As a result of its ranks of lithium ion batteries, the Nissan Leaf is heavier than its combustion-engined equivalents by some 200kg. But in reality this doesn’t hamper the Leaf’s ability to work as comfortable and pleasant transport. Having the batteries mounted under the boot floor hasn’t eradicated the sense of weight, but in general use the soft suspension isolates occupants well. There is more body roll than you get in most conventional hatches, but that roll is quite progressive. It’s not a flawless ride – there’s some fidgeting over disturbed surfaces, and with cornering forces involved there’s a firm thump over bigger intrusions – but overall the Leaf is a comfortable car.
Handling is similarly decent, but the defining characteristic is the steering. Very light and linear, it suits urban use perfectly, but it is devoid of feel and, with 3.3 turns lock to lock, a touch more steering input is needed at higher speeds than most would want.
But few cars need to provide a feelsome drive less than the Leaf, and it is a pleasant car in which to cover miles. Turn-in is sharp enough, there’s ample grip and the Leaf is wholly safe, predictable and not unsatisfying to drive. It’s far from invigorating, but these elements of the Leaf still deserve merit simply because they do the job effectively by normal class standards.
Our test showed the Leaf can return 75 to 80 real-world miles on a single charge. It would be easy to view this as a very limiting factor, but considering that the vast majority of Leafs will be second cars, it’s also clear that this will be fairly irrelevant for many.