New car review

Nissan Leaf test drive

Having dominated the electric vehicle market since its initial release, the Nissan Leaf is back. Can it pick up where it left off?

What is it?

This is the new Nissan Leaf, the second generation of the best-selling electric vehicle, which accounted for nearly half of all pure electric car sales in the UK last year. It’s loaded with advanced technology, has a new look and a longer range.

Nissan says 12,000 orders have been taken since it was revealed three months ago, with 7,000 of those previous Leaf owners.

It’s also the poster child for Nissan’s ‘Intelligent Mobility’ ecosystem. The Japanese firm is branching out to promote a more sustainable society, using renewable energy and allowing owners to plug their vehicles into the grid to support the national network.

What’s new about this new Nissan Leaf?

Pretty much everything is new, from the uprated battery and motor system underneath, to the styling of the exterior and interior. There’s also Nissan’s ProPilot semi-autonomous driving assistance features, which appear in the UK for the first time here on top-spec cars – one of these is essentially adaptive cruise control and the other parks the car itself.

The other standout feature is e-Pedal. It’s a glorified version of the driving mode found in many electric vehicles that ramps up the regenerative braking effect, but here it’s tuned so that 90% of driving can be done without using the brakes. It’s really easy to use and really helps to extend range.

How does it look?

To put it politely, the old Leaf had a polarising design, the awkward, bulbous styling did nothing to fight the mainstream buyer’s perception that electric vehicles aren’t to be taken seriously – though it didn’t harm sales among EV buyers, clearly.

The second generation car moves the game on substantially. It’s a handsome looking car, with a sharply styled front end that works better in front of you than it does in pictures.

What’s perhaps more important is that now it looks like a serious car that ordinary people could buy, not an oddball EV that takes some explaining.

What’s the spec like?

Electric vehicles are notoriously more expensive than petrol and diesel models, but that’s beginning to change, with the new Leaf’s starting price £1,500 cheaper than before.

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There are four trim levels – Visia, Acenta, N-Connecta and Tekna. Entry-level models start at £21,990 after the government’s green car grant, and get LED rear lights, seven-inch infotainment system, fabric seats and automatic headlights.

ProPilot is only standard on top-spec Tekna vehicles, which start at £27,490, but there is a traditional cruise control system standard across the rest of the range.

Top-spec models also get full LED headlights, leather heated seats and steering wheel, and a seven-speaker audio system by Bose.

Continued on next page: Interior, drive and our verdict

Darren Cassey
Darren Cassey
Articles by Darren Cassey are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.

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