The Nissan Leaf was the first mainstream family-sized electric car to hit the UK when it was launched in 2011.
Today, with over 25,000 Mk1 and Mk2 versions sold, it can also claim to be the first used EV to be available in significant numbers. In fact, one leading sales site lists more than 1000 of them, half being Mk1 models, the generation under review here and in production from 2011 to 2017. For a long time, and in common with most other electric cars, Leafs depreciated rapidly but values appear to have stabilised in recent months as demand for used EVs picks up.
The first Leafs were built in Japan and offered in just one trim. They weren’t badly equipped, though, with a connected sat-nav, climate control and 16in alloy wheels all featuring. Today, prices for these few early cars start at around £4000. Reassuringly, a decent number have racked up high mileages. An ad for a 90,000-mile 2011-reg Leaf offers a window onto maintenance issues, with the seller revealing that their car has had new front lower arms, track rod ends and a wheel bearing. They also admit the car does only 55 miles in summer and 45 (or 42 with the heater on) in winter on a single charge.
‘Battery owned’ is an expression you’ll encounter when browsing used Leafs. It means the battery is part of the deal and not something you have to lease separately, which you should avoid. In 2013, Nissan began making the Leaf in the UK. These slightly more efficient and better-built cars feature over 100 detail changes, such as moving the battery charger from the boot to create more luggage space. They’re available in three trims: Visia, Acenta and Tekna. Autocar noted the model’s improved ride, handling and energy recovery system and favoured the Acenta or Tekna versions, with their more efficient heating system that contributed to a potential 90-mile range.
The next chapter in the Mk1’s story came in 2016 with the launch of an optional 30kWh battery covered by an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty. It gave a longer range (from around 90 miles to 120 miles in real-world use) but no additional performance and was available in Acenta and Tekna trims only.