Nissan Leaf Review

The Nissan Leaf is a comfortable, eco-friendly family car with good looks. However, its infotainment system is outdated and the interior quality is inconsistent

8/10
Wowscore

This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

What's good

  • Decent range
  • Big boot for a car this size
  • Nippy

What's not so good

  • Some cheap-looking materials inside
  • Regenerative brakes feel odd at first
  • Dated infotainment

What do you want to read about Nissan Leaf?

Overall verdict

The Nissan Leaf is a comfortable, eco-friendly family car with good looks. However, its infotainment system is outdated and the interior quality is inconsistent

If you’re looking for an electric family car that’s practical and distinctive, then the Nissan Leaf should be on your shortlist. It’s also ground-breaking in many ways, winning the Innovation Award in the 2018 carwow awards. In particular, that was for the e-Pedal system, which allows you to drive for almost the whole time using just one pedal.

It’s a tempting alternative to the Volkswagen e-Golf, which looks a little dull by comparison, costs more and has a 70 mile shorter range.

The outside of the Nissan Leaf might be quite pleasing to look at, but the inside has a way to go before it matches the e-Golf’s. The Nissan’s material quality is average – even though a large part of the dash is leather-trimmed on top-spec cars – but some parts are rather low rent compared to what you’ll find in a Volkswagen.

The Leaf’s infotainment system also falls behind what you get in a VW, thanks to low-res graphics and slow loading speeds. However, it does have some redeeming features such as the optional 360-degree camera that gives you a birds-eye view of your surroundings when parking. Alternatively, you can spec a self-parking assistant that’ll do the job for you.

Nissan has turned over a new, er, leaf with the new Leaf by giving it a range that makes it a credible alternative to a petrol car

Mat Watson
carwow expert

While the infotainment system could be improved upon there’s no denying the Leaf is a comfortable car to sit in and the driver’s seat is upright and comfortable, although there’s no reach adjustment to the steering wheel.

You can easily fit two six-foot adults in the back though, and the deep 435-litre boot has more than enough space for family needs, although you have to lift heavy luggage over the tall boot lip. Should you need more space you can fold the rear seats down with one hand.

Driving the Nissan Leaf is just as easy – it only has one gear so you simply put it into drive and off you go. Even braking is a doddle because the Nissan slows itself gently (while its regenerative brakes recharge the battery) the minute you take your foot off the accelerator pedal. Nissan calls the system E-Pedal, and it’ll even bring the car to a stop.

Out on the motorway, there’s surprisingly little wind noise and you can switch on the optional autonomous driving assistant called ProPilot to keep you in your lane, a safe distance from the car in front. Use a dedicated fast-charger and its battery will be 80% charged in about 40 minutes – giving you a decent range of up to 235 miles.

On top of that, the Leaf has a mind-boggling amount of electronic aids and assists that make it one of the safest electric cars on the road.

All in all, the Nissan Leaf is a great electric family car then – it costs buttons to run, is easy to drive, practical and surprisingly nippy. If you can forgive some of the interior shortcomings, the Leaf is a great buy.

What's it like inside?

The Nissan Leaf’s interior is quiet, comfortable and the dashboard is easy to navigate. The material quality lets the side down a bit, though

The Nissan Leaf’s interior is so quiet it feels a bit like travelling to work in a sensory deprivation tank

Mat Watson
carwow expert

How practical is it?

There’s more than enough space in the 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

Mat Watson
carwow expert
Boot (seats up)
435 litres
Boot (seats down)
1,176 litres

The Nissan Leaf has supportive front seats that are more upright than you might expect, which gives you a good view out. Entry-level cars get manual adjustment that’s easy to use and the levers are light to operate. Tekna models come with electrical adjustment and adjustable lumbar support for the driver’s seat for extra back support on a long journey.

The back seat is just about big enough for two adults and there’s lots of room for young kids. There is 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 on the flipside, children get a good view out, which should stave off car sickness.

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 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 swamped with cubbies and storage bins but there are enough 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 this high-tech car. Back-seat passengers aren’t so spoilt for storage – they get door bins that are on the small side and that’s about it.

In terms of sheer volume, the Nissan Leaf has more than enough boot space for a small family and it beats the VW e-Golf for capacity. The Leaf’s 435-litre boot can fit more suitcases and soft bags than a VW e-Golf but the drawback is the huge load lip you have to lift your luggage over.

Should you need more space, the rear seats can be folded with 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. If you go for the top-spec Tekna car, the amplifier for the Bose stereo is mounted in the middle of the boot and, as a result, takes up a little boot space.

Read full interior review

What's it like to drive?

Easy to drive, comfortable and stress-free

Above all else, the Nissan Leaf is easy to drive, but it’s also comfortable over bumps and stable around corners, but it still has a shorter range than a petrol or diesel model

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

Mat Watson
carwow expert

The 150hp electric motor fitted to the Nissan Leaf  is not only more powerful than in the previous model but also more energy efficient – Nissan claims it has a range of 235 miles on a charge but a safer figure would be around 150 miles –   more than what the VW e-Golf can do in the real world, but still a long way off what you’ll get from a conventional diesel or petrol.

Charging the Nissan Leaf also takes a lot longer than refuelling a conventional car – install a 6kW charger at home and it’ll take about six hours for a full charge (half the time it takes from a three-prong plug) and a dedicated fast-charger will get the battery to 80% full in about 40 minutes.

The Nissan Leaf has a more stylish shape than an 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 the corners of the car.

That’s a bonus when parking and all models, bar the entry-level Visia, get a reversing camera. Mid-range N-Connecta cars get front and rear parking sensors and you can also spec a 360-degree camera that gives you a bird’s eye view when parking.

Alternatively, you can get a system that’ll steer you into bay and parallel parking spaces – it’s only available on models equipped with the ProPilot autonomous driving assist that can literally drive the car by itself on the motorway.

Even without the autonomous driving 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 naturally there’s no engine noise even when you accelerate in town.  

On the open road, it won’t shock you to learn the 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 reduce body lean. Plus, with no petrol or diesel engine to drone away at motorway speeds, you’ll find it’s eerily silent at a cruise.

It’s also very safe – all models come with 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.

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