Efficient EV has all the range most people need. Affordable to buy, cheap to own. Silent, smooth power. Enough space
Still a little challenging to look at. Despite handy performance, not a sporty car. Nor one for regular 600-mile days
What is it?
Most carmakers are only just beginning to launch their first proper standalone mainstream electric cars in 2021. Yet here's Nissan over two years into producing a full second generation of the Leaf.
Of course. Well done Nissan…
Exactly. The original Leaf had amazingly loyal and satisfied customers. They loved the tiny running costs, convenience of home charging, silence, and simple practicality. And they liked that at the top and bottom it was just a car – five seats, good boot, easy to drive, affordable to buy. People who have owned electric cars almost never return to combustion.
But that first Leaf had weaknesses. In a world where Tesla got the headlines, if not the sales leadership back then, it was slow and lacking in range (though it got better with the 30kWh battery upgrade). It also looked odd. And as all cars got better connectivity and driver assist, the Leaf needed upgrades there too.
So those are the new Leaf's promises. Quicker, further-reaching between charges, better-looking, more assistance. And prices are lower, model for model.
Tell me more about this second gen, then…
In the standard Leaf, the motor is technically the same as before. But a new inverter – the heavy-duty electronic device that supplies and controls the electricity going around the car – is more powerful, so the motor itself develops much more power, 148bhp, and the 0-62 time falls to 7.9 seconds. The battery is the same physical size as the previous gen, but new chemistry and management means it has a capacity of 40kWh for a range of 168 miles.
In 2019, though, Nissan introduced the top spec e+ with a bigger 62kWh battery, a more powerful 214bhp electric motor (that still only drives the front wheels) and a more expansive range of 239 miles.
At launch, that e+ was priced scarily close to £40,000, but Nissan slashed prices when the UK Government cut back the plug-in car grant earlier in 2021, so every single Leaf now makes it under the £35,000 threshold to get an extra £2,500 off.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
If you're a total road warrior, hell-bent on end-to-end 300-mile motorway stints with just a wee and a sandwich between, the Leaf will not serve you.
If you're a driver who loves the process of combustion and the involvement of a chassis, then again no. (Although actually at real-traffic speeds, hypermiling a Leaf can be more engaging than reining back a sports car.)
But that still leaves a vast constituency of folk who are scared of a pure EV. This second-gen Leaf dismantles those fears with an easy package, decent range and a charming grace to its nature.
Other manufacturers are beginning to agree that the best and most efficient electric cars will be the ones purpose-designed with light, aerodynamic bodies and battery-friendly packaging, not adaptions of petrol cars. Nissan has been doing it for a long time now, and the gen-2 Leaf is the result. It hits a broad sweet spot of usability, likability and affordability.