The Nissan Leaf is the electric car with the name that’s always spelled out in block capital letters on all the advertising billboards: and here’s why. Because the name of the world’s best-selling EV is actually an acronym. Turns out they didn’t just dub it in honour of Carlos Ghosn’s favourite rubber tree pot plant after all.
It’s an usually descriptive acronym by Japanese car-industry standards: this car is Nissan’s ‘Leading Environmentally friendly Affordable Family vehicle’. Of course it is.
While it takes a bit of a fudge to turn that into the acronym in question (‘LEFAFV’ doesn’t have quite the same ring), the contrivance neatly conveys the car’s central truth: that any Leaf must be more practical, convenient, good-value and easy-to-operate than any other electric rival. And yet it must also be market-leading: popular in one sense, innovative and pioneering in another.
Thus far, it’s been fairly straightforward for Nissan to define the Leaf as the ‘leading’ EV because, well, they’ve sold a quarter-of-a-million of them. Looking towards a fairly near future with all-electric Hondas, Toyotas, Volkswagen IDs and countless millions of Teslas in it, however, ‘market-leading’ status may be a tougher ask.
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.