Nissan Leaf Review
Need a practical, affordable, long-range electric car? The latest Nissan Leaf offers increased range, sharper styling and an improved drive
Strengths & weaknesses
- Good refinement levels
- Surprisingly fast around town
- Looks sharper than previous car
- Cheaper versions have limited range
- Slightly firm ride
- Not the most luxurious car inside
Nissan Leaf prices from £6,695 Finance from £176.75 per month
The first Nissan Leaf, launched in 2010, was extremely successful and helped bring electric cars to the masses. An all-new version was launched in 2018, propelling it to become Europe’s best-selling, pure-electric vehicle. However, the competition is growing, so the Leaf has its work cut out maintaining its lead.
Just like the last one, the current Leaf is similar in size to the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, and Vauxhall Astra. Its main electric rivals are the Renault Zoe, Hyundai Ioniq, Hyundai Kona, Kia e-Niro and the Volkswagen ID.3 (which indirectly replaced the Volkswagen e-Golf).
The key thing that sets the second-generation Leaf apart is the option of a 40kWh model, which is able to cover up to 168 miles between plugs, plus a newer, more powerful 62kWh Leaf e+ version, which is both faster and can travel further per charge, with a range of 239 miles. Keep reading to decide if this electric machine is the car for you.
|Three years/60,000 miles
Best Nissan Leaf for...
Best for Economy – Nissan Leaf Acenta 40kwh
Regarding economy, in the case of electric cars it’s a case of balancing cost with range. The more you pay, the farther you go, and vice versa. If you tend to do only short journeys and can top-up the battery at home, the cheapest Leaf, the Acenta 40kWh is the most economical or cost-effective version.
Best for Families – Nissan Leaf N-Connecta
N-Connecta level brings a raft of assistance features that will help with family life. They include parking sensors and moving object detection, as well as the helpful Intelligent Around View Monitor, which essentially gives you a bird’s eye view of the car. It also has a rapid-charge port for greater convenience.
Best for Performance – Nissan Leaf e+ Tekna
The e+ Tekna is the only version of the Leaf with the more powerful 62kW battery and 217hp electric motor. It can take the car from 0-62mph in just 7.1 seconds but has a range, claims Nissan, of up to 239 miles.
When the second generation Nissan Leaf launched in 2018 it was powered by a 40kWh battery powering a 150hp electric motor, offering a range of 168 miles on a full charge. It was by far the most capable electric car at that price, but that benchmark has since been beaten by a number of newer rivals.
As a result, Nissan added a second, more powerful Leaf with a longer range, to the model line-up in 2019. Called the Leaf e+ and available only in top-spec Tekna trim, it has a 62kWh battery powering a 217hp electric motor to give stronger performance and a range of 239 miles per charge.
The appearance of the original Leaf was divisive, its high-rising headlights made it look like a surprised frog. But the new Leaf has dumbed that down, with much more traditional styling. It is still distinctive if that's what you're after, unlike the Hyundai Kona which looks almost identical in electric, hybrid or petrol form.
With the instant power delivery you get from an electric motor, the 40kWh version of the Leaf is fast enough from 0-30mph. The e+ is faster still, capable of 0-62mph in 7.1 seconds, which is about as fast as a mid-noughties hot-hatch. The steering is light around town, which really suits the primary function of the Leaf as a zero-emission city goer.
The Leaf doesn’t have a clutch or gears - another trait of electric cars generally, the transmission lever is actually a small ball that you slide into drive, reverse and neutral. Inside, it's near-silent except for a bit of wind noise. It does, however, emit a light buzz from the outside to alert pedestrians to its presence in the absence of any engine noise.
Because the batteries are heavy and mounted low in the car, the Leaf’s suspension needs to be stiffer than a normal car’s to cope. This means it tends to crash and judder over bumps, making it less comfortable than a Vauxhall Astra on long journeys. This is magnified in the e+, which has more batteries and therefore increased weight.
Inside, there are some scratchy and flimsy plastics that you wouldn’t find in a Volkswagen e-Golf. All versions have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which allows mirroring of your phone on the car’s media display. This system and the Nissan Connect smartphone app were upgraded in March 2019.
Top-spec Tekna models have leather, which helps lift an otherwise fairly dull interior. Rear space is impressive: there’s enough room for tall adults, even if the driver is also tall and has their seat pushed back.
Boot space is impressive too - housing 435 litres. To put that into context, the petrol/diesel Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus only have 380 litres and 341 litres respectively. It has a bit of a lip, though, and the Bose sound system, found on Tekna models, gets in the way.
Nissan Leaf History
- 2017: Nissan calls time on the first-generation Nissan Leaf.
- 2018: New Nissan Leaf on sale in UK. e-Pedal, longer range, and updated design separate it from the old one.
- 2019: The Leaf E+ Tekna joins the range offering more power and a greater range.
Understanding Nissan Leaf names
Trim level Tekna
There are four trim levels on the Leaf. Tekna is the most expensive and has the most amount of toys. There are two battery sizes on offer, and no gearbox options because all electric vehicles are automatic.
Generally there’s no reference to the power of the battery or electric motor except in the case of the most powerful Leaf, called the e+.
Nissan Leaf Engines
40kWh, e+ (62kWh)
There are are two "engines", or specifically motors, to choose from.
The lowest powered produces 150hp and is paired with a 40kWh battery. It has roughly the same power as a fairly powerful diesel Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra, but it’s much quicker. It'll do 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds, whereas a 1.5-litre diesel Ford Focus will take 10.2 seconds.
It can only travel up to 128 miles on a single charge. What’s more, you can’t quickly extend its range by rapid-charging the battery more than once on a single journey. Nissan says that this is to ‘safeguard’ the battery, in order to maintain battery life over an extended time period. While this won’t affect the range, it is something to bear in mind if you regularly travel long distances. Fast chargers will generally let you charge from empty to 80 per cent in around 40 minutes. On the trickle charge, it might take you a few hours.
The most powerful Leaf is called the Leaf e+. It’s powered by a larger 62kWh battery and its motor produces 217hp. As a result, it can accelerate from 0-62mph in just 7.1 seconds (newer models are even quicker at 6.9 seconds), faster than most petrol cars of its size that aren't hot hatchbacks. The real punch can be felt from 0-30mph. An electric motor doesn't need to build revs like a traditional engine, so all of the power is available instantly.
Nissan claims the car can travel for up to 239 miles on a single charge. This number will fall in real-world use, especially if you consistently test its acceleration, but means the car should be competitive against rival electric models. Our testing of this confirms that a 239-mile range seems achievable in most situations.
Nissan Leaf Trims
Acenta, N-Connecta, Tekna, e+Tekna
The Nissan Leaf is available in four trim levels.
All versions have what Nissan calls its e-Pedal, which accelerates the car when pressed and decelerates it when released; a host of electronic safety systems including ABS and hill start assist; and parking sensors. Alloy wheels are standard too, although they’re smaller 16-inch wheels on entry-level Acenta trim.
Tekna cars get a powerful Bose sound system and the (£1090) option of ProPilot parking assistance that can parallel and bay park the car for you.
The e+ Tekna, is mostly a change in power, and can be read about in the section above. On the outside, the e+ Tekna only really has blue bumper accents to mark itself out from the regular Tekna.
Nissan Leaf Reliability and warranty
The Leaf placed a respectable 18th out of 75 cars in Auto Express' Driver Power customer survey results, scoring highly across the board.
The Leaf has a 60,000 mile/three-year warranty as standard. It also comes with a five-year/60,000-mile warranty on all electric vehicle-related components. There’s also an eight-year/100,000 miles battery warranty that covers capacity loss should it fall below nine of its 12 bars (shown on the capacity gauge on the dashboard in place of a fuel indicator).
Used Nissan Leaf
More expensive and better-specced cars lose more money than lower specification cars. This means that the biggest savings can be found on top-spec Tekna models. Many of these cars will also still have manufacturers' warranty left too.
Until early 2019, there was a trim level called Visia. It was the most basic, though, if you're just after a cheap electric car, they can make a canny used bargain.