Nissan has been at the forefront of electric car technology ever since it launched the Leaf back in 2011. At the time, buyers weren’t overly sure of the technology and many were put off by ‘range anxiety’, but Nissan has persevered, and now while other manufacturers are starting to dip a toe in this segment, Nissan is launching its second generation model.
On The Road
The latest version is faster and more upmarket than the model it replaces. but more importantly, it can now go further on a single charge than its predecessor. Nissan claims that if driven sensibly, it will return around 200miles on a single charge. More real world figures show this is closer to 150miles, which is still pretty impressive. It’s also better than the range of the Renault Zoe and VW e-Golf.
The Leaf is pretty comfortable to drive, it’s not in the same class as the Golf, but it is better than other electric offerings out there. It’s comfortable at cruising pace on the motorway, and if you want to push it hard on A-roads you’ll find the steering responsive and the throttle response impressive.
One characteristic you will have to get used to is the throttle. When you lift off the accelerate pedal, you’ll feel the car start to slow down quickly, that’s because it has regenerative braking that helps but the energy used from slowing down back into the battery. If you use the ‘e-pedal’ function, this makes the regenerative braking so pronounced that you barely need to use the brake pedal at all. It’s a bit strange to use at first, but it soon becomes second nature.
In the cabin
While the Leaf is very much a family hatchback, the driving position is quite high up, a bit like you would be in an MPV, that means you have a good view out over the traffic ahead. What is frustrating is that the steering wheel only moves up and down, so getting that perfect seating position is a little harder.
As you’d expect, the interior tech has evolved too, with all but entry-level visia models armed with a 7.0inch touchscreen infotainment system which is simple to use thanks to big icons. While it’s intuitive to use, the quality of the screen doesn’t match the best in class though.
Overall the build quality falls very much in the middle of the road class. It’s not the worst in its class, but it falls short of the best. Some of the cabin materials feel cheap and low rent.
Space is a good all around. In the front, despite those high seats we mentioned earlier even taller drivers will be fine for headroom, and it’s the same story in the back. The Leaf is better suited to two people in the back, just for shoulder room, so if you do find yourself carrying three people in the back regularly, then the Golf would be a better bet. The boot is a good size and can be extended by folding down the rear seats, but it is an unusual shape and there’s a large lip that you’ll have to heave heavy items over to load.
There are a lot of reasons why the Leaf makes sense, the biggest being a financial one. It qualifies for the lowest band of benefit in kind tax, plus you’ll be spending a less more in fuel. Nissan claims that running costs will be 85% less than those who run petrol or diesel cars., with maintenance costing 75% less.
It’s also less stressful to live with day in day out, a 50kW quick charger will give you around 80% charge in around 40minutes. A home charge though, through a normal three pin plug will take considerably longer for a full charge.
Then there’s the fact that its congestion charge exempt, and you’ll get free parking in some places, plus there’s a £3.5k government grant to help towards buying an electric car. It really does look like an attractive proposition.