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’s the new Nissan Leaf like inside?

The interior looks vaguely similar to that of the old Leaf, but it’s been improved in just about every way. The central tablet-like display embedded into the dashboard features a larger screen at seven inches and menus are easy enough to navigate, though the graphics are a bit outdated.

2018 Nissan Leaf dashboard | The Car Expert

Elsewhere, the new flat-bottomed steering wheel with a slim central hub adds a more premium feel, and the dashboard plastics have a more expensive look to them even if they are still quite hard to the touch.

One negative is the large pillars in the corners of the car – they impinge on front and rear visibility quite considerably, which isn’t ideal for a city car.

What’s under the bonnet?

The second generation Leaf debuts the fourth generation of Nissan’s electric powertrain. With a 40kWh battery, up from 30kWh, the system makes 150hp and 320Nm of torque, and is plenty punchy out on the road.

What’s more important, though, is the fact that range has now increased to 235 miles on the standard NEDC cycle (though Nissan prefers to tout the 177-mile figure, which comes from the new, more realistic WLTP combined cycle testing).

Coupled with the e-Pedal, this is entirely achievable, particularly if you resist the urge to really make the most of the high-torque acceleration the motor offers.

What’s the Nissan Leaf like to drive?

Few C-segment rivals – at least those that promote low running costs – could keep pace with the Leaf off the line. The instant torque from the electric motor is incredibly satisfying, and useful when darting into gaps in traffic or making an overtake.

Attack a winding back road and the weight of the batteries quickly overcomes the low-grip economy tyres making swift progress hair raising. But around town, where the vast majority of these cars will be driven, it’s quiet and stress-free.

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In fact, wind and tyre noise are kept to a minimum even at motorway speeds, which is admirable with no internal combustion engine to mask the sound.

Verdict

In the face of increased competition, Nissan has really stepped up to the plate with the new Leaf. On the face of it, it looks better, goes further and provides better value, but the improvements go further than that.

The ride is composed and there’s a real sense of refinement from a decent interior and lack of noise intrusion from outside. It steers well enough and the electric motor provides enjoyably punchy acceleration.

As an overall package, the new Leaf is impressive – expect its domination of the pure EV market to continue for some time.

Similar cars

Hyundai Ioniq, Toyota Prius Plug-In

Key specifications

Model as tested: Nissan Leaf
Price (on-road): £21,990
Battery: 40 kWh
Power: 150 hp
Torque: 320 Nm
Top speed: 89 mph
0-60mph: 7.7 seconds
Range: 177 miles (WLTP)
CO2 emissions: 0 g/km

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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