New car review

Nissan Leaf e+ review

The range-topping Nissan Leaf e+ is the most powerful version of the brand’s signature electric car and goes further, but does it outshine its rivals?

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Design
7
Comfort
7
Driving experience
7
Value for money
7
Safety
9

Summary

The Nissan Leaf e+ is a worthy range-topper with a bigger battery providing improved performance and better range, but it still can't keep up with key rivals.

Summary

The Nissan Leaf e+ is a worthy range-topper with a bigger battery providing improved performance and better range, but it still can't keep up with key rivals.
 

60-second summary

What is it?
The Nissan Leaf e+ is a version of the electric car with a new battery pack that extends its power and range.

Key features
Longer battery range, more power, driving assistance tech.

Our view
The Nissan Leaf e+ is a worthy range-topper with significant advantages from its new, denser battery pack.

Owners will appreciate the more enthusiastic performance and more miles between recharges, but they still won’t be able to keep up with some of the car’s newer rivals.

Similar cars

Hyundai Kona Electric | Hyundai Ioniq Electric | Kia Soul EV | Kia e-Niro | Mini Countryman plug-in hybrid | Volkswaen e-Golf


Full review

Introduction

Anyone who knows anything about electric cars will know of the Nissan Leaf. When the all-electric car launched in 2010 it soon grabbed the unofficial title of ‘green motoring’ standard-bearer from the Toyota Prius hybrid.

Since then the Leaf has become the world’s biggest-selling electric car, with 400,000 finding owners across the globe. More than 25,000 of these have gone to UK buyers, boosted by European Leafs being built at Nissan’s UK plant in Sunderland.

A second-generation Leaf launched in February 2018, a complete redesign with a less ‘distinctive’ but far more satisfying body shape. The look of the first Leaf shouted, “I’m an electric car, buy me if you want to shout to the world that you are saving the planet!” But the current one will slide far more unobtrusively into the office car parking space alongside traditional family hatches.

But even as the new car arrived rivals were stacking up – rivals with significantly greater ranges between charges. So now we get a second version of the Leaf, the e+ – a top-specification model with a new, much denser battery pack which means a greater range, and more power under the right foot.

But is a more muscular battery enough to stem the rivals that are already here, such as the Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia e-Niro, and those still to come from European brands such as Volkswagen and Peugeot?    

Buying and owning a Nissan Leaf e+

The big difference between the Nissan Leaf e+ and the standard Leaf tested by The Car Expert in January 2018 is the battery pack.

 
 

Nissan says that the newly-developed 62kWh pack offers 55% more capacity and approximately 25% better energy density, yet it remains virtually the same size and shape as the pack in the standard 40kWh Leaf.

Which means that in terms of size and crucially interior space, the Leaf e+ is just the same as the existing version – well it’s 5mm higher on the standard-fit 16-inch wheels.

Those interested in the technical stuff may like to know that the pack uses a new design that allows varying numbers of cell modules and a laser welding technique that reduces each module’s overall length. And changing the number of lamination layers of each cell means it is much easier to match the shape of the pack to the vehicle’s dimensions.

What it actually means is that the Leaf e+ puts out 217hp and 340 Nm of torque, compared to the 150hp and 320Nm of the most potent standard model. This sees the new car through 62mph from rest in 6.9 seconds, more than 4.5 seconds ahead of the cheapest standard sibling though only a second faster than the 150hp version.

All that extra capacity also has a big effect on range – the Leaf e+ is quoted at up to 239 miles between charges under the latest WLTP testing protocol and that is more than 70 miles further than a standard car.

So that’s good then? Well yes, but not entirely. Yes, the range is a big improvement, but it still does not come up to new kids on the block such as the e-Niro or Kona, both of which still go 40 miles further than a Leaf e+ before the juice runs out. And that becomes all the more relevant when one talks prices.

Nissan is marketing the e+ as the halo version of its electric car. That means it only comes in the top Tekna trim level, and that new battery hardware adds £4,900 to the cost compared to the 150hp Tekna. The e+ costs a whopping £35,895, three grand more than its Korean rivals, and that’s once the Government’s £3,500 plug-in car grant has been taken off – without that you’d be looking at an almost £40,000 electric car.

There is one advantage to that top specification – the e+ does include as standard Nissan’s ProPilot active driving assistance technology, with an adaptive cruise control that keeps the car centred in its lane and will slow it to a stop, and restart it, in congested traffic. The standard Leaf earned a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating last year and this system adds an extra level of protection.

There is one more minus – battery recharging. The recharging market is still very confused, and Nissan has stuck with the Chademo system, basically because there are suitable public connections at most motorway service stations and many other locations. And the e+ can use 50kW DC chargers to recover 80% of battery life in around 40 minutes, which is around the same time as its 50kWh sister car despite the extra range.

However, the Nissan’s air-cooled battery pack won’t cope for long with the faster chargers being introduced by rivals such as CCS – and yes, the Hyundai and Kia can…

Inside the Nissan Leaf e+

This is a version of the Leaf we tested last year so what we said about the interior of that car still applies. The interior is functional, with plenty of space, well laid out and the plastics of acceptable quality.

Tekna means such niceties as heated leather seats and steering wheel and plenty of equipment. However, Nissan has not taken the opportunity to put right a major criticism from testers last year, the lack of reach adjustment on the steering wheel, which by the way is of that slightly stylish flat-bottomed design.

The centre console is well designed with the large eight-inch touchscreen infotainment display placed right at the top. All Leafs, e+ included, get the NissanConnect infotainment system, which includes TomTom Live traffic updates on the navigation and the ability to send routes to the car from a smartphone app. You can even use the app to pre-set the air-con or heating while the car is recharging.

Admittedly the graphics of the sat nav are not up to the standard of some rivals, but that doesn’t really matter as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity is also standard, which means one can use the generally more up-to-date Google Maps.

Driving the Nissan Leaf e+

The Leaf e+ is enthusiastic off the line, the beauty of the instant torque served up by an electric powertrain. And this makes it great for swift overtaking manoeuvres. It cruises well on the motorway too.

However that extra dense battery pack does add 150 kilos to the car’s kerb weight, and you do feel it. It’s by no means alarming – the steering isn’t unnaturally heavy and the car does go where it’s pointed, but there is an impression that one is hauling more poundage through the bends, and especially when under heavy braking. This may be a more sporty Leaf, but it’s no sports car.

One major aspect of all second-generation Leafs is the e-pedal, effectively a kinetic energy regeneration system. It’s very easy to get used to driving while hardly ever using the brake pedal, relying instead on the drivetrain to slow the car while also adding to the range.

Generally the Leaf e+ remains an easy car to drive, with the only significant minus point the large body pillars which don’t help with peripheral vision.  

Summary

The Nissan Leaf e+ adds a significant extra option to those wanting to join the rapidly increasing numbers driving the UK’s most popular electric car. It comes with extra safety technology that is worth having, and in terms of power and range the battery pack brings the car closer to its growing number of new rivals.

However this new top-model Leaf does not beat those rivals, either for range or driving enjoyment – and compared to them it is the expensive option. 

Good points

  • Higher performance than standard Leaf
  • Extended range between charges
  • More safety technology as standard

Bad points

  • Pricier than rivals
  • Still does not have range of rivals
  • Charging tech limits speed of recharges

Key specifications

Make & modelNissan LEAFKia e-NiroHyundai Kona Electric
Specificatione+ 3.ZeroFirst EditionPremium 64 kWh
Price (on-road)£35,895*£32,995*£32,845*
Powertrain62 kWh electric motor64kWh electric motor64kWh electric motor
Transmissionsingle-speed automaticsingle-speed automaticsingle-speed automatic
Power217 hp204 hp204 hp
Torque340 Nm395 Nm395 Nm
0-62mph6.9 seconds7.5 seconds7.6 seconds
Top speed98 mph104 mph104 mph
Range (combined)239 miles (WLTP)279 miles279 miles
CO2 emissions 0 g/km0 g/km0 g/km
Insurance groupTBA2826
Euro NCAP rating5 stars (2018)5 stars (2016)**5 stars (2017)**

* all prices include the Government plug-in grant
** non-electric version crash-tested

Design
7
Comfort
7
Driving experience
7
Value for money
7
Safety
9

Summary

The Nissan Leaf e+ is a worthy range-topper with a bigger battery providing improved performance and better range, but it still can't keep up with key rivals.
Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.

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