Road test: Nissan Leaf

Posted on February 19th, 2016 by James Luckhurst

The Nissan Leaf is a brilliant city car that now has the potential to go further afield.

Road test: Nissan Leaf

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What is it?

The Nissan Leaf, which is priced from £20,790 is the world’s best-selling electric vehicle. The introduction of a new battery pack in the latest model means it has a longer 155-mile range.

How safe is it?

The 2016 Nissan Leaf will not need to be re-tested and carries over its maximum five-star Euro NCAP rating. In reality the electrically powered Leaf is as safe as a conventional car.

Who should buy one?
Electric vehicles are ideal for city dwellers, although the third-generation Leaf’s improved range means drivers can now safely venture further afield. It’s not cheap to buy but running costs are low.

Road test by Maxine Ashford published 20 February 2016

DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
Road test: Nissan Leaf

While any cosmetic changes to the latest Nissan Leaf are minimal, there are major improvements to the battery and the in-car entertainment system.
To counteract any range anxiety faced by EV (electric vehicle) drivers the Leaf now features a more powerful 30kWh battery as an alternative to the existing 24kWh one. An extra 6kWh may not sound much but what it translates into is additional miles. In fact, according to official figures the new Leaf with the 30kWh battery has a range of 155 miles (an increase of 31 miles over the standard battery).
There are three trim levels – Visia, Acenta and Tekna – although the improved battery pack is not available on entry-level Visia models.
We tested the car on a mountain drive in southern France which provided the perfect proving ground to experiment with the Leaf’s driving capabilities and on-board technology, especially regenerative energy.
Leaving our base in Nice with a 100 per cent battery charge, we began the two-hour 5,000-feet climb up the Col de Turini. The car’s automatic transmission was set to ECO drive and away we went (in complete silence). Our power levels and range dropped gradually, but acceleration was steady and nicely controlled with ample power on tap when an extra surge was needed.
Then it was a quick turn around and we began our descent. It soon became very clear that energy could be recouped as we used the vehicle’s B-mode which engages the regenerative braking system more aggressively on slopes. This meant we could refrain from braking and gently cruise downhill and all the time we were increasing the on-board battery percentage and in turn our range in miles.
This may all sound like an experiment but at the end of a long very testing drive the projected mileage we had left in the battery, combined with the mileage we had covered added up to 148 (not bad for a vehicle with a limit of 155 miles).

SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
Road test: Nissan Leaf

The five-door, five-seat Leaf is light and spacious with ample room for two adults in the back seats – three at a squeeze. The cabin is bright with a modern, upmarket appearance.
The boot is deep and spacious with a capacity of 370 litres. However, our range-topping Tekna model featured a pitch-perfect BOSE sound system which ate into the boot space reducing the capacity to 355 litres.
The all-round visibility is excellent and all controls, dials and instrumentation are clear, precise and ideally positioned for ease of use. Leaf customers have become accustomed to state-of-the-art creature comforts such as heating the car from the comfort of home via a smartphone and now that technology has improved with a more advanced NissanConnect infotainment system. The car has a seven-inch touchscreen with zoom, swipe and flick capabilities and a new map displays useful information such as the nearest available charging points, along with vehicle maintenance checks and alerts. There is also a more advanced satnav system.

SAFETY
Road test: Nissan Leaf

The latest Nissan Leaf carries the five-star Euro NCAP rating of its previous generation model and boasts anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, six airbags, dynamic control, traction control, daytime running lights and tyre pressure monitoring.
There is also a vehicle sound for pedestrians. This noise – that can only be heard outside the vehicle – provides an audible warning to pedestrians who would not hear an otherwise near-silent electric vehicle approaching.

EQUIPMENT
Road test: Nissan Leaf

All Leaf models are well equipped with Bluetooth connectivity, steering wheel-mounted controls, a start/stop button, automatic air conditioning and fog lamps. Then as you move up through the range to Tekna, features such as a seven-speaker BOSE sound system, 360-degree Around View Monitor, leather trim, LED headlights, heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a solar cell spoiler and the new NissanConnect infotainment system are added along the way.

COSTS

Road test: Nissan Leaf

Despite the Government providing a £5,000 incentive to buy electric vehicles, they still remain pricey and the Leaf is no exception. The cheapest version (with the lower-powered battery) costs £20,790. On the plus side, running costs are incredibly low with the new Leaf delivering economy of about tuppence per mile. In addition, it is exempt from tax and congestion charges, making it particularly appealing for a driver commuting into London.

WE SAY

The Nissan Leaf is a brilliant city car that now has the potential to go further afield.

AT A GLANCE:
Price: £26,490
Performance: 0-62mph in 11.5 seconds
Economy: Not applicable (from 2p per mile)
Insurance: Group 22E
Tax: Band A (£0)

Figures for the Nissan Leaf 30kWh Tekna