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New Leaf has plenty of substance to go with its striking looks, but there is still work to do if Nissan wants to take class honours in the UK

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

  • First Drive

    Nissan Leaf 2018 review

    New Leaf has plenty of substance to go with its striking looks, but there is still work to do if Nissan wants to take class honours in the UK
  • First Drive

    2016 Nissan Leaf 30kWh review

    Nissan has raised the all-electric Leaf's game by increasing its range by 25%. We drive it on UK roads for the first time

What is it?

The Nissan Leaf is a world leader in terms of electric vehicle sales. A global total of 280,000 of Nissan's 'Leading Electric Affordable Family' cars have amassed 3.5 billion miles of mileage between them since the model first went on sale in 2011.

You’ve probably seen the new second-generation Leaf; it’s got the sharp looks of the IDS concept seen at the 2015 Tokyo motor show, a range of 235 miles, and technology upgrades which include the ability to drive semi-autonomously in a single motorway lane (although this feature is dependant on which specification you choose). 

What we have here - here being on a drive event ahead of the Tokyo motor show, on a strip of public road near Nissan’s global headquarters in Yokohama - is the Japanese-spec Leaf Mk2, now in production form, following on from our test of a prototype in September.

What's it like?

Our test car is different to what we’ll get in the UK. The suspension will be stiffer on the UK car, the e-Pedal smart regenerative braking system gentler, the dashboard more Micra-like, and it won’t get a rear-view camera and display in the rearview mirror. 

The UK-specification car will benefit from that upgraded dashboard from the Micra because the interior of the Leaf isn’t exactly inspiring in Japanese spec. There’s a lot of grey plastic.

The e-Pedal in the Japanese-spec car is a little aggressive and Nissan expects UK customers to prefer a gentler deceleration when easing off the throttle. Nissan couldn’t say by how much it’ll be reined in, but there’ll be less head-bobbing from passengers when the driver’s foot comes off the accelerator. When you're on the accelerator, this new Leaf has got a real lump of torque to fire it down the road – 20% more than before, in fact, at 236lb ft. 148bhp of power gives a rather pedestrian top speed of 89mph, but that's of little concern to the average Leaf driver.

Stiffer suspension might not be such a welcome tweak for the UK, though. The Leaf is slightly firm already. Bumpier surfaces make themselves known at low speeds, with a little more shake than you’d hope. Nissan promises that cornering ability will be improved, although there’s nothing noticeably wrong with that. From first impressions at least, it doesn’t need it

Although the new car is slightly squatter than the first-generation Leaf, headroom inside is excellent – unexpectedly so for the rakish-looking hatch – although its exterior dimensions make it almost as wide as the Ford Focus, and larger than one in every other direction. 

A seating position that’s slightly too high compared with the shallow windscreen makes the interior feel a little less spacious than it deserves, though. Otherwise, the dashboard has the perfect button-to-screen ratio. Important functions aren’t relegated to a sub-menu in the infotainment, but the dash is nevertheless satisfyingly uncluttered. 

The blue button on the right-hand side of the steering wheel unlocks a key feature of the new Leaf; Propilot is the name given to Nissan’s semi-autonomous driving system. It’s as easy to operate as adaptive cruise control: just set the speed, wait for the system to confirm that it’s ready, and relax. Let go of the wheel, though, and a reminder tells you politely to keep your hands on it.

The reminder is less polite the second time around. Propilot Park - an extension to the Propilot system – makes light work of automated parking, albeit slowly. There’s no setting to make it faster as it rolls into a space, so it’s certainly not suited for city parking, but it’s accurate and intuitive, even allowing for situations where space isn’t marked - you move a box into your desired space. It’d be brilliant if it wasn’t so timid in its speed. Luckily Nissan will be updating that too. 

Steering is where this Japanese Leaf loses a sizable chunk of driver appeal. It feels numb, and not all that direct, either. It’s far from where it should be. And guess what? That’s getting updated too; Nissan is tightening up the rack to be more responsive on UK-market vehicles; it’ll take closer to two turns lock-to-lock than the Japanese market’s three.

Should I buy one?

The price structure for the Leaf range will remain similar to the current car; £26,000 for the first UK cars in a special Launch Edition specification. 

Currently, the Leaf is getting long in the tooth, and lags behind some rivals. The new model, which is deliberately more subtly styled, addresses these points comprehensively. 

It's driving attributes will also be comprehensively addressed if Nissan carries out all of the changes as promised to the cars heading for the UK. So this is a relatively subdued verdict, pending Nissan’s pledged tweaks. If they’re implemented, the new Leaf will be not just a formidable electric vehicle, but an incredibly decent car full stop.

Chances are that the Leading Electric Affordable Family car will continue to be just that. The competition’s ramping up though, so the Leaf might not be alone at the top of the class for long.

Nissan Leaf

Where Yokohama, Japan On sale January 2018 Price £26,490 Engine electric motor, 40kWh battery pack Power 148bhp Torque 236lb ft Gearbox single-ratio reducer Kerbweight 1535kg Top speed 89mph 0-62mph 8.6sec Range 235 miles (NEDC) CO2 rating 0g/km Rivals Volkswagen e-Golf, Hyundai Ioniq Electric

Join the debate

Comments
19

24 October 2017

In the same review it is claimed that this is striking looks and also more sublty styled, make your mind up.

24 October 2017

Sorry if I'm being thick here, but if you have to have your hands on the steering wheel for Propilot then is that not just adaptive cruise control?

24 October 2017
Merod wrote:

Sorry if I'm being thick here, but if you have to have your hands on the steering wheel for Propilot then is that not just adaptive cruise control?

Adaptive cruise control just controls your speed to maintain the gap with the vehicle in front, this does that but also lightly steers too to keep you in lane. Your hands have to be on the wheel ready to take over but they are 'passengers' on it in effect whilst the system is working. -- First impression is what a crap boot opening for a hatchback, that would have my back pop out in no time, unforgivable on a new design car.

 

24 October 2017

I suppose Nissan can charge pretty much what they want as they've so little competion, it's a shame the Bolt and Model 3 aren't here to spice things up a bit

Comparasion :- Focus diesel 150hp Titanium Auto (retail £24,845 ) - Probably less well equipped, more expensive to tax, congestion chargerable, higher fuel costs, noiser, need to stop at diesel stations once a week, higher maintenance costs. A choice between the two has never been easier, Leaf every time!

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

25 October 2017

Not such an easy choice is youre a car enthusiast (ie the sort of person who reads this website) who enjoys decent handling and dynamics, who wants a driver's car - good as the Leaf is it cant compete with the Focus in those areas, which is why most people will go for the Focus instead. Of course theres no reason why an electric car cant be a driver's car too, its just for some reason no one has released one yet, given time they will, no doubt.

24 October 2017

EPA range of 150 miles, 40 minutes charging to get back to 120 mile range with a rapid charger, low resale price.....

A quick scan showed the Focus diesel 150hp Titanium Auto can be bought for £19,538 from a broker.

In London with the congestion charge and low mileages, it's probably the Leaf by a large margin. For those of us not in a big city, doing large mileages, it's probably best to wait for the 300 to 500 mile range promised by solid state batteries.

 

25 October 2017

I do over 30,000 miles a year and have never done a trip of 150 miles+ in one day, so 180 mile range is plenty.  Ideal if you have two cars but this would be nr1 car as it only costs 2p a mile in fuel costs.

Broker cost, just shows how fast a diesel focus will depricate.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

27 October 2017
xxxx wrote:

I do over 30,000 miles a year and have never done a trip of 150 miles+ in one day, so 180 mile range is plenty.  Ideal if you have two cars but this would be nr1 car as it only costs 2p a mile in fuel costs.

Broker cost, just shows how fast a diesel focus will depricate.

Quick bit of research at local dealers :

66 reg focus £14000

66 reg leaf £16000

focus loses £5k, leaf loses £10k.

I think we need to wait for the technology to mature . For early adopters only for the next few years.

24 October 2017

something interesting about 0-60 in 8.6 and a top speed under 90mph. I think that's the future. Or more like 0-60 in 3 secs and a top speed of 100mph. Either way, it's a better use of power than huge top speeds with nowhere to use it.

 

24 October 2017

Interesting point. Is there any reason why ice cars haven’t gone that way already? Ive always wondered that. I would dare say given the choice identical cars with one that did 0-60 8 secs and 140mph vs 0-60 6 secs but 110 most Petrol heads would choose the 0-60. 

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