Nissan Leaf Review
The Nissan Leaf is a smart-looking electric car with decent range and a big boot but alternatives feel plusher inside and come with more intuitive infotainment systems.
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
- Roomy boot
- Plenty of clever safety kit
- Upgraded models have a good range
What's not so good
- Sluggish infotainment
- Interior feels a bit cheap in places
- Alternatives are roomier in the back
Nissan Leaf: what would you like to read next?
Parking an electric car on your driveway used to make a pretty bold statement – a bit like wearing hemp clothes and turning your front lawn into a vegetable patch. Now, however, your neighbours probably won’t bat an eyelid if you roll up in a brand-new electric Nissan Leaf.
That said, it looks more futuristic than the likes of a VW e-Golf, thanks to its angular front end, smooth grille-less bumper and optional contrasting roof. There are a few subtle blue highlights that hint at the Leaf’s electric credentials, too, but that’s about it.
It’s a similar story inside, where you’ll be greeted by a fairly unassuming, yet nicely laid out cabin. Entry-level models look pretty plain, but higher-spec cars come with some partial leather seats with blue stitching to spruce things up a bit.
You don’t have to fork out for any of the Nissan Leaf’s cool infotainment tech, however, because you get sat-nav, smartphone mirroring and a digital driver’s display as standard. It’s just a shame that the 8.0-inch touchscreen isn’t particularly responsive.
You won’t have any complaints when it comes to carrying passengers, though. There’s space for four adults to sit comfortably – although three in the back is more of a squeeze than in an e-Golf – and the Leaf has a pretty generous boot for a small family hatchback.
You’ll want to consider the Nissan Leaf if you’re looking for a cheap-to-run electric car that’s comfortable and has a decent boot. You’ll need somewhere to charge it overnight, though.
Unlike some electric cars, the Nissan Leaf is perfectly capable of carrying you and a few friends for a weekend away. The standard 150hp model can travel for up to 168 miles on a charge while the upgraded 217hp Leaf e+ can manage as many as 239 miles.
You’ll find it copes very well with motorway journeys for a relatively small electric car, too. Its electric motor is almost silent while you’re cruising along, it softens bumps nicely and you won’t hear a great deal of wind or tyre noise at speed, either.
Both versions of the Nissan Leaf feel punchy enough to nip through traffic, too, and the upright seating position and large windows help you get a good view out – just the thing for manoeuvring in town. You even get a range of safety features designed to prevent avoidable crashes and there’s an optional Pro Pilot feature that’ll accelerate, brake and steer for you on motorways to help take the sting out of long drives.
The Nissan Leaf, then, makes a very good family car if you’re prepared to pay a little extra for a few desirable options. Just make sure you’ve got somewhere to charge it regularly to take advantage of cheap electric-car running costs.
How much does it cost to charge a Nissan Leaf?
How much it costs to charge your Nissan Leaf will depend on the type of charger you use and your household electricity tariff. A complete charge from a three-pin household plug socket taking 13 hours could cost from as little as £6.60 for the standard 40kWh Leaf. The longer-range 62kWh Leaf e+ would take around 20 hours and cost from £10.
How many years will a Nissan Leaf battery last?
How many years the Nissan Leaf’s battery lasts will depend on how much you drive it, how often you use a public fast charger and whether you live somewhere prone to extremely cold winter weather – among other factors. Nissan offers an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty on the Leaf’s battery, so you can expect it to last at least that long without any significant reduction in range.
The Nissan Leaf’s interior is quiet, comfortable and the dashboard is easy to navigate. Some cheap-feeling materials let the side down a bit, though
There’s more than enough space in the Nissan Leaf’s cabin for two adults and three kids but tall passengers don’t have much space to stretch out in the back
Unlike in some electric cars, the Leaf's batteries barely encroach into the available boot space – there's more room in there than you get in some conventional family cars
The Nissan Leaf has supportive front seats that are more upright than in some hatchbacks, but at least they help you get a good view out. Every model gets a height-adjustable driver’s seat and N-Connecta models and above come with heated front and rear seats as standard.
The back seats are just about big enough for two adults and there’s lots of room for young kids. There’s enough legroom for a six-foot adult to sit behind someone of similar stature but headroom is the limiting factor – anyone over six-feet tall will brush their hair on the roof. That is partly because of the high-set seats, but at least these mean children get a good view out which should stave off car sickness on long drives.
The news isn’t so positive when you try to fit three people in the rear – there’s no space for the middle person’s feet because most of the space is taken up by a large hump in the middle of the floor.
Fitting a child seat is easy – the Isofix mounting points in the back seats are simple to spot, marked by the familiar child-seat logo and an arrow, and you can have Isofix in the front passenger seat as an option. The only slight complaint is rear doors that don’t open as wide as those in the VW e-Golf.
The Nissan Leaf isn’t exactly awash with cubbies and storage bins but there’s still space to store your everyday items. Wallets and keys go in the small cubby below the climate controls, your smartphone goes into the smallish but deep lidded central storage area and there are two cup holders for your drinks.
There’s also a 12V socket in the centre console and a USB port next to it – although you’d expect at least two USB ports in a car like this. Back-seat passengers aren’t so spoilt for storage – they get a pair of door bins but they’re a little on the small size.
The Nissan Leaf has 400 litres of boot space which is more than enough for a small family car and more than 20% up on what you can squeeze into an e-Golf’s boot. Unfortunately, there’s a large load lip by the boot opening which makes it tricky to load heavy luggage.
Should you need more space, the rear seats can be flipped forward on a two-way split with just one hand but they don’t form a flat surface once folded. However, there are a couple of tether points to secure your luggage as well as nets on the side where you can store bits and bobs. There’s space for a bike with both its wheels attached, but it isn’t particularly easy to push boxes right up behind the front seats.
If you go for the top-spec Tekna car, the amplifier for the Bose stereo is mounted in the middle of the boot and takes up a little boot space.
Above all else, the Nissan Leaf is easy to drive, but it’s also comfortable over bumps and stable around corners. It still has a much shorter range than a petrol or diesel model, though
The Nissan Leaf is no rocket ship, but it’ll give a small family car a run for its money away from the traffic lights and it has a decent range for an electric car
The electric motor fitted to the Nissan Leaf is not only more powerful than in the previous model, but also more efficient. Nissan claims the standard Leaf can travel for up to 168 miles between charges, but if that doesn’t sound like enough there’s a more expensive Leaf e+ model with a 239-mile range.
You’ll have to drive with quite a bit of patience to get close to those numbers, however. In normal driving conditions – especially if you spend any time on motorways – you can expect to need to recharge rather sooner.
The 40kWh standard Leaf with 150hp can hit 60mph from rest in less than 7.9 seconds, so it’s perfect for darting in and out of town traffic and sprinting down motorway slip roads. The 62kWh e+ model with 217hp gets to 60mph around a second quicker so it feels significantly faster.
Charging the Nissan Leaf takes a lot longer than refuelling a conventional car – install a 6kW wall-mounted charger at home and it’ll take about six hours for a full charge (half the time it takes from a three-prong plug) although a dedicated public fast-charger will get the battery to 80% full from almost empty in about 40 minutes.
It’s worth bearing in mind that if you need to use a fast charger more than once in succession, the second charge will take longer than the first. This is due to a piece of software which helps to extend the life of the Leaf’s batteries by slowing the rate at which the batteries can be recharged.
The Nissan Leaf has a more stylish shape than a VW e-Golf but the downside is you get larger blind spots when you glance over your shoulder. That said, overall visibility is pretty good and the upright driving position also helps with judging where the corners of the car.
That’s a bonus when parking and all models from Acenta guise upwards get a reversing camera as standard. Mid-range N-Connecta cars get front and rear parking sensors and a 360-degree camera that gives you a bird’s eye view when parking.
Alternatively, you can get a Park Pilot system that’ll steer you into bay and parallel parking spaces – it’s only available on models equipped with the ProPilot autonomous driving assist feature that’ll accelerate, brake and steer for you on motorways.
Even without this clever tech, the Nissan Leaf is a relaxing car to travel in. It does a really good job of ironing out potholes around town – you hear a few more clunks and noises than you would in an e-Golf, but overall it’s quite comfortable – and there’s almost no noise from the electric motor.
On the open road, it won’t shock you to learn the Nissan Leaf doesn’t pretend to be a sports car but it goes around corners better than you might expect from this type of car. The heavy batteries mounted low in the floor make the Nissan Leaf feel planted to the road and also help stop its body from leaning in corners. Plus, with no petrol or diesel engine to drone away at motorway speeds, you’ll find it’s eerily silent at a cruise.
The Leaf’s clever e-Pedal system means you can drive it in most situations without using the brake pedal, too. You press the accelerator to move forward but lift the pedal slightly to engage the regenerative braking – a system that uses the car’s motors to slow it down while simultaneously recharging the batteries slightly. Of course, for harder braking – such as an emergency stop – you’ll still need to use the brake pedal.
Speaking of emergency situations, the Nissan Leaf comes as standard with plenty of active safety tech, including lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist and auto-dipping headlights. If you happen to fall asleep while the optional ProPilot driving assistant is on, the system will bring the car to a stop on the side of the road and put on the hazard lights.