The re-engineered Nissan Leaf boasts improved dynamics and an increased driving range between charges

What is it?

This is the new all-electric Nissan Leaf, which is now not only built at Nissan's Sunderland plant but has also been given a significant overhaul. Under the skin there are around 100 engineering changes and there's a new pricing structure that allows buyers to either buy the Leaf and battery outright, or buy the car and lease the battery.

The are three trim levels, starting with Visia, followed by Acenta and Tekna. Including the government purchase grant for electric cars, the cheapest Leaf is the Visia bought with the battery on lease, which costs £15,990.

There are five battery-lease deals, based on annual mileages of 7500, 9000, 10,500, 12,000 or 15,000 miles over 12, 24 or 36 months. Agree to keep your annual travel down to 7500 miles over 36 months and the battery lease costs £70 month. 10,500 miles costs £85 and 15,000 miles £109. The most expensive way of buying a new Leaf is to choose the range-topping Tekna with the battery pack, which will set you back £25,490 including the government grant of £5000.

The Leaf Visia has a fairly stripped-out specification: it doesn't have sat-nav, a reversing camera, folding mirrors or auto wipers, but does have steel wheels and a four-speaker stereo. More seriously, the real-world range of the Visia is unlikely to match that of the more expensive sister cars because it does without the new pump-driven heating system, which engineers say is up to 70 per cent more efficient than the current Leaf's heater.

Buy the mid-range Acenta and you'll get all that kit as well as alloys, a six-speaker stereo and niceties such as the Car Wings application that allows the car's heating and charging to be controlled remotely.

Go up to the Tekna and you'll benefit from all-round vision cameras (including cameras in the front and under the wing mirrors), a Bose sound system (with a boot-mounted subwoofer), LED headlamps and a new 'Cold Pack' that delivers heated seats front and rear as well as a heated steering wheel. There's also the option of a 6.6kW charger, which could half the full charging time of eight hours with a typical 10A charger.

More important are the engineering changes, which have changed the character and usability of the Nissan Leaf considerably. Starting at the rear, the battery charger has been relocated from the boot, reduced 30 per cent in size and mounted on top of the engine. The electric motor is said to have reduced inertia and is now around five percent more efficient. 

What's it like?

On the road, the revised Nissan Leaf is more assured, confident and stable and the car feels more of an integrated whole. Compared to the original version, which Autocar ran for a year as a long-termer, the new car has weightier steering, which gets progressively heavier as the driver winds on lock.

More importantly, the damping has been carefully retuned so that the Nissan Leaf no longer 'floats' when it encounters bumps. These changes also ensure that it is now rock-solid at higher speeds. We tested the car in Norway, where urban motorways are limited to 50mph, so it's hard to say how the Leaf will feel at typical UK motorway speeds, but there's no doubt that the new model is head-and-shoulders better than the first-generation car when it comes to high-speed stability.

The urban ride has probably suffered somewhat with the changes to the damping, but customer feedback made it quite clear that a more 'European' chassis tune was wanted. Further tweaks were made by Nissan UK to take into account our "deteriorating" roads. Japanese Leafs retain the very light-to-the-touch chassis tuning of the original model, which probably makes sense on the country's speed-restricted urban motorways.

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The sense of tautness and directness delivered by the new chassis tuning and 29kg reduction in drivetrain weight means that the Nissan Leaf's signature stream of torque under acceleration is even more enjoyable than it was. Although the bare figures may not suggest it, the Leaf has a lovely surge of mid-range pace and the inherent refinement and smoothness of the electric drivetrain also delivers a strong sense of luxury travel. There are executive cars that can't match the effortlessness of the Leaf's drivetrain.

Changes to the braking system, and the way the car uses the electric motor to both slow the car and recharge the battery, means that travelling downhill now delivers a noticeable charge to the battery. Improved regen meant that we gained around 10km (6.2 miles of 'extra' range over a 55km (34-mile) trip, though that did include a short journey into the hills. There's also a new transmission setting which gives more aggressive brake regeneration and a separate 'eco' button to alter accelerator response.

Should I buy one?

Do you have your own parking space and the ability to install a battery charger? If not, the Nissan Leaf will be little use to you. Being able to plug the car in every time it's parked outside your house is the key to Leaf ownership, especially on cold nights when the battery range can be limited by the ambient temperature as it needs to be warmed while it charges.

There's no doubt that the Nissan Leaf now feels better made and more of a complete car. It is also much more suited to the pace of UK driving, even if the uncannily compliant urban ride has been somewhat lost.

The Nissan Leaf Tekna's real-world range when tested at freezing point in Oslo was around 89 miles with the cabin heating off and the heated seats switched on. That's a significant advance on the winter range of the first model (so expect 70 miles as worst-case, rather than the old model's/Visia's 42 miles), although as explained earlier, you need to buy at least the mid-spec Leaf Acenta with its super-efficient pump heater to get this essential advantage.

If you are unlikely to need to travel more than 90 miles in one journey and can balance the price of the Leaf with the sub-£2 cost of 80-130 miles of travel, the Leaf remains a highly impressive machine. It is the most niche of niche vehicles, but it also delivers a uniquely satisfying driving experience.

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Nissan Leaf Visia

Price £15,995 (+£70 per month cheapest leased battery) or £20,990 (including battery purchase); 0-62mph 11.5sec; Top speed 90mph; Range 124 miles; CO2 0g/km (tailpipe); Kerb weight 1474kg; Engine Electric motor Power 107bhp at 3000-10,000rpm; Torque 187lb ft at 0-3000rpm; Gearbox single ratio 'reducer'

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Chris Sullivan 11 May 2013

Solar and batteries

I also have solar panels, mostly work from home and in summer struggle to use the electricity generated by them in the day. (I get paid at about 4p/kW for 50% of the electricity I generate as if it was exported to the grid, but get this; I can use 100% of it and still get paid as it is a deemed payment not a measured one.) There are only so many times you want to wash clothes and pots. I have looked into batteries for the surplus but the experts say wait 2 years for that. I would be very interested to A) divert surplus electricity generated by the PV system to top up the car (doing this one or 2 days a week sat on the drive while I am at home) Dirol Store excess electricity in the car for use in emergencies. But does anyone know where there are people who understand and can provide such technology as I find Nissan are not techno savy. Please let me know if anyone has found a good expert, web site or company to contact on this?

Walking 15 April 2013

Solar panels

Solar panels are like batteries you are paying for energy in advance.  I got in with the highest rate for 25 years and index linked so at the moment I'm getting close to 50p per KWh and rising.  In Japan they are looking at using EV as a back up emergency power souce.  Store emergergy from solar panels in EV and use in home as you can imagine the Japanese are in a different mindset when it comes to these things.  I believe they are look at the effect this will have on battery life the initial opinion is this will be low as it is a different type of demand to driving.  Nothing stands still!

Got this instead though Mazda 6 2.5 SL 2009 50K miles for £7K 12mth MOT, 12 mth service and 12 mth warrant with a 70 ppm company driving allowance! EV doesn't yet win.

catnip 14 April 2013

I have to park my car on the

I have to park my car on the road outside my house, its my only vehicle, and for my predominantly city driving the Leaf is too big (and expensive) for me. So I wouldn't buy a Leaf, or any other electric vehicle at the moment.  But I'm glad all these vehicles exist, and are being bought: Hopefully, they will all lead to the technology being refined and developed in the real world so that one day there will be a viable alternative to the internal combustion engine for me.

ThwartedEfforts 14 April 2013

catnip wrote: But I'm glad

catnip wrote:

But I'm glad all these vehicles exist, and are being bought: Hopefully, they will all lead to the technology being refined and developed in the real world so that one day there will be a viable alternative to the internal combustion engine for me.