Nissan Leaf (2010-2017) Review
The Nissan Leaf is an electric car with space for five and a comfortable ride
Strengths & weaknesses
- Relaxed, quiet driving experience
- Cheap to run
- Electric range is not as good as a diesel hatchback
- Expensive to buy
- Awkward looks
The Nissan Leaf was one of the pioneering electric cars when it arrived late in 2010. It’s an electric car with the looks and practicality of a regular hatchback, but with significantly reduced running costs by not using any kind of fossil fuel whatsoever.
The electric motor that makes the Nissan Leaf move is powered by a battery located beneath the floor of the car. This battery comes in two power outputs - 24 kilowatt hours (kWh) or 30kWh. The 24kWh version returns a range of around 124 miles, whereas the more expensive 30kWh version should do around 155 miles on one charge. The Leaf can be charged via a normal household socket, which takes around 12 hours from empty to full, but a dedicated fast charger can be fitted to your house, which reduces this time to around 4 hours.
The Nissan Leaf has been designed to be as aerodynamic as possible, so that it’s as economical as possible. That’s why it is quite a slippery-looking shape, and there’s no front grille needed to cool the engine. Elsewhere, the Leaf is like any other five-door family hatchback. There’s plenty of room inside and the interior is actually much less radical to look at than the exterior. It’s much like any other Nissan, apart from a couple of different dials and a futuristic-looking gear selector. The boot is a spacious 370 litres, too.
On the road, the Leaf is a very quiet and relaxing car to drive. This is down to the silence of the electric motor, so there’s no engine noise encroaching into the cabin of the car. All you can hear is a faint whine from the electric motor when accelerating. The upshot of this is that you can hear road and tyre noise more than in other cars, plus the soft suspension, while comfortable, means the Leaf isn’t much fun on a twisty country road because it feels like it rolls quite a bit.
That said, the Leaf is perfect for zipping around the city which it was designed for. It has the equivalent of 108bhp but all of that power is available immediately, so it feels very quick when you put your foot down.
In terms of safety, the Leaf achieved a five-star crash safety rating from Euro NCAP when it was tested in 2012. It was praised for its ability to protect adult occupants, while there are also plenty of safety systems fitted to the car, including a sound synthesiser. This is a noise created by the car so that pedestrians can hear you coming in built up areas.
|3 years, 60,000 miles
|Tax (min to max)
Best Nissan Leaf for...
Best for Economy – Nissan Leaf Acenta 109PS 30kWh
The 30kWh Nissan Leaf is the one with more electric range, so you’ll be able to travel around 150 miles on a single charge, compared to the 124-mile claimed range of the 24kWh Leaf. This means you won’t be charging it quite as often.
Best for Families – Nissan Leaf Acenta 109PS 30kWh
The 30kWh has a longer claimed range of 150 miles, so it should be able to travel further than the 24kWh in one charge. This is important for family users as the extra weight in the car will have an impact on the car’s range.
Best for Performance – Nissan Leaf Acenta 109PS 30kWh
All Nissan Leafs have the same performance figures. They all go from 0-62mph in 11.5 seconds and onto a top speed of 89mph. It’s no sports car, however the Leaf will technically go as fast in reverse as it does going forwards, but we don’t recommend trying this.
One to Avoid – Nissan Leaf Visia 109PS 24kWh
While the entry-level Leaf Visia is the cheapest, the 24kWh battery doesn’t have the extra range of the 30kWh, plus Visia trim has quite a basic specification - it doesn’t have as strong a heater as Acenta models in a bid to boost efficiency.
August 2009 - Nissan Leaf first revealed
September 2010 - First goes on sale in the UK starting from £23,990 (including government grant)
February 2013 - Tweaks to the battery boost range from 109 to 124 miles, while a faster charger cable is also now available
July 2015 - Acenta+ trim added to the Leaf range with fast-charger and additional equipment
September 2015 - Leaf 30kWh battery added to Acenta and Tekna trim levels
Understanding Nissan Leaf names
Three simple trim levels - Visia, Acenta, Tekna
All an electric motor in two outputs - 24kWh or 30kWh
Nissan Leaf Engines
Engines: Electric motor - 24kWh & 30kWh
The Nissan Leaf doesn’t have a conventional combustion engine, but it does have an electric motor with batteries to power it. There are two battery sizes available - a 24 kilowatt hour (kWh) and a 30kWh.
The 30kWh version was added to the range to boost the Leaf’s range from around 124 miles to 155 miles. Performance figures remain the same for both battery sizes, which are detailed in the table below.
The 30kWh Leaf costs around £1,600 more than the 24kWh, but this could be worth paying for the extra range it gives you. The claimed ranges of electric cars are calculated for ideal conditions where things like the heaters, air-con or heated seats aren’t being used. If things like this are being used, range can drop by almost a half in some cases.
Because of the nature of electric motors, they don’t have high top speeds, but they are quick to respond when you put your foot down thanks to instant power available from the electric motor. This means nipping around town is what the Leaf does best.
0 - 62mph
Nissan Leaf Trims
Trims: Visia, Acenta, Tekna
Nissan Leaf trim levels are easy to navigate and they replicate the trims found elsewhere in the Nissan car range.
Visia kicks off the range, and is reasonably well appointed. It comes with Bluetooth phone connectivity, electric windows and door mirrors and air conditioning.
Mid-range Acenta adds automatic headlights and wipers, a touchscreen infotainment system featuring ‘Carwings’ - a smartphone app that lets you look at your car’s status, a reversing camera and cruise control.
Top-spec Tekna trim is expensive, but comes with a lot of equipment as standard. It has an upgraded Bose sound system, 360-degree cameras, heated leather seats and bright LED headlamps.
Nissan Leaf Reliability and warranty
Nissan as a brand has a good reliability record, and the Leaf uses many components found in other models. Electric cars, to some degree, are still something of an unknown quantity when it comes to long-term reliability, but owners seem happy with their Leafs and Nissan’s three-year, 60,000-mile warranty is fairly comprehensive.
The Leaf came an impressive 8th position overall in the 2015 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, and in 8th place for reliability. The brand will also replace the battery if it reaches the end of its life, although this shouldn’t occur within the manufacturer’s warranty.
Used Nissan Leaf
Nissan Leafs do not retain their value as well as traditional family hatchbacks do. This could be down to unfamiliarity with electric cars - nobody has owned a Leaf for more than 5 years, so it’s unclear how it still performs for longer periods of time. While prices have taken a dip, it’s worth remembering that the car’s list price doesn’t include the government grant, so it may not have lost as much of its original value as you might think.
Low used values can look appealing, especially when compared to the high price of a new Nissan Leaf, but early models are now out of Nissan’s 3-year, 60,000-mile warranty, and long-term reliability is as yet unproven for electric cars. As with all consumer electronics, batteries deteriorate after a while, so it’s recommended that the batteries are checked before you buy - although a car’s battery is much more heavy-duty than a phone battery, for example.
It’s worth noting, however, that Nissan now offers Leaf owners the chance to lease batteries and will replace them when they reach the end of their operable life.