The Nissan Leaf is an intriguing mix of the revolutionary and the utterly conventional. Despite Nissan’s claims that the Leaf’s design “isn’t compromised by the need to house a traditional engine at the front”, were you not aware that the Leaf was electrically powered, there’d be no obvious reason to notice, save for the stand-out styling.

Its structure is fairly conventional, too – as, presumably, it needs to be to reduce costs, given the relative expense of the drivetrain. The Leaf’s is an all-new platform but is a straightforward steel monocoque, suspended by MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear. At 4445mm long, it’s more or less the same length as a Vauxhall Astra or Ford Focus.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Chief tester
If you didn't know the Leaf is electrically powered, there’d be no obvious reason to notice

The dramatically designed headlights aren’t just for styling effect. The LED cluster is shaped to direct airflow away from the door mirrors, reducing aerodynamic drag. The prominent rear lights and the rear spoiler help separate airflow around the rear of the car to reduce the drag coefficient.

Aware that charging points are more likely to be at the end of a parking space rather than in its middle, Nissan has placed the Leaf’s charging sockets in the car’s nose.

There may be no conventional engine, but there’s still one grille at the front, directing cooling air to the underbonnet systems. In spite of the Leaf’s frontal shape not being compromised by the need to have an engine, there’s still a nosy overhang so that it meets pedestrian impact regulations.

A flat floor and small diffuser are aimed at reducing drag (they’re not there to aid downforce). The resulting drag coefficient is 0.29, a respectable but not outstanding figure.

The 2016 update did very little to change what can only be described as a winning formula, with the most notable changes made to the battery pack. The increase in the Leaf's battery capacity is largely down to Nissan introducing new cathode and electrode materials and revising the battery's construction in order to increase density. Naturally, a penalty was incurred from all these changes as the 30kWh Leaf weighs 21kg more than its 24kWh stablemate.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • BMW X3
    Car review
    19 January 2018
    The stakes have never been higher for BMW’s mid-sized SUV, now the X3 in its third generation. So can it deliver?
  • Nissan Leaf
    First Drive
    19 January 2018
    Better looks, better value, better range, stronger performance and a quiet and relaxing drive make the Nissan Leaf a leading EV contender again
  • Volkswagen Up GTI
    First Drive
    18 January 2018
    Funky, light, enjoyable and even reasonably priced, the Volkswagen Up GTI is a car to be appreciated on its own compelling terms
  • Skoda Fabia 1.0 TSI 110 Redline
    First Drive
    18 January 2018
    Our first flavour of the 1.0 TSI-engined Skoda Fabia on UK roads shows it’s versatile but not all that sporty
  • Ford Ecosport 1.0 Ecoboost 125 Zetec front
    First Drive
    18 January 2018
    Can the updated Ford Ecosport improve its reputation and become the small SUV of choice, or is it another misguided effort from the Blue Oval?