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Nissan charges ahead as electric Leaf is improved

PUBLISHED: 08:53 29 June 2013

Nissan's second-generation Leaf has less weight, more range and a design more closely tailored to real-world demands.

Nissan's second-generation Leaf has less weight, more range and a design more closely tailored to real-world demands.

Nissan

Nissan has increased the range and cut the price of the second-generation Leaf which makes it more appealing, says Matt Kimberley, PA motoring writer.

Nissan Leaf

Price: Nissan Leaf Visia £20,990 including batteries, £15,990 plus battery lease; Acenta £23, 490, £18,490; Tekna, £25,490, £20,490.

Motor: 80kW (109PS) electric motor

Transmission: Single-speed automatic transmission with selectable modes

Performance: 0-62mph 11.5 seconds.

Range: Up to 124 miles

Charge time/cost: 80% in 30 minutes

Nissan is on a bit of a roll. While some manufacturers are still working on their first electric cars Nissan is rolling out the second-generation Leaf, with less weight, more range and a design more closely tailored to real-world demands.

The biggest input into the new car has come from existing customers, which explains why it looks so similar to the old one. Nissan says the Leaf gets the highest customer satisfaction scores of any car it makes – as much as 93%.

But there were some things wrong with the old car. The pale interior came in for a lot of criticism. The Japanese love beige upholstery but European versions of the Leaf II have switched to black, including black leather on the top model.

The single old trim option has expanded to Visia, Acenta and Tekna, making the Leaf more affordable at one end and better equipped at the other. Combined with the choice of whether to buy the entire car outright or save £5,000 and lease the batteries, the headline price now starts from under £16,000 after the £5,000 government grant. Suddenly the Leaf seems a lot more affordable.

The boot is bigger – at 370 litres it’s technically just 10 litres short of those of the new Volkswagen Golf and SEAT Leon, although it’s not so conveniently shaped. Still, a 40-litre boost thanks to relocated technology means space for one more suitcase.

This time Nissan has given the European car its own suspension tune. The overly soft, sometimes wobbly ride of the old car was a cause for complaint. The new set-up is damped with greater conviction to reduce pitch and bounce. It works, too, controlling body movement better while retaining the good ride quality that defined the first Leaf. It absorbs bumps and potholes with confidence, composure and impressively quietly. Uncommonly so, in fact, compared to almost any rival.

The drivetrain is quiet and vibration-free, reducing driver fatigue and irritation behind the wheel. Driving the new Leaf is thoroughly relaxing, with thoughtfully- shaped seats that support your spine well. The padding offers a good balance of soft comfort and measured support and the variable-ratio steering is pleasant at all speeds, but it does give something away in terms of initial turn-in response and there’s no reach adjustment for the wheel.

The batteries now offer a potential 120 miles or more in ideal conditions from a full charge. A real-world 100 miles should be normal in summer. Part of this increase comes from a weight reduction of 32kg. That drivetrain has been modified with new torque mapping and an extra driving mode, labelled B. It increases the ‘engine braking’ effect to closer replicate being in a low gear in an internal combustion-engined car, increasing the amount of energy the car recuperates in the process. It’s brilliant for hilly routes, where the energy recuperated can be almost as much as the energy you use.

The top-spec Tekna model driven here feels like a luxurious car, with heated seats even in the back, leather upholstery, climate control, extensive in-car systems readout and sat-nav. The only notable flaws are the shiny plastic surrounds for the door panel switches, which are likely to scratch.

And yet the price is very reasonable when compared to other top-spec cars. You’re getting a very advanced thing, with the capacity to recoup 80% of its full charge in 30 minutes and to cost less than £2 for every 100 miles you drive.

The overall impression is hugely positive. At this price, maybe now’s the time to consider the Leaf.


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