The Nissan LEAF is the worlds best selling electric vehicle with almost 60,000 sold since its launch. Those cars are being driven too with more than 178,000,000 miles being logged by CARWINGS, Nissan’s in-car data logging app. This gives the Japanese company a huge advantage when it comes to developing the LEAF as they can rely on real-world data to help inform their decisions rather than guesswork or focus groups.
So the new LEAF is a result of over 100 changes being made to the old one. Theyve reduced the weight, improved efficiency, lowered the price, and tuned it for European roads.
We were among the first journalists in the country to drive the new UK-built Nissan LEAF in Oslo, and were curious to find out if all that information and customer insight had been put to good use or whether Nissan had been fiddling for the sake of it.
The Nissan LEAF is a familiar sight by now and the new one is pretty much the same as the old one. The sharp-eyed might notice that the charging point is now located on the bonnet but other than that Nissan has devoted its attention to other, less immediately obvious, places.
In all, the new LEAF has had dozens of improvements made to it from a smaller and lighter battery charger, an overall weight reduction of 32kgs, a heater that is up to 70 per cent more efficient than the old one, eco-routing via the on-board sat-nav, BOSE speakers, and a 360-degree camera system (depending on trim level).
The biggest change to the interior is that there are now three trim levels; Visia, Acenta, and Tekna, with the mid-range Acenta expected to account for around 70 per cent of the sales, followed by the premium Tekna with 15-20%.
Nissan also now offer a black dashboard for customers who dont like beige, and the front seats have had their shape nibbled away a bit underneath to give rear-seat passengers more room for their feet. Legroom is more than acceptable there too, with Nissan confident enough to use a fleet of them as taxis for the journos on the launch.
The LEAF, like all electric cars, has the refinement of a Rolls-Royce and the instant urge of a dodgem car; both are super-appealing and allow the petrolhead to enjoy his/her time behind the wheel while simultaneously gulping down large drafts of worthiness.
Nissan claim that the suspension has been tuned for European roads but I cant say that I noticed, but then it has been a couple of years since I last drove one. What I did notice is that the ride and handling are perfectly adequate, even if all that weight does compromise the cars wieldiness a little.
The new LEAFs range has been increased by 15 miles, giving a theoretical range of 124 miles albeit at the cost of a tiny loss of speed and acceleration.
This sounds great but owners shouldnt plan on any three-figure journeys; 60-70 miles might be more like it in reality, perhaps a bit less if its very cold and/or dark.
More significantly, the battery can now be charged in half the time of the old one – just four hours – if users opt to use a 32-amp charger. And if even that is too slow, a super-heavy duty public charger (of which there are 600 in Europe, a number that is predicted to double in the next 12 months) can achieve an 80 per cent battery charge in just 30 minutes, making it almost as convenient as driving a petrol or diesel-powered car.
Radically, buyers can now purchase a LEAF without a battery, leasing it a la Renault. Doing so wipes five grand off the purchase price at a cost of 70 or so a month in leasing fees, depending on mileage.
This might look sensible at first glance, especially for the cash-strapped private buyer, but CAP warn that they will not provide a value for Renault cars sold without a battery (i.e., all of them), arguing that it doesnt allow a like-for-like comparison.
This policy is likely to continue with LEAFS sold sans battery, making leasing and residual values very hard, if not impossible, to calculate, which means those same cash-strapped buyers might be in for a shock when they come to change cars.
Nissan, not surprisingly, didnt feel able to predict the percentage of customers who would lease their battery when asked. Our advice is to proceed with caution and remember that whoever buys the car from you in a few years will be tied to the same leasing deal as you and that wont suit everyone
Value for Money
The basic Visia, bought without the battery, costs just 15,990 after the 5,000 UK Government subsidy. You will, of course, need to add in at least 70 a month on top of that for a battery. The top-of-the-range model, including a battery, is 25,490, which means that there is now a LEAF for pretty much everyone, no matter what their budget.
With a full charge costing about 2.50 and free vehicle excise duty in the UK and no congestion charge in London, the LEAF should be pretty cheap to run. But not as cheap as in Norway. Norwegian drivers dont pay purchase tax or an annual VED for their electric car, and nor do they pay to park and charge it in public car parks either. Oh, and they can use the vast network of bus lanes too.
All of which explain why there are more EVs per head in Oslo than in any other city in the world and why the LEAF outsold the Ford Focus in the last sales quarter in Norway.
The Nissan LEAF is a compelling proposition. If you can handle the cars range, and have the infrastructure at home or work to charge it, then it makes a lot of sense, especially given that all 196 UK dealers can now sell and service them. Its quick, quiet, refined and, in its latest form, more usable than ever.
Just dont forget about a small, diesel hatchback, will you? They are cheaper to buy, more practical, and easier to live with. But if you demand the cleanest possible motoring, the LEAF is a very good place to start.
What the press think
Overall opinion is generally pretty positive on the Leaf – it might suffer from a low range compared to the cars we’re more familiar with, but its refinement is second to none. It’s also comfortable and safe, if still pricey.
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