, the latest advanced safety features, the dangers of distracted driving, and the development of autonomous vehicles.
The green cars tested by the ARC are evaluated on the basis of 13 categories: emissions, fuel economy,
crashworthiness, braking, acceleration, handling, cargo-carrying capacity, ride quality, interior noise, ease of entry and exit, maneuverability, roominess, and visibility.
The scores for the categories are totaled, and the cars are ranked from high to low.
Car Guide Winner: 1st Place Small
2019 Nissan Leaf SV Plus
Vehicle Type: Small Electric
Category Ranking: 1
Price as Tested:$42,580
Fuel Type: Electricity
120V Charge Time: 4.9 miles per hour
240V Charge Time: 19.5 miles per hour
DC Fast Charger: 80% in 45 minutes
EPA City MPGe: 114
EPA Highway MPGe: 94
EPA Combined MPGe: 104
EPA-Est. Electric Range (mi): 215
Advanced Safety Features
Adaptive Cruise Control [O]
Advanced Headlights [O]
Automatic Emergency Braking [S]
Blind-Spot Warning [O]
Forward-Collision Warning [S]
Lane-Departure Warning [O]
Lane-Keeping Assistance [O]
Rear Cross-Traffic Warning [O]
[S] Standard, [O] Optional
For 2019, the Nissan Leaf’s drivetrain received a major upgrade with the intr oduction of the Leaf Plus, which has a 214-hp electric motor (vs. 147) and a 62-kWh lithium-ion battery (vs.40). This gives the Leaf Plus decidedly more punch and, more importantly, boosts its range from an EPA-estimated 151 miles to 215 miles, depending on the trim level (the standard Leaf is still available). The Leaf’s exterior styling, less funky than the previous generation’s, is still sufficiently unconventional to be polarizing. The front cabin feels spacious, with a cleanly designed, easy-toread
instrument panel and, unfortunately, more cheap-looking hard
plastic than is warranted in a car costing nearly $43,000. Backseat legroom is a little tight, and there’s not much cargo space. The Leaf’s seats are comfortable and supportive, the cabin is quiet, and the ride is smooth, albeit on the firm side. Handling is very good, and the steering is responsive, with decent feel. Using the e-Pedal feature, drivers can slow or stop the Leaf via regenerative braking by simply lifting their foot off the accelerator. Stopping the Leaf using the brake pedal requires considerable foot pressure, however. Forward-collision warning and forward automatic emergency braking are the only standard advanced safety features;
others are optional.