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 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 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 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.
The sense of tautness and directness delivered by the new chassis tuning and 29kg reduction in drivetrain weight means that the 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.