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 easier-to-use infotainment systems.
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- Punchy electric performance
- Plenty of clever safety kit
- E+ models have a good range
What's not so good
- Sluggish infotainment system
- Interior feels a bit cheap in places
- Alternatives are roomier in the back
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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 erecting a wind turbine on your roof. Now, it’s like insisting on using a bag for life or a reusable coffee cup – your neighbours won’t bat an eyelid.
That said, the Nissan Leaf certainly stands out thanks to looks that are more futuristic than other electric cars like the VW e-Golf. Its angular front end, smooth grille-less bumper and optional contrasting roof all see to that. There are a few subtle blue highlights that hint at the Leaf’s electric credentials, but it hardly shouts about it.
It’s a similar story inside, where you’ll find 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.
Appropriately for a futuristic electric car, you don’t have to fork out for any of the Nissan Leaf’s cool infotainment tech. Sat-nav, smartphone mirroring and a digital driver’s display all come as standard. It’s just a shame that the 8-inch touchscreen isn’t particularly responsive.
There are no major compromises when it comes to the passenger space. 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 boot is a decent size 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 heading far enough away for a weekend break with friends. The standard 150hp can manage 168 miles between charges while the top-of-the-range 217hp Leaf e+ can manage as many as 239 miles.
Charging from empty to full at home using a 7kWh charger will take 6.5 hours, while if you plug in to a 50kW rapid charger while out and about then you’ll get from 20% to 80% in 60min on the standard model and 90 minutes on the e+ version. If you charge the e+ model at home it will cost around £9, or some £18 cheaper than fueling a petrol car with the same range.
The electric motor is almost silent while you’re cruising along, which helps the Nissan Leaf cope well with motorway journeys for a relatively small electric car. You won’t hear a great deal of wind or tyre noise at speed, either, and it softens bumps really nicely too.
The swift off-the-line acceleration of the Nissan Leaf means it feels punchy enough to nip through town traffic, too, regardless of which version you go for.
There’s an upright seating position and large windows, which help give you a good view out – just the thing for manoeuvring about 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 makes a good family car, and a better one if you choose a couple of the desirable added extras, too. If you have got easy, regular access to charging then it should offer cheap electric-car running costs, too.
Common Nissan Leaf questions
How much does it cost to charge a Nissan Leaf?
The cost of charging your Nissan Leaf is dependent on the type of home charger you have and what electricity tariff you are on. If you charge the standard 40kWh Leaf from empty using a three-pin household plug then it will take around 13 hours and cost from as little as £6.60. The longer-range 62kWh Leaf e+ will take a little longer – around 20 hours – and cost from £9.
If you have a 7kWh charger at home then charging from empty to full will take 6.5 hours, while if you use a public rapid charger then it will take 60min or 90min to get from 20-80% depending on the model you have.
How many years will a Nissan Leaf battery last?
Like any battery-powered object, the lifespan of the Nissan Leaf’s battery depends on various factors including how much you drive it, how often you use a public fast charger and whether you live somewhere prone to extremely cold winter weather. 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.
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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’s supportive front seats 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 seats in both the front and the back 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 the same sort of height but headroom is a slight issue – anyone taller than six feet will brush their hair on the roof, partly thanks to those high-set seats. On the flip side, this does mean children that get a good view out which should stave off car sickness (and maybe some of the boredom) 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. They are marked by the familiar child-seat logo and an arrow. As a special treat for younger ones, you can have Isofix in the front passenger seat as an option, and the airbag off switch is fairly easy to find. The only slight complaint is the 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, keys or phones can go in the small cubby below the climate controls, stuff you want to tuck out of sight can go into the smallish but deep lidded central storage area between the seats and there are two cup holders for your drinks behind the gear lever.
There’s also a 12V socket in the centre console and just the one USB port next to it – 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 if you leave the parcel shelf in (435 if you take it out), 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.
Practicality is impacted by the 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 – there is a big step up from boot to the rest of the cabin.
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 enough room for a bike with both its wheels attached, but it will take a bit of lifting to get it in and 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 – the space drops by 15 litres overall.
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 has a decent range for an electric car. It’ll give a small family car a run for its money in the first metres away from the traffic lights, too.
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.
Getting close to those numbers is possible, but will require quite a bit of patience. Normal driving, or spending much time on the motorway, will mean you should expect to recharge a little more regularly.
The 40kWh standard Leaf with 150hp is reasonable nippy in town traffic and for sprinting up to motorway speeds. It’ll hit 60mph from rest in less than 7.9 seconds. The 62kWh e+ model with 217hp gets to 60mph a second quicker so it feels significantly faster.
As with every electric car, recharging the Nissan Leaf takes longer than popping to a petrol station. If you get a dedicated 6kW wall charger installed at home then it will take around six hours for a full charge (a three-pin plug will take about twice as long) although a dedicated public fast-charger will get the battery to 80% full from almost empty in about 60 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’s stylish shape may appeal more than the conventional looks of the VW e-Golf, but the downside is that you end up with larger blind spots over your shoulder in the Nissan. Despite this, overall visibility is pretty good and the upright driving position also helps you judge where the corners of the car are when you’re parking.
The reversing camera that comes as standard on all models from Acenta upwards helps with this too. Mid-range N-Connecta cars get front and rear parking sensors and a 360-degree camera that gives you a bird’s eye view that shows the car from above to help you judge the lines in a parking space.
If you don’t fancy taking on bay or parallel parking at all then the Park Pilot system will help with the steering for those manoeuvres. You can only get it on models equipped with the ProPilot autonomous driving assist feature, which will also accelerate, brake and steer for you on motorways.
Even if you don’t have this clever tech and have to do these tasks yourself, 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 a hatchback like this. Because the heavy batteries are mounted low under the floor, it makes the Nissan Leaf feel planted to the road and also help stop its body from leaning in corners. Plus, you’ll find it’s eerily silent at a cruise thanks to the lack of petrol or diesel engine.
The Leaf’s clever e-Pedal system means you can drive it in most situations without even touching the brake pedal. 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. Unlike many regenerative systems it will even bring the car to a total stop. Of course, for harder or emergency braking 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 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 if the driver falls asleep or stops responding at the wheel.
There are a few cheap-feeling materials around the cabin, but the Nissan Leaf’s dashboard is easy to navigate. It’s quiet and comfortable on the move, too.
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