The bigger battery in the second generation of the Leaf makes it a contender alongside the Renault Zoe and the VW ID.3 for an all-round electric car designed for the urban environment and the open road.
A hatchback that's supposed to wean people off fossil fuel-powered cars, the Nissan Leaf will please many city dwellers, but as this review makes clear, there are some compromises you'll need to accommodate if you are to love your Leaf. Of course, it is worth noting that the electric motor and the battery pack have significantly improved since the Leaf was first launched by Nissan in 2010, including a longer range.
This review will focus on the second-generation Leaf in the main with some information about the older version if you are looking to buy a second-hand model.
Range, Charging, & Emissions
To begin with, the 2018 iteration of the Nissan Leaf – officially known as the Nissan Leaf ZE1 – comes with a choice of two different battery packs. Nissan supplies the entry-level Leaf with a WLTP range of 168 miles. This would account for 151 miles in real-world driving conditions. The more significant Leaf e + will provide you with a considerably larger capacity, however. The real-world range you can expect with the Leaf e + is 226 miles. The equivalent WLTP figure is 239 miles of range for the Leaf e +.
Nevertheless, both vehicle types don't offer long-distance commuters with ranges that are likely to satisfy, especially if they need to travel around during the day when the Leaf could be charging up at the office.
As mentioned, the Leaf e + is the larger of the two ZE1 variants. The Leaf e + comes with a 62 kWh battery. On the other hand, the entry-level Nissan Leaf has a 40 kWh battery. Both the standard and the Nissan Leaf e + are equipped with lithium-ion batteries, the same technology that Nissan used on the first generation of the Leaf. If you obtain an older Leaf, it will either have a 24 kWh battery or, if it was made in 2016, a 30 kWh battery. Consequently, older versions of the Nissan Leaf have a diminished driving range.
The standard 2018 Nissan Leaf would take 18 hours to charge its battery to provide a full driving range if you plug in with a standard three-pin connection. From a 3.6 kW plug outlet, the Nissan Leaf takes 11 hours to charge. Both 7 kW and 22 kW charging stations will require six hours of charge time to get a full driving range from empty. However, in the real world, charging from 20 per cent to 80 per cent from a public recharging point with a 50 kW connection, the Nissan Leaf would only need about 40 minutes to power its electric motor. That's not bad for any electric vehicle and, with the Leaf, Nissan has come up with an electric car that is practical regardless of the charging stations you might have available in your vicinity.
Any review of the Nissan Leaf should cover the cost you'd expect to pay to charge the battery and enjoy the longer range of the electric car. An empty to full charge of the entry-level Nissan Leaf would set you back about £6.10 if you plug in at a home charging point. If you did a 20% to 80% charge at a rapid charging station, expect to fork out around £5.40. That's a cost per mile of just over 4 pence for a home battery charge or about 6.3 pence per mile even if you use rapid public chargers. In other words, you get plenty of miles for your expenditure with a Nissan Leaf, as you would expect of an electric car of its class.
UK insurers decided to place the first generation of the Nissan Leaf into insurance groups 19 to 25. The standard trim Leaf is in insurance group 22, while the Visia trim level is either 19 or 22. The old Visia + Nissan Leaf is in insurance group 20, while the Visia + Flex is in group 21. The newer, ZE1 Nissan Leaf is in insurance group 21. The only exception to this is the 160 kW e+ N-TEC 62 kWh automatic 5-door version of the electric car. This particular one is in insurance group 25.
Nissan's decision with its electric cars has been to supply them all with a comprehensive three-year warranty. Nissan dealers will provide you with a complementary car if your Leaf needs to be repaired for any issues in that time. This will cover you for up to 60,000 miles or 36 months, whichever point you come to first. The warranty covers things like the electric motor, the power inverter unit, the VCM, the DC/DC converter, the onboard charger and its connector, and the charging cable. That's quite impressive for an electric vehicle. Even better, the battery warranty for the standard Leaf and the Nissan Leaf e + provides coverage for eight years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first.
A Nissan Leaf ought to be serviced every 18,000 miles, which will mean annually for most drivers. However, if you don't drive that much, then you can stretch this with the Leaf, as with most electric cars, due to their fewer number of moving components. According to Nissan, the recommended service interval of the factory-fill coolant in the Leaf is every 125,000 miles or after 15 years has elapsed. Subsequently, the replacement of Nissan coolant should occur every 48,000 miles or four years, whichever comes first.
As an all-electric car, the Nissan Leaf is exempt from vehicle excise duty when you buy one from new. Owners of a Nissan Leaf will not have to pay road tax for the first five years of the car's life. Furthermore, the Nissan Leaf is subject to the governments benefit in kind (BIK) tax rates for the financial year 2021-22. According to Nissan, the BIK rate means company car drivers using a Nissan Leaf to get around will expect to pay 1% as BIK. Nissan estimates that this will work out as an average saving of £3,521 per year for the Leaf. As a zero-emission family car, the Nissan Leaf is not subject to any emission control charges. The Leaf is also exempt under the London Congestion Zone scheme.
The 0-62mph performance of the standard Nissan Leaf is around 8 seconds on the flat. The Nissan Leaf e + is a big more rapid from a stationary start, however. This version of the Nissan Leaf is cable of getting to 62 mph in 6.9 seconds, relatively fast for most electric cars, with the notable exception of the very rapid Tesla Model 3, of course.
The standard version of the Nissan Leaf made in 2018 may not win many awards for its range of electric performance, but its acceleration is perfectly acceptable. This version of the Nissan Leaf is faster than a Renault Zoe, for example. It may not be as quick out of the blocks as a VW ID.3 or a Kia e-Niro, but it can certainly hold its own in such company, especially when it is not weighed down with lots of passengers. The top speed of the entry-level Nissan Leaf is just over 89 mph, not as fast as the ID.3. However, the Nissan Leaf e + will top out at just shy of 97 mph, very close to its German rival. In fact, the ID.3 takes 7.3 seconds to reach 62 mph, so this version of the Nissan Leaf outperforms it. This is also the case when you compare the acceleration of the e + Nissan Leaf to the e-Niro.
Just like the first-generation Nissan Leaf, the current model offers a most relaxing drive in traffic. In the urban environment, the e Pedal system, fitted to every Nissan Leaf made, really helps out because it allows drivers to control the car using just one pedal. The e Pedal will engage the brake when this is needed. In fact, Nissan's e Pedal is one of the best things about the entire model. There are two driving modes you can opt for beyond the uni-pedal system. B mode allows you to recover more energy from the regenerative braking system in the Nissan Leaf. In addition, the Nissan Leaf offers Eco mode, designed to boost range by limiting performance.
As mentioned, the Eco mode the Nissan Leaf can be put into is designed to save energy. It boosts the regenerative braking system, but not as much as B mode does. However, the main economical use of Eco mode is to prevent the Nissan Leaf from delivering maximum power, helping you to preserve the battery power of the car and increase your available range. Interestingly, the Nissan Leaf allows drivers to select B mode and Eco mode simultaneously, ideal for the most economy conscious of motorists.
In the Leaf, the car Nissan has produced is a strong performer in the urban environment. The range of just 168 miles for the standard Nissan Leaf may well suit city dwellers who are used to lots of congestion, but the fact is that on the open road, the Leaf can feel a bit underpowered. Driving the Nissan Leaf up a hill on a dual carriageway can seem to take forever when trying to overtake. Even the increased range of the e + Leaf does not truly make up for this.
As a city car, though, the driver experience is much better. The steering wheel feels a little soft at first and could take some time to get used to, depending on your driving style.
Although it may look like a nippy hatchback at first, once the car is in Eco mode, it simply isn't that much fun behind the wheel. That said, if you are using it to commute to work only, then it stands up to its main rivals.
For an electric model, the Nissan Leaf looks straightforward and not out of place on the road. It is 4,490 mm long, and the wheelbase dimension is 2,700 mm. From the front, the car's nose looks stylish, and there is a hint of a spoiler that extends to the roofline towards the rear of the car. However, the Nissan Leaf doesn't inspire much in the looks department. Nissan's V-Motion front grille may excite some owners, but, for others, it looks a little dated.
One of the best things about the Leaf's exterior is that you get 17-inch alloy wheels with it. Okay, alloy wheels may not be at the top of everybody's priority list with an electric car, but they add some dynamism to the exterior design. Owners of the Nissan Leaf can also expect some rather good LED headlamps which run efficiently and provide lots of light.
The standard version of the Leaf has four different trim levels, the Accenta, the N Connecta, the 10 and, finally, the top of the range Tekna. The e + version of the car is supplied either as an N Connecta or a Tekna. The e + N Connecta comes with automatic rain-sensing wipers, chrome door handles, rear privacy glass and an automatically dimming rear-view mirror. The Nissan e + Tekna also has these features. Owners can also expect a metallic blue rear bumper accent, an illuminated charger port, a shark fin antenna and adjustable electric folding door mirrors.
The dashboard is well laid out by Nissan. It includes a central 8-inch touchscreen which provides infotainment. There is a rear-view camera plus Nissan’s full range of advanced driver assistance systems, including lane departure warning from the Accenta trim level upwards. The car's speedometer uses good, old-fashioned analogue technology, however. There is plenty of plastic on display and, overall, the dashboard looks a little cheap.
The car's TFT screen provides plenty of operations. Expect Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility with the infotainment system as well as an in-built navigation function. The Leaf also provides you with a six-speaker audio set-up which will be more than enough for most owners. Opt for the Tekna, and you'll get seven speakers. What's more, all of them will be made by Bose.
There are several options when it comes to equipping your Leaf, most with an added price tag, of course. Maybe you can do without the velour car mats, but the cargo organiser is a good option because it will help you divide up your storage space. Nissan also offers the option of black leather seats or black cloth. The fancier trim levels also come with heated seats.
The room in the rear of the Leaf is fine for three people so long as they are not all adults. The middle seat has the least legroom, so it is only really suited to a child for longer journeys. In the back, there are a couple of door wells, but that's pretty much it. In the front, expect a standard glove compartment and not much else.
The boot of the Nissan Leaf comes with a couple of cargo nets which is handy. You get 435 litres of storage space in the boot, which is better than most of the rivals on the market today. The rear seats also fold down in a 60:40 ratio which is helpful in certain circumstances.
The 2018 version of the Leaf scores five out of five for safety, with Euro NCAP scoring highest for adult occupancy safety.
The driver assistance system you get with the Leaf helps it to score so highly. There is an electronic parking brake, for example, plus lane assist and a pedestrian warning system. Isofix points are provided in the passenger seat and the rear of the car. You also get the Leaf's cruise control functionality to help you on the road.
Sales of the Nissan Leaf have been strong ever since it was first launched over a decade ago. This is partly down to the Leaf's competitive price structure. The recommended retail price of an Accenta Leaf, for example, is £28,495, while the N Connecta comes in with a price of £30,495. A 10 Leaf will cost more money, at £31,170, while the Tekna is £32,495. If you want the e + version of the family car, then a top-end Tekna will come with a price tag of £34,945. A standard Renault Zoe, for comparison's sake, is £27,495.