Nissan Leaf Review
The Nissan Leaf is a smart-looking electric family 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
- Big boot
- Decent range
- Clever driver assistance features
What's not so good
- Average infotainment
- Feels cheap in places
- Rear headroom
Nissan Leaf: what would you like to read next?
Remember when being eco-aware meant living in a commune and kicking a hacky sack around all day? Those days are long gone. The electric, zero-emission car revolution is well underway and the Nissan Leaf has been the trailblazer.
The Nissan Leaf is also the 2018 carwow Innovation Award winner, in particular for its e-Pedal system. This makes driving less stressful by using the car’s brake regeneration system to slow it down rather than the brakes, allowing you to drive much of the time using just the accelerator. The Leaf is a tempting alternative to the Volkswagen e-Golf, which looks a little dull by comparison, costs more and has a shorter range.
The outside of the Nissan Leaf is striking 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 when a large part of the dash is leather-trimmed on top-spec cars – and some parts are rather low rent compared with what you’ll find in a Volkswagen.
The Leaf’s infotainment system also falls behind what you get in a VW, due to 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.
Unfortunately, the Leaf isn‘t quite as spacious inside as an e-Golf, either. There are no issues with front space for adults, but a couple more in the back will find their heads brushing the ceiling, even if knee room is generous. The Leaf’s boot is better than the e-Golf’s, though, although Tekna models give some space away to a subwoofer.
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, you can use the Nissan Leaf for family weekends away. Nissan claims the standard car will travel 168 miles between charges but you can get a more powerful Leaf e+ version that also gets an improved a 239-mile range. You’ll need to set aside six hours to brim the Leaf’s batteries at home using a dedicated wall box at home but you can top it up to 80% charged in just 40 minutes using a public fast charger.
Once you’re on the move, you’ll find both Nissan Leaf versions are ideally suited to zipping around town. You’ll hear almost no noise from its electric motor – even when you accelerate hard – and its suspension absorbs bumps pretty well, too. It cruises along at motorway speeds pretty handily and it’ll tackle a few twisty roads without a great deal of body lean – just the thing to help stop passengers feeling car sick.
You can even get the Nissan Leaf with some great safety systems to let you rest easy. Every model gets automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection and blind-spot warning, but the optional Pro Pilot feature is well worth paying extra for because it lets the Leaf accelerate, brake and steer for you on motorways and in heavy traffic.
If you don’t mind paying a bit extra, then, the Nissan Leaf makes a good family car that’s easy to drive, pretty practical and incredibly cheap to run – providing you have somewhere to charge it up overnight. Check out the latest Nissan Leaf deals to see how much you can save on one.
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 swamped 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% more than you’ll 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 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. 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 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 those numbers, however. In normal driving conditions – especially if you spend any time on motorways – you can expect to cover a bit less.
The 40kWh standard leaf can crack 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds, so is perfect for darting in and out of town traffic and sprinting down motorway slip roads. The 62kWh e+ model gets to 62mph a whole second quicker and feels warm hatch quick when you floor its throttle.
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) although a dedicated fast-charger will get the battery to 80% full 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.
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 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.