Nissan’s first-generation Leaf was so successful that the firm is back with a new second version, with more conventional styling, more tech and an even greater focus on safety kit. But does it impress? We find out.
- Affordable starting prices
- Big boot
- Easy to drive
- Pricey top-spec versions
- Interior not the highest quality
- Firm ride
Nissan is a truly brilliant firm when it comes to trendsetting. Within the past 15 years it’s had the Qashqai and Juke carve out the new crossover segment, while the Leaf has become arguably the first mass-market EV. When it arrived in 2011, the electric car market was limited to £100,000 sports cars or miniature city cars that commanded ridiculously high prices. The Leaf provided a genuinely usable alternative.
Produced in Sunderland, the Leaf helped to bring electric cars to the market, and was aided by the addition of a 30kWh battery (the standard car has a 24kWh unit), which increased the range to a more reasonable 155 miles.
Jump forward to 2018 and a second-generation Leaf arrived in showrooms, this time incorporating a larger 40kWh battery which allowed for 168 miles of range. The styling was far more conservative, and Nissan introduced its clever ‘e-Pedal’ – which we’ll explain later – and a range of semi-autonomous ‘ProPilot’ driver assistance features.
The most recent Leaf change came in the form of a new ‘E+’ derivative, which features a much larger 62kWh battery – nearly triple the capacity of the one found in the original Leaf. With this, you can expect a 239-mile electric range – making the Leaf an even more appealing EV option.
The Leaf has always stood out due to how ‘normal’ it feels. Sure, there’s the silence, swift pace and refinement that’s part and parcel of an electric car, but otherwise you could be behind the wheel of any normal Focus or Astra. The only real difference comes as a result of the e-Pedal, which is a regenerative braking system that allows you to use just one pedal to slow down and accelerate the car.
It’s a very easy car to drive, with light steering and the suite of driver assistance kit making it an absolute breeze behind the wheel. However, the heavy weight of the battery (particularly the 62kWh version) is certainly felt – it’s not the most agile of cars –while the suspension is a bit firm due to the extra strengthening included to help cope with the extra weight.
Looks and image
The first-generation Leaf was something of an awkward-looking car – it looked like a mishaped bubble, though this did make it clear that it wasn’t a normal hatchback.
On this new Leaf, Nissan has taken a safer approach and adopted more conventional styling. Many will prefer this cleaner look, although some might find it plain. That said, it’s available in a cool two-tone design, while the slim headlights that run into the front grille are a neat touch. There are no immediately obvious clues to separate the E+ from the regular Leaf, but look close and you’ll spot some subtle blue elements at the front and rear of the car.
Having an electric car doesn’t always mean you have to sacrifice on practicality, and the Nissan Leaf is proof.
If you’re after a roomy, electric family hatchback, there’s no better option than the Leaf. Its 435-litre boot is not only bigger than EV rivals, but also the majority of petrol and diesel hatchbacks.
There’s plenty of room in the back, too, with adults being treated to plenty of headroom and legroom – though the back seats are slightly raised due to the batteries underneath, and it can feel as if you’re perched rather than sitting.
Running costs and performance
As we’ve mentioned, the Leaf is available with the choice of two battery packs – 40kWh or 62kWh. These offer a range of 168 miles and 239 miles.
The 40kWh Leaf features an electric motor producing 148bhp, which feels plentiful in most scenarios and is particularly nippy from a standstill. But the E+ features a larger motor – this time producing 217bhp. It cuts the 0-60mph time from 7.8 seconds to 6.7 seconds, so while it’s noticeably quicker, it’s not drastically so.
The running costs of the Leaf will also be significantly cheaper than a petrol or diesel car. Charging costs are cheap, especially if you charge at home, while the Leaf is also exempt from emissions-based road schemes like the London Congestion Charge, along with free car tax.
- Electric motor and 40kWh battery with 148bhp
- Electric motor and 62kWh battery with 217bhp
- Renault Zoe – from £26,495
- Volkswagen e-Golf – from £28,075
- Kia e-Niro – from £29,595
- Hyundai Kona Electric – from £30,150
- Hyundai IONIQ Electric – from £30,950
- Kia Soul EV – from £34,295
- BMW i3 – from £38,555
Five trim levels are available on the Nissan Leaf, with equipment highlights and pricing as follows.
Acenta – from £26,845
- High-beam assist
- Lane keep assist
- Blind spot warning
- Autonomous emergency braking
- Reversing camera
- Rear cross traffic alert
- Eight-inch touchscreen
- Apple CarPLay and Android Auto
- Automatic climate control
- Leather steering wheel
- Adaptive cruise control
- Keyless entry and start
N-Connecta – from £28,145
- Front and rear parking sensors
- 360-degree camera
- Part-leather seats
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- Privacy glass
- Heated front seats
- Heated steering wheel
Tekna – from £29,845
- Bose sound system
- LED fog lights
- ProPilot semi-autonomous driving models
E+ N-Tec – from £33,295 (in addition to N-Connecta)
- Larger 62kWh battery
- LED headlights
E+ Tekna – from £36,395 (in addition to Tekna)
- Larger 62kWh battery
- Metallic blue accents