From £21,125
The re-engineered Nissan Leaf boasts improved dynamics and an increased driving range between charges

Our Verdict

Nissan Leaf

The electric Nissan Leaf has its work cut out competing with cheaper mainstream cars - but it does make a case for itself

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 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.

Should I buy one?

Do you have your own parking space and the ability to install a battery charger? If not, the 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 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 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.

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'

Join the debate

Comments
28

11 April 2013

Well if that's the right price, then they've definitely made the Leaf more available to a wider audience. However, still do not believe that it's a credible alternative to a 'normal' car just yet.

11 April 2013

I think its ready to be credible with another £5k taken off the asking price.

 

 

12 April 2013

... at £21k the Leaf's price now almost matches that of the 5-door Golf and A3 diesel.

12 April 2013

"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."

I am sure you mean motor, shame really it may of made the car viable.

12 April 2013

really worth £9,500 more than the Visia? I bet the cost of manufacture difference between the two is negligible.

12 April 2013

That's because it isn't 9.5K

With battery Visia is 20, 990 and tekna 25,490 so for 4.5 K you are get wheels, Nav and improved systems etc which seems about right!

12 April 2013

owenmahamilton wrote:

[Is the Tekna] really worth £9,500 more than the Visia? I bet the cost of manufacture difference between the two is negligible.

£9,500 is the extremes of the Leaf price range (Visia leased battery --> Tekna purchased battery) and not the actual difference between Visia and Tekna. You can also get the Tekna on the battery lease deal for £20,490.


12 April 2013

Compared to the old car, it does look more grown-up. Nissan have fixed the cabin so it now looks better quality. You could almost make a case for buying one, almost... If I was forced to have an EV then I guess it would be a Leaf.

12 April 2013

Autocar wrote:

This is the second-generation Nissan Leaf

Er not it's not. It's a facelift. 

Generation change means new or significantly re-engineered platform, a completely new body, major mechanical changes, etc etc

Styling changes and a few minor engineering enhancements do not a new generation make. 

13 April 2013

evanstim wrote:

Autocar wrote:

This is the second-generation Nissan Leaf

Er not it's not. It's a facelift. 

Generation change means new or significantly re-engineered platform, a completely new body, major mechanical changes, etc etc

Styling changes and a few minor engineering enhancements do not a new generation make. 

 

So how does that reasoning explain 5th and 6th generation Golf. 

 

Speaking of which, compared to the Golf, where the a decent engine and non-poverty spec is roughly £20k. So this isn't too far off the mark pricewise, battery leased or bought. 

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