The pressure is on Nissan to respond, then. And expectations that this second-generation Leaf will be as ground-breaking as its predecessor are high. Perhaps unreasonably so.
Predictably, viewed through that somewhat uncharitable prism, the new Leaf could, like most Hollywood sequels, be considered a little disappointing. Sure, it’s bigger than before, and better – it has a WLTP driving range of 168 miles (up from 124), and a 148bhp motor (up from 107bhp) – but it’s all steady increment, rather than a mighty leap.
It’s evolution, not revolution. Which, if you look at this new Leaf removed from any weight of unfair expectation, makes it arguably the most compelling option on the market right now for anyone considering an electric car.
We've already driven the Leaf abroad, but this is our first taste on the UK's rougher - and, during our test, snow-covered - roads.
What's it like?
Essentially, a refined and improved version of its predecessor. Thanks to the underfloor battery it has the same high driving position, and it’s easy, comfortable and confidence inspiring.
The electric drive is responsive and direct, yet never wild, and the steering is weighted, proportionate and a little quicker than before, without offering much feel or dynamism.
It is, as with many electric cars, all a little detached, and it’s not going to rival a combustion-engined alternative for sheer thrills on a flowing road. But, even with its improved range – made possible by a 40kWh battery replacing the 30kWh unit from the old car – it’s unlikely most would-be buyers will ask it to: most will spend their days as urban runarounds, an environment in which it will thrive.
The most notable driving feature of the Leaf is the new ‘ePedal’ setting which, when selected, kicks in regenerative braking as soon as you lift off the accelerator pedal. The heavy deceleration that kicks in when you lift off is initially jolting, but quickly becomes second nature. Once you adjust your driving style to fit – slowly easing off the accelerator on approach to junctions, for example – you’ll rarely need to make use of the brake pedal.
The interior of the new Leaf is an updated, generally improved version of the old one: pleasant, comfortable and reasonably mature. Our Tekna model also came with plenty of kit, including a Bose sound system, heated seats and semi-autonomous driving functions. All that said, the touchscreen and other general material quality can’t match the perceived quality of traditionally powered cars at this price level.