Nissan Leaf review

The second-generation Nissan Leaf is at the vanguard of affordable electric cars and an 'e+' long-range version is now available

£27,995 - £35,895
£24,495 - £32,395
Electric

Pros

  • Short waiting times
  • Advanced driver assistance 
  • Decent real-world driving range

Cons

  • No battery leasing option
  • Suspension is a little firm
  • No CCS port or 100kW charging
Car type Official range Wallbox charge time Fast charge time
Electric 168-239 miles 8h-11hrs (6.6kW) 40-60mins (50kW, 20-80%)

The Nissan Leaf is the world’s biggest-selling electric car, and it’s not hard to see why. Offered with both a 40kWh battery and 168-mile official range, or a 62kWh battery and range of 239 miles, it seems there’s a version of the likeable and easy-going Leaf to suit every buyer, from the budget-conscious to the high-mileage luxury-seeker.
 
We’ve driven both, and consistently achieved 160 miles or more in the 40kWh model that we lived with for six months, while our time in a Leaf e+ suggested 210 miles is easily achievable in varied driving.
 
The e+ isn’t only about longer range, either. It also gets faster charging, with the CHAdeMO port in its nose capable of ‘topping up’ at 100kW, delivering 20-80% (around 126 additional miles of range) in 30 minutes.
 

Putting the Leaf into 'B' mode increases the aggressiveness of the regenerative braking system, which recoups power as the car slows down. 'ECO' mode, meanwhile increases the regenerative braking further and limits engine power to help you eke out even more miles from the battery.

The Leaf’s technology trump card is the 'E-Pedal'. When engaged, this optimises the regenerative braking to such an extent that it's possible to drive the car using the accelerator alone – just taking your foot off the pedal sees the car slowing down considerably, as if you'd hit the brakes. It takes a little getting used to, but is an impressive bit of kit.

That’s not the only standout feature, though. The Leaf can be specified with Nissan’s ProPilot self-driving technology. Standard on the Tekna trim and optional elsewhere, it's a ‘level two’ autonomous driving system, meaning it can can turn, steer and stop by itself.

All you need to do is keep your hands on the steering wheel, ready to take control if you need to. The Leaf can even park itself.

The standard Leaf can charge at speeds of 50kW, meaning the same charge will take some 45-60 minutes. The Leaf also has a Type 2 AC charging port that allows it to charge at speeds of up to 6.6kW from most AC public chargers, but it’s a shame that Nissan doesn’t offer the Leaf with CCS rapid charging as favoured by most other manufacturers and charging-point providers.
 
Home charging from a 7kW wallbox will take some eight hours in the cheaper model, or 10 hours for the bigger battery in the Leaf e+ version. There’s no difference in the way the two Leaf models drive; they’re both composed and inoffensive, as well as brimming with technology.
 
The Leaf’s technology trump card is the 'E-Pedal'. When engaged, this optimises the regenerative braking to such an extent that it's possible to drive the car using the accelerator alone – just taking your foot off the pedal sees it slow down considerably, as if you'd hit the brakes. It takes quite a bit of getting used to, but it is great for eking out range around town.
 
There are other levels of regenerative braking on offer. E-Pedal mode is the strongest, but turn that off and you can put it into 'B' mode for moderate regenerative braking, while putting it in Eco increases the regenerative braking further and limits engine power to help you extend the range as much as possible.

We’d prefer steering-wheel-mounted paddles, which are a more convenient and intuitive way of toggling through the brake regen levels as and when you need to.

Otherwise, the Leaf drives well. It’s fast away from the lights and takes just 7.9 seconds to accelerate from 0-62mph. The steering is suitably light for around-town use, but is direct and gives confidence when you increase speed. The only fly in the ointment is an occasionally lumpy ride that can intrude on your otherwise serene about-town gliding, but it’s not bad enough to be a deal-breaker.

Another technology highlight of the Leaf is Nissan’s ProPilot driving assistance package. Standard on Tekna trim (which the e+ comes in as standard) and optional elsewhere, it's a ‘level two’ autonomous driving system, meaning it can turn, steer and stop by itself. All you need to do is keep your hands on the wheel, ready to take control if you need to. The Leaf can even park itself.

In all other respects, the Nissan is pretty conventional, which is part of its appeal. It has even been designed to look like a ‘normal’ car. The interior is conservative, and maybe a little low-rent when it comes to materials used, but it’s sensibly laid-out, and a nicer environment than the Hyundai Ioniq Electric.

We’d like more movement in the driving position; the seat feels like it needs to drop lower and there’s no electric adjustment for the seats nor reach adjustment for the steering wheel, even on range-topping cars. This is odd in a model that’s likely to cost well over £30,000 and comes with other luxuries like full LED headlights as standard.

At least there’s plenty of space for four adults inside, although as with most other cars of this size – electric or otherwise – fitting a fifth passenger is a bit of a squeeze.

The boot will be no issue. At 435 litres, it’s larger than you’ll find in the Volkswagen e-Golf, if not as well-shaped nor as well packaged for cable storage as the Kia e-Niro.

The are more keenly-priced electric cars on the road, not least of which are the e-Niro and Hyundai Kona Electric, which we favour over the Leaf, but these class leaders are hard (if not impossible) to buy at the moment and the Leaf is not far behind them at all on balance of cost, efficiency and ease of use.

So, if you’re looking for the best electric family car, this isn’t it. But if you’re looking for the best electric family car that you can put on your driveway tomorrow, the likeable and hi-tech Nissan is a cracking option.
 
For more on the Leaf, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.