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The Top Gear car review:Nissan Leaf
For:Efficient EV has all the range most people need. Green. Affordable to buy, cheap to own. Silent, smooth power. Enough space.
Against: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 still up to two years from launching their first proper standalone mainstream electric cars. Yet here’s Nissan launching a full second generation of the Leaf. Even in its final months of production, the outgoing Leaf was outselling in Britain all other pure-EVs put together.
That original Leaf has 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, it was slow and lacking in range (though it got better with the 30kWh battery upgrade). It 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.
The motor is 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 can now develop much more power, 150bhp, and the 0-62 time falls to 7.9sec.
The battery is the same physical size as it always was, but new chemistry and management means it has a capacity of 40kWh. Nissan has tested it in the new more realistic global test protocol, WLTP, and got 168 miles’ range. On the existing if discredited EU cycle it gets 235 miles.
Nissan is also busily installing more high-power DC chargers – it already has twice as many across Europe as Tesla has Superchargers. But then with shorter range than a Tesla you need visit them more often in a journey.