Nissan Leaf review
|Car||Range||Wallbox charge time||Fast charge time|
|Leaf||168 miles||6hrs 30mins*||40mins (10-80%, 50kW)|
|Leaf e+||239 miles||10hrs||35mins (10-80%, 100kW)|
*with optional 6.6kW on-board charger
The Nissan Leaf is the world’s best-selling electric car, and it’s not hard to see why. Offered with either a 40kWh battery for a 168-mile official range or a 62kWh battery in the e+ model for a 239-mile range, 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 charging the car at 100kW, delivering a 10-80% top-up (around 130 additional miles of range) in 35 minutes.
The standard Leaf can charge at speeds of nearly 50kW, meaning the same charge will take about 40 minutes. Home charging from a 7kW wallbox will take six and a bit 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.
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.
In general, 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.
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.
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, including the similarly-sized and SUV-like MG ZS EV, and the Peugeot e-2008 is also close to the Leaf in nature and pricing. Those buyers who don't need the boot space of the Leaf should also consider the smaller but equally grown-up feeling Renault ZOE and Peugeot e-208.
The real class leaders that the Leaf contends with are the impressive Kia e-Niro and Hyundai Kona Electric, which we favour over the Leaf, but they have both seen price hikes while the Leaf's price had been dropped, and they're almost impossible to get hold of right now due to huge waiting lists and lead times. Given that the Nissan is not far behind them on efficiency and ease of use, it's not hard to see why the Leaf will still be the better choice for plenty of buyers right now.
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 high-tech Nissan is a cracking option. For more on the Leaf, check out our account of running one for several months, or read on for the rest of our review.