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Nissan Leaf Review

Find out more about the Nissan Leaf in the latest Motors.co.uk Review

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7
Out of 10
Average Price £13,210
Model Review

The Nissan Leaf was first introduced in 2011, and somewhat broke the mould when it came to electric cars. For the first time, drivers were offered a car that required no fuel, very little in terms of maintenance costs and yet could still be used every day.

One of the biggest positives that came with the Nissan Leaf when it was first released was the styling. Whereas other alternatively fuelled cars featured wild, edgy looks, the Leaf was more conservative – and was therefore quickly accepted by other motorists as another everyday car, rather than something completely different.

Since then, the Leaf has been refined and improved. A larger capacity battery has since been added too, offering greater range than before. A new version is due imminently, offering even more in terms of all-electric performance.

Latest model

The latest model of Leaf is offered with two different battery packs – 24kWh and 30kWh – but utilise the same electric motor. Each battery offers different ranges, with 24kWh Leafs able to travel a claimed 124 miles, and the larger 30kWh around 155 miles. However, in everyday driving it’s unlikely that you’ll see these figures.

Of course, the next-generation Leaf also needs mentioning. Though yet to go on sale, Nissan has already released some details. We already know that it uses a larger 40kWh battery, which should allow it to travel up to 235 miles on a single charge. It also features the very latest in autonomous technology, and will take over control of the steering, accelerator and brakes during motorway driving, stop-start traffic or when parallel parking.

This next-generation Leaf is available to order now - priced from £26,490 - and deliveries are expected to commence in the early part of 2018.

 

Value for money

In terms of compact hatchbacks, the Leaf is quite expensive. Prices start at £16,680, but this low entry cost is generated thanks to a battery leasing option offered by Nissan on the 24kWh pack. If you’d rather pay for the battery as part of the car, this price rises to £21,680.

That said, base specification Visia cars get a good degree of equipment as standard. There’s Bluetooth connectivity for quicker smartphone integration, as well as steering wheel audio controls and a CD player. Air conditioning still comes as standard too, along with front and rear electric windows and body-coloured door mirrors.

Rise up to top-spec Tekna grade and the list of standard equipment increases considerably. Now, you’ll find leather upholstery on the seats – the front two of which are now heated, along with the steering wheel and door mirrors. A neat addition is a 360-degree around view monitor, which gives a complete display of the area around the car on the Leaf’s infotainment system, making parking and positioning the car a little easier.

Because of its popularity, there’s a good amount of second-hand Leafs to choose from. Models can be had for as little as £6,500 – representing a bit of a bargain if you consider the lack of vehicle tax and the low running costs. An example we found had just 18,000 miles on the clock, and was a 2014 Visia specification car – meaning you still get plenty of standard equipment despite the lower price tag. If you were looking for a more luxuries, then we found a Acenta trim car with 38,200 miles on the clock for £9,200.

When buying used, ensure that you check whether or not the battery has been bought outright or has a leasing deal upon it.

Looks and image

The Leaf’s design has remained rather more subdued than other electric cars on sale in the UK today. That’s no bad thing, it just means that it doesn’t stand out quite as much as rivals such as the BMW i3 and Hyundai Ioniq. It’s still an up-to-date design, with even earlier models still looking relatively undated. The interior is somewhat of a mixed-bag – the general fit-and-finish is of a good standard, but there are some harder plastics used throughout that lower the overall feel of the cabin. The seating position is also quite high, which will suit some drivers who prefer to have a slightly elevated view of the road ahead, but will alienate those who like to sit a little lower.

The overall look of the cabin isn’t bad, however, and will be familiar to those who drive any current-generation Nissan. The shiny plastic used around the switchgear and infotainment system does help lift the overall look of the cabin, but it’s prone to showing up fingerprints. As we mentioned, the new Leaf will be arriving soon – and this car’s cabin represents quite a large leap forward in terms of overall quality.

Of course, one of the most notable aspects of driving the Nissan Leaf is the complete absence of any engine noise. This makes it relaxing to drive – especially around town – but certainly takes some getting used to. It’s also rather softly sprung, which means that it soaks up the kind of road imperfections that you tend to find in urban areas – and the Leaf’s target operating area. The instant torque afforded by the electric motor is also extremely useful, as it makes nipping in and out of traffic easy. As you’d expect, the Leaf isn’t as well suited to longer journeys, but it will manage them – you just have to plan out your charging locations depending on the length of your trip.

Keener drivers won’t be as excited about the prospect of getting behind the wheel of the Leaf, but that’s not to say that it isn’t an enjoyable car to drive. The light steering means urban driving is simple, but a fair amount of body roll does inhibit the speed you can carry safely through quicker corners. The narrow, eco-friendly tyres don’t generate all that much grip, either.

The last redesign for the Leaf took place in 2016, and this means that there are plenty of facelifted cars available on the used market. Unfortunately, the used market is an area where the Leaf doesn’t do all that well, as depreciation really hits it hard. It’s worth remembering if you’re planning on buying a brand-new car.

 

Space and practicality

Thankfully, because of the Leaf’s relatively standard hatchback form, it’s still a practical car. There’s quite a lot of space to be found inside the cabin, with plenty of head and shoulder room for those sat in the front two seats. It’s a similar story in the back, with enough legroom for all but the tallest passengers. There is space for three in the rear – but that central seat is quite small.

You’ve also got a reasonable amount of storage options dotted throughout the cabin, with door pockets large enough for water bottles.

The Leaf’s boot is a decent size, offering up 370 litres – more than you’ll find in the Ford Focus. This can also be extended thanks to rear seats which fold flat, giving you a more flexible storage solution. However, the Leaf’s boot isn’t a normal, square shape – it’s quite oval in design, and this can make loading slightly larger items into the rear a little more difficult than you’d expect. It’s worth bearing in mind that top-specification cars get a Bose subwoofer in the boot, and this takes up a fair amount of the Leaf’s load area.

When the Leaf was crash tested back in 2012, it did impressively well, scoring a full five stars in the NCAP tests. It did positively elsewhere, too, returning 89 per cent for adult occupant safety and 83 per cent for child occupant safety. It’s worth remembering that because these tests were conducted some time ago that the Leaf may not be as ‘safe’ as cars manufactured more recently.

 

Engines 

Funnily enough for an electric vehicle, there’s not too much to choose from in terms of powertrains. You’ve got the option of either a 24kWh or 30kWh battery pack, with the latter providing the better option in terms of power and range. Both models are able of hitting 60mph in just over 11 seconds, while there aren’t any gears to bother with either. Higher-spec cars also get a full regenerative braking system, which can recoup energy when coasting or approaching a stop – and this is key to making the most from the car’s range.

Running costs

Here’s where Leaf ownership really pays dividends. As there are no emissions coming out from the tailpipe, you won’t pay any vehicle tax. Also, charging the car costs a fraction of that paid for an average-sized tank of petrol – with Nissan claiming that it costs around £3.00 to charge the larger-battery car at an overnight electricity rate.

 The Leaf does cost more than a conventionally powered hatchback, but then it does pack an awful lot of cutting-edge technology. Because of its low emissions, the government will also contribute £4,500 toward the cost of purchasing a Leaf – which should take the edge off for most buyers.

 Of course, you’ll still have to pay for consumables such as tyres, but as these are narrow eco models, they shouldn’t cost the earth.

 Then there’s the batteries. From new, the battery is covered by a five year or 60,000-mile warranty in the 24kWh car, rising to eight years or 100,000 miles in the 30kWh Leaf.

 The largest output Leaf sits in the respectably low group 19 insurance bracket, which should mean that premiums will be manageable for all but the newest of drivers.

 

Things to look out for 

Thankfully, Nissan has a good reputation for making reliable cars and the Leaf appears to be no exception. Each different section of the vehicle is covered by different warranties which, though slightly confusing, does mean that all elements have some form of coverage.

There aren’t all that many complaints about the Nissan Leaf in terms of reliability, with most drivers enjoying its low running costs and relaxing drive.

 

 Rivals

 As more and more pressure is put upon car manufacturers to reduce emissions, so has the electric car segment increased in size. Whereas the Leaf was once a pioneer in the market, it’s now been joined by a variety of different rivals. You’ve now got a premium choice in the form of the BMW i3, which offers a high level of build quality as well as that all-important badge appeal. There’s also cars such as the Hyundai Ioniq Electric to compete against, which comes as a more affordable option in the market.

Which Leaf to Pick

Trims Explained

In terms of trims, things are kept simple with the Leaf as there are just three to choose from: Visia, Acenta and Tekna.

Visia

Visia sits at the bottom of the range, and it’s here where the bottom price for the Leaf sits. Even these cars get Bluetooth connectivity as standard, as well as automatic air conditioning and a push-button starter. You also get steering wheel audio controls and hill-start assist – particularly useful in more mountainous areas.

This model starts at £16,680.

Acenta

Prices rise with this model, but so does the amount of standard equipment on offer. Now, you get cruise control and a speed limiter included in the price, along with 16-inch alloy wheels and electric folding mirrors. One of the greatest benefits, however, of the Acenta range is the inclusion of Nissan Connect. This system displays key eco information such as nearby charging stations and a full EV telematics system.

Prices for this model start at £19,190.

Tekna

Finally, Tekna finishes off the range of specifications. This model benefits from extra touches such as leather seats and a full Bose audio system with seven speakers. This will be the best trim for those who feel the cold too, as it includes heated seats, a heated steering wheel and heated door mirrors, too.

What to look out for

  1. Extremely low running costs
  2. Select range of trim levels to choose from
  3. Expensive compared with conventionally powered rivals
  4. Decent practicality levels
  5. Not all that involving to drive
  6. Exceptionally bad in terms of depreciation
  7. Some interior plastics aren't all that good
  8. Extensive warranty covers all major components
  9. Plenty to choose from on the used market
  10. Even base cars get a good amount of standard equipment

Review Rating

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