Introduction to the new Nissan Leaf

Believe it or not, electric cars are not a modern invention - they date back to Victorian times where battery-powered horseless carriages slowly made their way around the streets of London and Paris, although most people these days when they hear the term 'electric car' will think of their modern counterparts including the Nissan Leaf.

Initially launched in 2011, the original Nissan Leaf made other battery-powered options seem entirely underwhelming - because unlike them, it looked and drove like a proper car with nippy acceleration and all the mod-cons expected from a car of that era.

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The Leaf is now in its 2nd iteration and has continued to improve on what was already a pretty complete package. Versus the 1st generation model, the new Nissan Leaf is faster, more spacious, more sophisticated, has heaps more technology and safety equipment. The biggest improvement however, and for many one of the most important factors when considering an electric car, is the range i.e. how far you can travel on a full battery charge.


The question for most people will be 'how is this going to fit into my life?' and our answer would be 'a lot easier than you might imagine!' Read on to find out why the new Nissan Leaf might just be the right car for you.

DRIVING THE NEW NISSAN LEAF

Anyone who has an idea about electric cars already will be aware of the luxury Tesla models and their performance. The top of the range Model S P100D has a 'ludicrous mode' which enables the car to rocket from 0-60mph in just 2.5 seconds thanks to the instant power you get from the cars battery and there being just 1 gear.

This is no different to the Nissan Leaf. Ok, so it's not going to be winning any drag races with its 40kW battery - but the Leaf does put in a 0-60mph performance of 7.6 seconds which is quicker than most, if not all non-performance cars of its size including its electric car rivals the Renault Zoe and VW e-golf.

One thing that does differ in the Leaf from a petrol or diesel car is when you take your foot off the accelerator. Normally you'd expect to coast, but the regenerative brakes on the Leaf slow you down quicker; harvesting that energy to replenish the battery. Pretty clever huh? Not quite as clever as the new e-pedal function however. Push the 'e-pedal' button in the new Leaf and it takes this one step further by acting as both an accelerator and brake in one, meaning you'll rarely need to switch to the brake pedal.

Performance in an electric car isn't just about speed - it's also about range, which is undoubtedly one of the biggest factors when deciding whether to make the switch from a combustion-engine car. The new Leaf claims up to 235 miles which beats both the Renault Zoe by a marginal 5 miles and the VW e-golf by a significant 49 miles. However, Nissan state that in 'real world' driving conditions, a more realistic figure to expect would be up to 168 miles. It might be a drop from the claimed 235 miles but it's still enough to get you from Leeds to Oxford and change.

As for driving, we found the new Leaf to be really rather comfortable. It handled the Yorkshire potholes well and tackled corners with refined ease. Plus, because you don't have that combustion engine rattling around under the bonnet - it's incredibly quiet.

Interior of the New Nissan Leaf

The upright driving position won't suit everyone, but we like it. It gives a clearer view of the road and surroundings, and makes you feel more like you're driving a crossover such as the Juke or Qashqai than a family hatchback. To help with the rear view, a camera comes as standard on all models with the exception of the entry level Visia. Front and rear parking sensors plus an around-view camera (360 degrees) are also available on the N-Connecta and above.

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All models above the Visia trim get a 7" touchscreen which is very simple to use. This touchscreen comes mated with Sat Nav, Bluetooth, DAB Radio and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. Step up to the range-topping Tekna model and you'll also get a Bose speaker system. Other features available include Automatic Climate Control, Cruise Control, Keyless Entry/Start and Auto Headlights.


Safety is another key feature on the Leaf with Lane Departure Warning and Intervention technology, Auto Emergency Braking, High Beam Assist and Cross Traffic Alert all appearing on the new model plus a top 5 star rating by EuroNCAP.

SPACE & PRACTICALITY OF THE NEW NISSAN LEAF

Interior space is an important factor when deciding on a family car with potential buyers wanting to know "how many kids can I get in the back?" and "how many suitcases can I get in the boot?" Fortunately these aren't things you'd need to worry about with the new Leaf with leg room in the rear for both young and older children and plenty of space for adults in the front.

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When it comes to the boot there's enough room for everything and the kitchen sink with a 435 litre capacity (the Zoe offers just 338 and the e-golf a meagre 341). The rear seats also fold in a 60:40 formation to expand that capacity to a whopping 1,176 litres. That's more than enough space for 7 carry-on suitcases with the rear seats up!

COST OF THE NEW NISSAN LEAF

All electric cars qualify for a government grant (currently £3,500), meaning the new Leaf starts from just £26,190. Whilst this may sound expensive to some don't forget that you'll be saying goodbye to visits to the petrol station to fill up and to paying any road tax. You can have your own electric point installed at home to top up your Leaf's battery for around just 3.3 pence per mile*: a significant saving on the cost of petrol or diesel.

It's not just monetary costs however as electric cars also emit no CO2 or nox gases meaning the cost to the environment is also a lot less.

VERDICT: ★★★★★

The previous Nissan Leaf was a good car with Marmite looks - the new Leaf is a great car with great looks, performance and practicality. For anyone looking to make the switch from petrol or diesel or just looking for an environmentally-friendly alternative to the Ford Focus or VW Golf: the Nissan Leaf is definitely well worthy of a look.

HAS THE NEW NISSAN LEAF PIQUED YOUR INTEREST?

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*Based on electricity supply costing 14p/kW.