Nissan's all-electric LEAF has been recently refreshed in next generation form and for the latest model year, gets some practical improvements.
The Nissan LEAF has always been a love it or hate it type of car. Some are drawn into this all-electric Nissan for its futuristic engineering and surprisingly addictive driving feats, but to date, many potential customers have struggled to make a positive case for it. However, things are looking up for the Leaf. For the newest model, Nissan wants to bring the higher 62kWh 'e+' version of this model more to the attention of customers with its longer driving range with a key factor being value which has been prioritised across the range.
The Nissan LEAF is the world's best-selling electric vehicle. You might think that this would mean sales in the millions however, the truth is that following the Leaf's launch back in 2010 and throughout a production life that lasted nearly eight years, the first generation version of this electric Nissan sold 283,000 units across the globe. This says less about the LEAF - a design that has always been respected - and more about the slow take over of battery-powered cars worldwide, which continues to stay behind predictions set out by the automotive industry. This is mostly down to the restrictions that fully battery-powered vehicles put on driving range, though that's something that's always evolving as automotive electric technology changes. It's definetly developed enough to make this second version of the Leaf well worth another chance if you didn't quite justify the purchase of its predecessor.
Let's deal quickly with the first thing you'll want to know about when leasing an electric vehicle, the driving range. The first generation of the Nissan Leaf model came back in 2010 and struggled to get more than 60-70 miles out of a full charge. With this new second-generation design, Nissan has claimed a WLTP maximum driving range of 168 miles from the standard 40kWh model - or a beefier 239 miles (WLTP) from the alternative 'e+' version with its upgraded 62kWh battery. Even if you think in terms of a 'real world' driving range being about two-thirds of those total figures (which is our experience anyway), you can't deny that these readings show a massive improvement with a near 50% increase over the final version of the original Leaf model. The 40kWh battery that almost all LEAF models will still use, produces 110kW of power (which equates to 148bhp) and 320Nm of torque - making the LEAF feel quite quick from a standing start. Nissan state that the 0-62mph time is about 9.8s. In the past with LEAF models, the amount of retardation you received when lifting off the accelerator meant that the brake pedal was something you didn't need to use often. With the next generation model, you'll hardly need it at all thanks to new 'e-Pedal' technology that can bring the car to a complete stop when you come off the accelerator. The great news here though is that the larger 62kWh battery 'e+' version of the Leaf has now been priced much more suitably - and this uprated model's longer 239 mile driving range could be a key factor in convincing potential buyers who might otherwise be swayed by longer-running EV rivals in this segment.
There are two main routes that manufacturers take when styling an all-electric car. Either you make it look very familiar as Volkswagen did with the e-Golf, or you go for something very futuristic, as Nissan showed with their first-generation Leaf model. That approach continues on with the second generation design, which gets a sleek attractive body featuring a flat floor, a sharp nose at the front and an aggressive rear end. There are though, lots of familiar aspects from more ordinary Nissan models - things like the company's signature 'V-motion' front grille, the 'boomerang'-style lights and the kicked-up rear shoulder line for example. The new revised model shape is certainly sleek with Nissan stating that it now has a drag coefficient of 0.27Cd. And the whole structure is stiff too, torsional rigidity having improved by 15% over the earlier design. Importantly, interior practicality is much like any combustion-engined family hatch, notably in terms of boot space, which is rated at a good 435-litres. The designers have also tried to give the interior a premium feel, with soft trim materials and a futuristic look for the 7-inch centre-dash infotainment touchscreen. To remind you of this car's eco-friendly stance, there's vibrant blue stitching on the seats, the dashboard and the steering wheel. Two adults can fit comfortably across the back seat - and three could fit at a push if this is needed.
Most of the Leaf models will come with the 40kW battery and are priced in the £27,000 to £30,000 bracket, once the government £3,000 grant has been applied & deducted from the asking price. There are the 'Acenta', 'N-Connecta' and 'Tekna' trim levels. The longer range 62kWh battery 'e+' models now start much more sensibly at around £33,000 and are available in 'N-Connecta', 'N-TEC' and 'Tekna' trims, with pricing up to around £35,000. The vast majority of customers will take ownership using some kind of finance scheme. These can make the prospect of running this Nissan look very affordable however, this car still looks like a relatively expensive way of showing you are motoring to help an eco-friendly world. You'd certainly have to drive the Leaf for much longer than most owners would want to if you're to get back the premium price you've paid over what a comparably-sized family hatchback would have cost. Part of this is because Nissan feels the need to offer even the most basic versions of this car with lots of standard specification & equipment. This, for example, is the only model the company makes which features its 'ProPilot' autonomous driving technology as standard, this a set-up that on motorways, can steer, brake and even accelerate for you. There's also a 'ProPilot Park' system which will take control of all steering, acceleration, braking and gear selection to automatically park your vehicle into a parking spot. Inside, every specification level gets a 7-inch colour centre-dash touchscreen which features 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone integration technology.
As the UK's electric vehicle charging infrastructure is constantly evolving, it is becoming ever more easier to make a case for cars like this. Quite a number of 50kW charging points are springing up in and around cities. Once you locate one of these, you'll be able to regularly and easily re-charge your Leaf from empty to 80% capacity in just 40 minutes. When domestic charging at home via a 3-pin socket, re-charging still takes a lengthy amount of time, though you can get quite a lot of it done with an overnight charge so it is then ready for your morning commute. Of course, for home re-charging, you'll want to fit a proper re-charging wallbox to save time and if you are regularly charging from home. Nissan can sell you a 7.5Kw domestic charging point that will be able to fully charge the car from empty in five and a half hours or these can be easily obtained through your energy supplier. Use a more normal 6kW charger and the replenishment time rises to about eight hours. Add these quick charging times to the increase in driving range that this new generation Leaf model has delivered over its original model which released in 2010 and owning a Nissan Leaf could now be a real option for people who previously couldn't justify it.
Has the Leaf's time to shine finally come? Most likely not quite yet. But the improvements Nissan continues to make will open up a much larger market for it. In developing this second-generation model, the manufacturer has obviously listened to customer feedback over the years. The biggest issue of course was driving range, but as well as improving that with the extended 'e+' variant, Nissan has also added a package of technology that will make customers feel that they're at the highest point of automotive technology. Of course, some of the previous issues still unfortunately remain. The car is still quite expensive, the looks aren't for everyone and you won't even be able to consider it unless you have off-street overnight parking at your home. Bit by bit though, electric motoring is evolving its customer reach and, as it's always been, the Leaf remains right at the front of that change.
22nd January 2021
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