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Better looks, better value, better range, stronger performance and a quiet and relaxing drive make the Nissan Leaf a leading EV contender again
  • First Drive

    Nissan Leaf 2018 review

    Better looks, better value, better range, stronger performance and a quiet and relaxing drive make the Nissan Leaf a leading EV contender again
  • First Drive

    Nissan Leaf 2017 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

What is it?

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. And 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.

What's it like?

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, with a digital screen whose display you can customise, and that makes getting the best out of that electric powertrain easier.

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.

Even in light of all that, though, while the original Leaf wasn’t a car an interested driver would pick above its rivals, the new one probably isn’t either. It’s a car designed, from a dynamic standpoint, to do everything to a consistent eight-out-of-ten standard, rather than any one thing brilliantly. And it’s a success in that respect.

Should I buy one?

If you think you’re ready for an EV, few would make a better route in. Those who decide to will continue to do so for rational reasons: because the Leaf’s better-priced than its opponents, better-supported by relevant public fast-charging infrastructure, more practical – and because it now has the battery range to be more usable than it ever used to be.

At an ‘NEDC’-certified 235 miles, the new Leaf’s cruising range beats that of every rival save the priciest Renault Zoe (250 miles) and the Opel Ampera-e (323 miles, though it’s still denied to UK buyers). Our test drive suggested you should expect more like 160-170 miles from this car between charges, in mixed real-world use. Relative to the claim, that may sound like a con - but it’s actually quite impressive for what remains one of the juvenile EV class’s value champions.  

Nissan Leaf

Where Tenerife On sale Now Price From £21,990 (including govt grant) Engine AC synchronous electric motor Power 148bhp at 3283-9795rpm Torque 236lb ft at 0-3283rpm Gearbox Direct drive reduction gearing Kerb weight 1580kg Top speed 89mph 0-62mph 7.9sec Battery capacity 40kWh Range 235 miles (NEDC)/177 miles (WLTP combined) CO2, tax band na Rivals Renault Zoe, Volkswagen e-Golf

Join the debate

Comments
35

A34

19 January 2018

Looks like a commute wagon par excellence, provided you have a charge point at work. And its a company car. And you have a partner with a car with a hydrocarbon burning engine for longer journeys...

19 January 2018
A34 wrote:

Looks like a commute wagon par excellence, provided you have a charge point at work. And its a company car. And you have a partner with a car with a hydrocarbon burning engine for longer journeys...

I agree, except you probably don't even need a charge point at work, not many people commute anywhere near 80 miles each way.

(Although charging at work too would be attractive as the HMRC have decided work place charging isn't a taxable benefit, partly to encourage take-up of Green transport and also the amounts are quite small to bother with)

 

289

19 January 2018

And how long do you think HMRC are going to continue this largesse?

Once this becomes commonplace you can forget their affable nature....after all they wanted to tax you for even parking at work not so long ago!

With regard to the cost of recharging 'being so small' that will also change. Firstly, even if we can produce enough electricity (which I doubt), should there be a mass move to EV's, we will be at the mercy of the French/Chinese owners of the Nuclear power stations when it comes to the cost per Kw, and they have already shown their hand in this with the holding to ransome of our Government by threatening to not complete Hinckley Point unless they can increase the price of electricity by 50%....50 PERCENT!

God knows where this leaves people with Electric central heating!!!

Then there is the Exchequer....do you really believe that they are going to give up with barely a murmour the massive tax-take they currently enjoy on Petrol/Diesel?

So they will also slap a load of tax on the electricity used to recharge EV's should the take-up become 20% or more. Probably slapon a tax per mile travelled too for good measure.

So this may not be the motoring Nirvana many are forecasting.

19 January 2018

Emm a lot of crystal ball gazing but here's a few current facts. Only 17% of our electricity currently comes for Nuclear, the price is fixed, no road charging is planned for the near future but you can buy electric cars now and have the benefits now.  Norway makes all its electricity via renewable sources, 1 in 3 car sales 'plug in' and they don't have any power problems.

Road charging will probably occur but as the LEAF is an excellent car that's cheap, fast, quiet and simply  that you can buy now all your future predictions are irrelevant.

In fact you could turn your predictions on their head and use it to make a case to buy an EV sooner rather later, thanks for making the EV even clearer!    

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

289

19 January 2018

A bit short sighted xxxx.

Firstly I wasnt discussing the situation TODAY, I was questioning the future should EV take-up accelerate from the paltry 5-6% it is now to say 50%

We could be sleep walking into a 'cul de sac' where we are effectively held to ransome. The price is only fixed for existing installations....not all the new power stations required to service EV's in big numbers.

There is no point in quoting current Nuclear output....thats going to change radically if we are going to use more of the stuff....especially given the reluctance of this country to use the everlasting resource of tidal power.

And there is no point offering red herrings like the Norwegian power generation programme - this is NOT Norway with huge Hydro electric availability.

19 January 2018

I've never seen so many 'could', 'if's' etc and as to 'current Nuclear output....thats going to change radically ' nothing changes radically in Nuclear power. 10 years times it'll be a few percentage points higher but wind, solar and tidal power will grow faster as they have done for the last 15 years!

If EV's get to 15% of the market of low-average mileage drivers in the next 5 years there won't be a problem. 

'NOT Norway with huge Hydro electric availability.' yes but then as you said we have Nuclear power, growing Wind and Solar power. Just shows what can be done! 

Anyway back to the car which is available today!

p.s. Are you suggesting we stop the sale of EV cars??? 

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

289

19 January 2018

....bury your head in the sand if you like xxxx, it makes no difference to me because I will never drive an Electric car. I still enjoy my ICE cars.

And no i am not suggesting ceasing the sales of Electric cars, whatever floats your boat my friend....it just doesnt happen to float mine.

I am merely saying that if you think that the present 'value for money' running costs will continue once there is a wider take-up....dream on. Dont sleep-walk into another governmental man-trap.

19 January 2018

Is this all because your Hydrgen bubble has popped. In 2014 you were arguing with me with posts like: "Better to set-up Hydrogen pumps at service stations ..." and other posts about Hydrogen power like "the price will fall as the tech rolls out.". Well it looks like you got it wrong!

It's not me burying my head.  It looks like EV's can now stand on their own 4 wheels.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

19 January 2018

Hydrogen Fuel Cell cars are still electric cars, just with a different 'energy storage' mechanism to battery EVs. With battery technology rapidly improving in terms of energy density, rapid charge  and cost, it would seem unlikely (at this point) that  hydrogen fuel cell cars will be the predominant future technology. Although apparently may be well suited to heavy transport such as boats and trains.

19 January 2018

OK replace EV with BEV and Hydrogen with Hydrogen Fuelled Car.

Electric trains will never convert to Hydrogen Fuelled Trains. Non will boats, imagine how big the carbon fibre Hydrogen tank would have to be for a 8,000 mile voyage with 15,000 containers! 

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

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