Nissan Leaf hatchback (2017 - ) review
The Leaf is a five-door, fully electric hatchback, around the size of the Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf. This is the second generation of the best-selling electric car in the UK.
Interested in buying a Nissan Leaf?
How good does it look?
The second-generation Leaf has a more conventional look than the quirky visuals of the first Leaf, which was introduced back in 2011. Four versions are available. The first, Visia, comes with 16-inch steel wheels, LED daytime running lights and some chrome door handles. Most people, however, are expected to go for one of the higher-end models. The Acenta has alloy wheels rather than steel, front fog lamps and electric folding mirrors, while the N-Connecta has 17-inch alloys, tinted glass, and some gloss black paint to make things look snazzier. The top-of-the-range Tekna adds bright, full-LED headlights.
What's the interior like?
The interior is the biggest disappointment of the Leaf, and it lags behind other cars of this size in several areas. The seating position doesn’t adjust as much as we’d like, leaving taller drivers sitting too high, and the steering column doesn’t adjust for reach at all, which is very unusual these days. This may well mean you have difficulty finding your preferred driving position.
The plastics are very hard to the touch in an age of soft-touch materials, but to Nissan’s credit, they are all very solidly assembled. The dashboard area is very cluttered, though, with more than 50 buttons dotted around. Some of them help control the infotainment system, along with a 7.0-inch touch-screen that feels pretty small by modern standards. It’s also slow to respond and feels dated compared to the competition.
How practical is it?
There’s plenty of room for four tall adults in the Leaf, and a fifth at a squeeze in the middle of the back row. The boot is a decent size – bigger than the Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf, although not quite as big as the Honda Civic – but if you fold the rear seats down there’s a huge lip between them and the boot floor, which restricts the space a bit. If you have the optional Bose sound system, which is standard on the Tekna version, it places a big lump of audio technology on the boot floor, which gets in the way somewhat. There are several cubby holes and pockets around the cabin to store odds and ends, but no fold-down central armrest in the back.
What's it like to drive?
The Leaf is set up for comfort rather than thrills, and benefits from a nicely supple ride that massages out most lumps and bumps in the road. The steering could use a bit more feel, but it doesn’t really get in the way of everyday driving, and the Leaf stays fairly level when cornering. If you’re hoping for some spirited driving, this isn’t really the car for you, as excitement is in short supply, but it’s a perfectly capable machine for driving around town or cruising on the motorway.
How powerful is it?
The latest Leaf comes with a 40kWh battery, which is more powerful than in the previous version, and the electric motor is also more powerful. With 150 horsepower on tap, the Leaf gives you properly zippy acceleration. As electric cars don’t need a gearbox, that acceleration is brisk and uninterrupted by gear changes, and is great for quickly nipping past a slow-moving tractor or getting up to speed on the motorway. The Leaf regenerates electricity and puts it back into the battery when you lift off the accelerator, and you can also control the level of regeneration. At the highest level, this acts like a brake – Nissan calls it the e-Pedal – and means that 90% of the time you can drive the Leaf using one pedal. Combined with the comfortable ride, and the technology mentioned below, it means driving the Leaf is generally a pretty relaxing experience.
How much will it cost me?
Despite the improvements, the latest Leaf is cheaper than the one it replaces, although it’s still more expensive than many of its petrol or diesel rivals. However, being an electric car, the costs of charging it will be far less than filling up at the fuel station. Drive it in as economical a manner as you can – helped by some of the in-car graphics that show how much energy you’re using – and you should be able to get 160-170 miles out of it. Using a public fast charger, you should be able to get to 80% of a full charge in around 40 minutes, and an overnight charge at home – using the 7kW wall box supplied free with the car – will take around eight hours. You’ll also benefit from exemption from Vehicle Excise Duty, free parking in many places, and exemption from the London Congestion Charge.
How reliable is it?
Nissan as a brand has a decent reputation for reliability, scoring above average in JD Power’s 2017 Vehicle Dependability Study and similarly in Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, which ranks manufacturers based on past performance. While we don’t have any data for the Leaf specifically, our owner reviews of earlier cars have been almost universally positive, so we’re hopeful the latest Leaf will perform just as well.
How safe is it?
The Leaf scored the maximum five stars in crash testing by safety organisation Euro NCAP. Several cutting-edge safety technologies are included on all cars, including automatic emergency braking, which will intervene if you don’t react to an impending accident. All cars also have lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems, six airbags and two Isofix child seat mounting points.
N-Connecta and Tekna cars get a full ProPilot system, which includes automatic steering and adaptive cruise control. It’s essentially a form of autonomous driving, controlling the speed on motorways automatically, and helping you stay in the centre of the lane.
How much equipment do I get?
The entry-level Visia car comes with cruise control, automatic headlights and wipers and a basic audio system, while the Acenta adds Apple Car Play and Android Auto for integration with your smartphone. It also gets a more comfortable leather-wrapped steering wheel and air conditioning. The N-Connecta has part-leather upholstery, a clever around view monitor that shows an overhead view of the car when parking or manoeuvring, as well as parking sensors. The Tekna has leather, heated seats, an electronic parking brake and an uprated Bose stereo system.
If you’re after an electric car, the Leaf’s comfortable ride and impressive range make it an attractive proposition. The first version of the car made up almost half of all UK electric car sales, and the new one is better to drive, will go further, and costs less. It’s a shame the interior is underwhelming, but it’s still a comfortable and practical car, and we expect it to do very well. If electric driving fits into your circumstances, the new Leaf is definitely a car you'll want to check out.