Nissan Leaf review
|Car type||Official range||Wallbox charge time||Fast charge time|
|Electric||168 miles (WLTP)||8 hours (6kW)||40 mins (50kW, 0-80%)|
If there was ever a model to underline the advances made in electric cars, it’s the Nissan Leaf. The second generation of the world’s biggest-selling electric car is not only a massive improvement in every area, its breadth of abilities eclipses more or less every other affordable EV on the market. It really is that good.
At the top of most electric car buyers' wish-lists is a decent range – the number of miles an electric car can travel on a single charge. Nissan says the Leaf is capable of travelling 168 miles on a charge according to WLTP test procedure, and in our experience, we found that figure to be more or less spot on. We’ve consistently achieved more than 160 miles on a charge, which is very impressive. A longer-range Nissan Leaf e+ is also joining the range later in 2019.
The Nissan Leaf can be charged at home in 16 hours using a 3.3kW home or public charger, and in eight hours using a 6.6kW charger. Those who regularly travel longer distances will be reassured it takes just 40 minutes to take the battery from a 20% charge to 80% using a 50kW CHAdeMO fast charger.
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 all other respects, the Leaf is pretty conventional, which is part of its appeal. It has even been designed to look like a ‘normal’ car, rather than an ultra-modern machine that wears its eco-friendly credentials on its sleeve. The interior is rather conservative, and maybe a little low-rent when it comes to the materials used, but it’s comfortable and sensibly laid-out, and a nicer environment than the Hyundai Ioniq Electric.
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. And at 435 litres, the boot is larger than you’ll find in the electric Volkswagen e-Golf.
The Leaf drives well. It’s fast away from the lights and takes just 7.9 seconds to accelerate from 0-62mph. All the while, it’s hushed on the move; indeed, Nissan says it’s around 30% quieter than similarly sized rivals with petrol or diesel engines – a claim that certainly holds water. 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 a firm ride, which, while allowing the car to turn corners well, translates poor road surfaces into slight discomfort for the driver and passengers.
As long as you bypass the entry-level Visia trim (which lacks alloy wheels and the Nissan Connect EV system, which bundles Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a clever sat-nav system that helps you plot routes via charging points), all versions of the Leaf are well equipped for the money. Choose the top-of-the-range Tekna model for kit like a loud Bose stereo.
The are more keenly-priced electric cars on the road, such as Hyundai Ioniq Electric and the slightly smaller Renault ZOE, but none that offer such a blend of running costs, space, range and all-round usability. If you’re looking for a family-friendly electric car, it’s hard to do better than the Nissan Leaf.