Originally launched way back in 2010 and now in its second generation, the Nissan Leaf is, quite simply, one of the world’s most popular EVs.
The Leaf is still selling well, but it’s slipping down the best-sellers list as cars such as the Tesla Model 3 and Kia Niro EV with longer ranges gain traction.
Made in Britain at Nissan’s giant Sunderland plant, the Ford Focus-sized hatchback is still a sensible choice and the latest Leaf (launched in 2018) is the best yet.
It’s not as sexy as many of its rivals, but it’s a practical family car with a solid reputation.
Priced from £28,995, it’s available with either a 39kWh (Leaf) or 59kWh (Leaf e+) battery pack, which Nissan claims have ranges of 168 miles and 239 miles respectively.
The smaller battery is paired with a 148bhp electric motor, while the Leaf e+ gets a 214bhp unit. The latter is also a second faster in the 0-62mph sprint with a time of just 6.9 seconds.
There are three trim levels for the entry-level Leaf (Acenta, N-Connecta and Tekna), while the Leaf e+ is available in N-Connecta and Tekna grades.
It’s generously equipped with the basic Acenta getting Lane Departure Warning, Intelligent Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Recognition, Intelligent Cruise Control, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, an 8.0-inch Touchscreen Entertainment System with Rear View Camera, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone app integration.
N-Connecta adds goodies including front and rear parking sensors, automatic climate control and heated front/rear seats, plus a heated steering wheel.
Tekna gets a BOSE audio system with seven speakers, an electronic parking brake and Nissan’s ProPILOT system – an advanced driving assistance technology that takes care of the steering, accelerating and braking on major roads.
The cabin is traditional in terms of layout with a good blend of buttons, dials and switches, alongside the infotainment touchscreen. It’s comfortable too, even if the driving position is on the high side for my liking.
The quality of plastics used on the doors and the fascia is a bit hard, but it seems well put together.
There’s ample space up front and decent legroom in the back, though taller passengers might struggle for rear headroom.
Boot space is a good 435 litres, expanding to 1,176 litres with the rear seats down, however the load space is not flat because the seats do not fold fully.
As the acceleration figures show, the Leaf is no slouch, but driving an EV isn’t just about straight line speed, it’s how it handles too.
While it’s not as fun and agile as some rivals in this price range, the Leaf is comfortable and drives well. The suspension is firmer in the heavier Leaf e+, but it still manages to cushion smaller potholes and bumps.
Always refined and smooth, it’s especially nippy around town, but at higher speeds it feels ‘floaty’ and can get fidgety when hustled.
That said, body lean is surprisingly well controlled in faster corners, thanks to that low centre of gravity, but the combination of battery weight, front-wheel drive and a relatively tall body mean that it’s unlikely to put smiles on the faces of sportier drivers.
The Leaf is more about economy than driving engagement and there are various ways to maximise your miles per charge, including a ‘B’ setting on the gear selector to captures more brake regeneration and an ‘Eco’ button.
Meanwhile, Nissan’s ‘e-Pedal’ system (also known as one-pedal driving) enables you to slow to a stop without touching the brakes, simply by lifting off the accelerator.
It doesn’t take long to adapt to driving using the accelerator pedal alone. On the open road it actually encourages a smoother driving approach – no bad thing – as you learn to anticipate traffic ahead and time your deceleration to avoid using the brakes and therefore preserve energy.