Nissan Leaf electric motor, performance & top speed
The Nissan Leaf's very impressive performance on the road is marred only by slightly stiff suspension
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Even with the electric-car market constantly expanding and new advancements in battery technology being announced, the Leaf still offers a compelling package of practicality, decent driving range and performance, several years after its launch.
Nissan Leaf electric motor, 0-62mph and acceleration
The standard Leaf’s motor produces a not-inconsiderable 147bhp and 320Nm of torque, putting it in a similar league to many 2.0-litre diesel engines. The difference is that the Leaf, like all electric cars, generates that torque from a standstill, so you can access the full force of the motor all at once, delivering a strong burst of acceleration that you don’t get in equivalent diesels.
Consequently, the standard Leaf takes just 7.9 seconds to cover the 0-62mph sprint, although top speed is just 89mph in the interests of preserving range. The bigger-battery Leaf e+ improves on this slightly, taking the power output up to 215bhp, the top speed up to 98mph and the 0-62mph time down to 6.9 seconds.
It’s not just the way the Leaf goes that impresses – how it stops is noteworthy, too. There are two selectable drive modes, B and ECO, which progressively increase the force of the regenerative braking. When you slow down, this recoups power that would otherwise be wasted and directs it back to the electric motor.
Other cars have similar systems, but Nissan's 'e-Pedal' is a real standout of the Leaf. Effectively, it boosts regenerative braking to such an extent that it’s almost possible to drive using one pedal. Pressing the pedal to go faster is intuitive, but releasing it to actively slow takes a bit of getting used to, and the sudden change in brake response if you turn e-Pedal off can be alarming – you need a surprising amount of force to stop the Leaf from creeping if you haven’t got this system activated. The efficiency rewards are worth the effort, certainly, but we prefer the more intuitive wheel-mounted paddle system (that simply toggles up and down the brake modes) that's similar to what rivals like the Hyundai Kona and Kia e-Niro use.
The Leaf is fast but not particularly sporty. The steering is light and great for around-town manoeuvrability, while also being direct enough that you can corner with confidence at higher speeds. That sense of control is aided by a low centre of gravity (thanks to the heavy batteries being positioned beneath the floor) and firm suspension. However, that latter feature is also our biggest gripe about how the Leaf drives. It can feel pretty lumpy over uneven and patchy roads, although it’s not intrusive enough to bother most drivers.
There are no such complaints with how quiet the car is, though. The sensation of silent acceleration takes a little getting used to, but is strangely beguiling. Nissan says the Leaf is around 30% quieter than petrol or diesel alternatives, and we believe it. In fact, the most noticeable noise comes from the tyres.
All models in the Leaf range come with the option of ProPilot semi-autonomous driving technology, with the exception of the range-topping Tekna, which has it fitted as standard. It can make the car go, turn and stop without any input from you, and will even park the car by itself. Once activated, all you need to do is place your hands on the wheel and be ready to take back control if you need to. It works very well indeed.
In This Review
- 1VerdictThe second-generation Nissan Leaf is one of the more affordable and practical electric cars on the market, with both standard and long-range versions available
- 2Range, battery & chargingThe Leaf does a good job of getting close to its claimed range figures, although more modern rivals are starting to go further
- 3Running costs & insuranceThe Nissan Leaf is relatively affordable to buy and also one of the cheapest family hatchbacks to run
- 4Performance, motor & drive - currently readingThe Nissan Leaf's very impressive performance on the road is marred only by slightly stiff suspension
- 5Interior, dashboard & comfortThe Nissan Leaf's interior is quite conventional in appearance and material quality is a little hit-and-miss
- 6Boot space, seating & practicalityWe have few complaints about the amount of space inside the Nissan Leaf – for both passengers and luggage
- 7Reliability & safety ratingThe Nissan Leaf has been proven to offer reliable and safe family transport across two generations so far
- 8Living with itWe spent six months running a Nissan Leaf in Tekna spec to get a thorough overview of what it's really like to own one of these pioneering electric cars