Still, it’ll be the fibre of this car with which it’ll be aiming to claim it: the second-generation Leaf, complete with sharper looks, more power, more battery range, better onboard technology – and a value-for-money proposition that plainly isn’t to be sniffed at.
Where the second-gen Leaf improves on the original
On the face of it, certainly a ‘LEAF’ that continues to be worthy of those capital letters. Having increased this car’s battery range by 50%, motor power by 40% and torque by 25%, Nissan has actually reduced prices on the Leaf by up to £1500, depending on trim level.
Granted, the car still relies on the UK treasury’s £4500 buyer incentive to make good its business case. But taking that deal into account, the bottom-rung Leaf now comfortably beats an entry-level combustion-engined Audi A3 Sportback on power, performance and list price, regardless of whether you prefer the Audi in petrol or diesel form.
Where the Leaf falls down when compared with the proper premium-branded mainstream hatchbacks against which it’s priced continues to be inside. The car’s driving position is improved but still feels oddly perched (because you’re sitting, even up front, directly above the drive battery) and still lacks telescopic steering column adjustment. Perceived cabin quality’s a shade improved from the outgoing car’s standard but it’s still way off where it ought to be for the price.
At least you get a better instrument cluster this time around, from the base Visia model up. The digital screen has a display you can customise, which makes getting the best out of that electric powertrain that much easier.
Entry-level cars also come with 16in steel wheels, halogen headlights and LED daytime running lights, electric windows, lane departure and blind spot warnings, and manually adjustable seats. Stepping up to the Acenta adds 16in alloy wheels, front fog lamps, a leather steering wheel, cruise control and a 7in infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple Carplay.
The mid-range N-Connecta includes 17in alloys, electric folding wing mirrors, synthetic half-leather seats, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and object-detecting 360-degree parking cameras. The top-end Techna model gains full LED headlights, black leather interior, heated seats and steering wheel, an electronic parking brake, and a 7-speaker BOSE sound system, as well as Nissan's ProPilot semi-autonomous drive modes.
Behind the wheel of the Nissan Leaf
Driving the Leaf is certainly suggestive of greater premium-level refinements than the interior is. Being as brilliantly responsive to the accelerator as ever, and having greater torque-related thrust below about 50mph than just about anything short of a hot hatchback, the Leaf is a delight to drive around town. Nissan’s powertrain improvements also make it feel much less out of place on the motorway than the old one did.
There’s a new ‘ePedal’ setting for the car, which filters in strong regenerative braking before you go anywhere near the brake pedal, and makes the Leaf at once easier to drive and better at recycling energy than the old one. And, perhaps more striking than everything else, this is now a seriously quiet and refined car – just as you’d want an EV to be.
The Leaf is based on an overhauled version of the old car’s mechanical platform but, having been made torsionally stiffer than its predecessor as well as quicker-steering and more resistant to body roll, it feels both comfortable-riding and fairly agile-handling on the road: enough in both cases, certainly, to satisfy most tastes. There’s well-tuned weight and return-to-centre springing about the steering too.