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Used Nissan Leaf (2018 – present) buying guide

September 20, 2022 by

The original Nissan Leaf was one of the first mainstream electric cars on the scene. Here we look at what you need to know before buying the better-looking, more technologically advanced second generation model.

Nissan’s Leaf might not have the cool eco-friendly image of something like a Tesla Model 3, but it was arguably the first mainstream electric car that was as practical and usable as a regular petrol or diesel model.

Electric family cars might be everywhere now, but back in 2011 when the first Leaf went on sale, EVs were the preserve of small, quirky city cars. When the second generation went on sale in 2018, Nissan brought a refreshed family car that looked better, could go further and was more practical than its predecessor, at a time when most other car makers were bringing out their first attempts.

Nissan Leaf: Pros and cons

What’s good
Punchy electric powertrain
Excellent driver assistance tech
Bigger batteries have decent range

What’s not so good
Infotainment is sluggish
Some cheap cabin materials
Interior starting to show its age

Click any of the links below to jump to the relevant section.

Is a used Nissan Leaf a good car?
What body styles are available?
What are the power options?
What trim levels are available?
How practical is it?
What’s it like to drive?
What to look out for
Nissan Leaf recalls
Safety and security
What else should I consider?

Is a used Nissan Leaf a good car?

While the first Nissan Leaf had what could politely be described as ‘challenging’ styling, the new one shunned the oddball looks of its predecessor in favour of a less polarising appearance. It’s not quite handsome, but its sharp lines give it a more modern character that helps it blend in with other family cars.

Because that’s what it is. A regular family car that just happens to have an electric powertrain. This sounds like an odd distinction to make now, but it had few direct competitors upon its release.

As a result, it’s one of the most affordable electric family cars on the used market. First-generation pre-2018 models will be the cheapest, but if you can find the budget for this second generation version it still represents fantastic value for money thanks to its bigger batteries, more powerful motors, improved interior and excellent driver assistance technology.

That being said, the smaller battery versions of the second-generation car don’t have a particularly fantastic range, so we’d recommend looking for the e+ models, sold from 2019 onwards, if this is an issue.

In early 2022, Nissan announced a mid-life facelift for the Leaf, which brought subtle styling tweaks, new alloy wheel designs, two new shades of blue exterior paint and an 8.0-inch infotainment system as standard.

What body styles are available?

The Nissan Leaf is only available as a hatchback, and the fact it’s a five-door means accessing the rear seats is easy.

Looking for a more spacious electric Nissan? The firm is launching the Ariya SUV, though first deliveries are not scheduled to begin until later in 2022, so you’ll have to divert to the new car market to get one for the foreseeable future.

What are the power options?

The standard car has a 147hp electric motor and a 40kWh battery that offers a range of up to 168 miles, with the top speed being 90mph.

Above that sits the e+, introduced in 2019, which makes 217hp with a range of up to 239 miles from its 62kWh battery pack. This results in a slightly higher top speed of 98mph and faster acceleration on the way there.

The Leaf can charge at speeds of up to 50kW, which isn’t particularly quick, getting you from 20% to 80% capacity in about 40 minutes on the regular model, or 90 minutes on the e+. Plug into a home wallbox and a full charge takes about eight hours or 11 hours respectively.

What trim levels are available?

At launch, there were five trim levels available. The range started with Visia (though this was dropped fairly quickly due to low uptake), with equipment including climate control, cloth seat upholstery, cruise control and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto for the 7.0-inch infotainment system.

Acenta adds some bonus kit like 16-inch alloy wheels and front fog lights, while opting for N-Connecta gets you larger 17-inch alloy wheels, parking sensors, sat nav and heated seats.

Just 1,500 2.Zero models were built as special launch editions, sitting just below the range-topping Tekna. Equipment included ProPilot, suede-effect bio-fabric seats with heating front and rear, a heated steering wheel and a 360-degree camera.

Tekna models offer the best kit, but will naturally be the priciest option too. Some highlights include the upgraded Bose sound system, LED lights all round and part-leather seats. They are also the only models outside of some special editions to get ProPilot as standard.

To introduce the e+ powertrain in 2019, a 3.Zero trim was offered for both this and the 40kWh battery models. It brought some new colour choices and a contrasting roof.

In early 2020, the N-Tec Limited Edition was introduced on e+ models. Just 1,000 were built and were based on the N-Connecta trim, adding ProPilot, LED lights, an electronic parking brake, metallic blue front splitter and a revised suspension.

And in 2021, a special edition went on sale to celebrate the Leaf’s 10th anniversary. Called Leaf10, it too was based on the N-Connecta but only came with the smaller battery. Changes were minimal, though, with a new badge on the C-pillar to mark it out as a special model, a new grey and black paint scheme, and a new vinyl wrap for the wing mirrors, roofline and bootlid.

How practical is it?

The Leaf is a similar size and shape to the likes of the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf – the latter of which has an electric version that makes a good alternative to the Leaf, being sold between 2014 and 2020 – and it’s pretty roomy by comparison. There’s good space up front, with average-sized door bins that are complemented by a huge glovebox and cup holders.

One disappointment, though, is that the steering wheel only adjusts for height, not reach, so it can be tricky to get a good driving position, particularly for taller drivers.

Rear passenger space is great, measuring up favourably against the Ford and the VW. Legroom is particularly good, but taller passengers might find headroom a little limited. The seats are really comfortable too, so long distances in the back should be a breeze.

Boot space is impressive – at 435 litres it’s more than 50 litres up on the Focus and Golf and bigger than other electric cars like the Hyundai Kona Electric. However, it’s not the best shape, with a large lip to lift items over and a ridge that means you can’t easily slide long items through when the rear seats are folded. There’s also nowhere to store the charging cables, so they eat into space a bit too.

As well as being a practical interior it’s also an interesting design, but some areas have aged quickly, such as the infotainment system, which has been upped to 8.0 inches as standard on facelifted cars, but is still dwarfed by other EVs. The phone app that lets you see information such as battery charge, as well as control some functions away from the car, also has a lot of complaints from owners for regularly not working. It currently has a rating of 1.5 out of five on the App Store.

There are also quite a few dark, brittle plastics on the doors and dashboard, while some of the buttons feel cheap to use. The cabin is far from a deal-breaker, but there are newer alternatives that feel more premium inside.

What’s it like to drive?

As with any electric car, one of the first things you notice about the Leaf is just how quiet it is. Nissan has done a great job of tuning out excessive wind and road noise, making it a relaxing place to be, though the VW e-Golf is quieter still.

It’s very comfortable, too. Electric cars tend to be quite jiggly over bumps, but the Leaf irons out potholes better than most. In fact, Nissan’s engineers tuned the car’s suspension to work specifically on UK roads, and it shows.

With its focus on comfort, it’s no surprise that the Leaf isn’t exactly fun in corners, but it handles a country road better than you might think. Out on the motorway it’s not quite as refined as competitors, but you won’t find tyre roar too intrusive.

Around town is where the Leaf is at home, though. This is particularly true when using the e-Pedal system, which increases the regenerative braking, using the motors to harvest energy while decelerating to feed back into the battery. The result is that the car slows much more quickly than normal, so you can effectively drive without touching the brake.

What to look out for

There are a couple of key things to look out for when buying any used electric vehicle. The first is that the charging cables are present, because these can be expensive to buy separately if you get home and realise they’re missing.

Also give the brakes a visual inspection. Electric car drivers use the brakes less than those in petrol and diesel cars because of regenerative braking, so the lack of use can lead to corrosion, limiting their effectiveness.

You could also ask for a report from a Nissan dealer on the health of the battery. Some degradation is normal in electric cars and shouldn’t have a drastic effect on range, but getting a professional to check can give peace of mind.

A quick way to check if you should be concerned about the battery is to look at the charge percentage on the car’s display, as well as the expected range. You can then extrapolate this to a full charge, though this range estimate is based on various factors including previous driving style so isn’t a foolproof figure.

If you plan to regularly use rapid public chargers, it’s worth noting that early second-generation models had software that would limit the speed of charging to below 20kW if the car had already been rapid-charged that day, kicking in if the pack hit a pre-set temperature threshold to prolong the battery’s life. The threshold increased around 2019, making multiple charges slightly faster.

Nissan Leaf recalls

Recalls happen regularly in the car industry as the result of a manufacturer or the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) finding an issue with a vehicle.

These are mostly preventative, and can be related to issues as wide-ranging as intermittent electrical faults to potential failures in major components. You can type your number plate into the Government website to find out if there are any related recalls.

You can read more about what recalls are in this handy guide, or continue below to see what recalls have been issued for the Nissan Leaf.

The only recall relating to the second generation Leaf is for 2,547 cars built between July 19th and September 22nd 2019. A poor quality weld could cause the parking lock to fail, which is a system used in electric car transmissions to stop the car unintentionally rolling back when stopped.

Safety and security

One of the Leaf’s key selling points is its impressive safety equipment. Nissan’s advanced driver assistance system called ProPilot was offered on high-spec trims, including advanced cruise control that could keep the vehicle centred in its lane and control the distance to the vehicle in front. It can also bring the car to a stop in traffic, and a gentle prod of the accelerator will reactivate it once the car in front moves off.

ProPilot Park is also a part of this system and can automatically drive the car into a parking space.

Autonomous emergency braking is included as standard, along with other safety kit such as lane-departure warning, blind spot monitoring and two Isofix mounting points in the rear.

When the Leaf was put through Euro NCAP crash tests it scored the full five stars, receiving 93% for adult occupant protection and 86% for children.

What else should I consider?

The Nissan Leaf was something of a trailblazer in the electric family car market, so direct competitors aren’t particularly numerous at the lower end of the budget. The BMW i3 is a more premium option with a cool interior, but it’s smaller than the Leaf.

The key alternative here is the Volkswagen e-Golf, which offers a more under-the-radar EV experience, though it has a smaller boot and less range than the Nissan.

Buyers with a higher budget for nearly new cars have much more choice, with plenty of competitors entering the market in the past few years. Some excellent options include the Hyundai Kona, which is a small SUV, and early examples of the Citroen e-C4.

Meanwhile the Mazda MX-30 isn’t big on range but has a lovely interior, and the MG ZS EV lacks badge appeal and quality in places, but offers great value for money.

If you’re interested in buying a used Nissan Leaf, you can find the latest stock from a network of trusted dealers. You can also sell your old car though carwow, and it’s quick and easy. Tap the button below to find out more.