electric vehicle, nissan leaf, safety technology

2020 Nissan Leaf comes with more safety and infotainment technology

The Nissan Leaf electric hatchback gets updates for 2020 that include more safety features and infotainment technology, along with a $1,640 price increase for the base Leaf S model.

Nissan Safety Shield 360 technology goes standard across the lineup, bringing pedestrian-detecting automatic emergency braking, lane departure and blind-spot warnings and rear automatic braking. It also gets forward collision warning, intelligent lane intervention and blind spot intervention. The 8-inch touchscreen from the longer-range Leaf Plus is now standard in all trim levels, up from 5 and 7 inches in the previous Leaf S and SV, respectively. Also going standard across the lineup, finally, is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.

There are a few other changes, too, including new air bags added to the driver and front passenger knee areas and mounted in the rear seats for side impacts. The Leaf’s “Canto” pedestrian safety sound for warning pedestrians of its presence has also been updated in tone and volume, Nissan says. And finally, there will be a new exterior color on offer, called Sunset Drive ChromaFlair.

There are now just two trim levels for the base 40 kWh, 149-mile range Leaf, S and SV, down from three, while the 226-mile range Leaf Plus comes in S, SV and SL trims. Pricing for the Leaf S starts at $32,525, including the $925 destination fee, which is $1,640 more than the 2019 model. Leaf Plus models start at $39,125, up $1,680 from last year.

Nissan last redesigned the basic Leaf in 2018 to boost its driving range to 150 miles, and in addition it introduced the longer-range Leaf Plus last year, with a 62 kWh battery pack, upgrades to the electric motor and a range of 226 miles. Both models are now on sale at dealerships.

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crash test, IIHS, pedestrian detection, safety technology

IIHS to weigh pedestrian safety as part of stiffer new-car ratings in 2020

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is making it harder for automakers to receive its coveted awards in 2020, announcing tougher new requirements for doling out its Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ designations. The biggest changes center on ratings for pedestrian crash prevention, crashworthiness ratings and headlights.

IIHS started rating pedestrian crash prevention this year, putting vehicles through three different tests, each at two speeds — 12 and 25 mph. But 2020 will mark the first year when the organization factors the results into its awards criteria. Vehicles will have to earn good or acceptable ratings in both vehicle-to-pedestrian and vehicle-to-vehicle crash prevention — the latter having been part of the criteria since 2014 — and offer both as at least an option in order to receive either award.

But IIHS is raising the bar on its headlight evaluations, which it began incorporating into its ratings in 2016. Starting for 2020, it will award the highest Top Safety Pick+ award only to vehicles whose good- or acceptable-rated headlights are included as standard equipment on all models. Previously, automakers could win the top award if such headlights were an option, even on only a single trim level. That will remain the case for the Top Safety Pick award, but it could have a discernible affect on the number of vehicles that win the top award. In 2019, just 171 of 465 headlight systems tested, or 37%, were rated good or acceptable.

Both awards will also require good ratings for the six crashworthiness tests IIHS conducts, including passenger-side small overlap front crashes. Previously, it was enough to earn an acceptable rating to qualify for the lower TSP award.

IIHS says the moves are designed to encourage automakers to improve vehicle headlights and speed up the adoption of technology to detect and avoid pedestrians. It comes as the number of pedestrians killed by vehicles in 2018 rose to the highest level since 1990, at 6,283. Fatalities of bicyclists and users of other non-motorized vehicles rose by 6.3% to 857, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It also comes as a recent AAA study found such pedestrian detection systems perform poorly in the dark.

NHTSA, a federal agency has said it may begin evaluating pedestrian collision prevention systems as part of its five-star crash ratings, but has yet to do so. IIHS is an independent nonprofit funded by insurers and insurance groups.

In another change, IIHS said it will hold off on announcing the first crop of 2020 award winners until early next year, breaking from its practice of announcing them in November and December. IIHS already issued ratings on the 2020 Jeep Renegade and 2020 Ford Explorer.

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