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Nissan turning over new Leaf for electric vehicles

New electric Nissan Leaf looks better, goes further,  provides better value, is more refined and better to drive. Picture: Nissan

New electric Nissan Leaf looks better, goes further, provides better value, is more refined and better to drive. Picture: Nissan

Nissan

Having dominated the electric vehicle market since its initial release, the Nissan Leaf is back. Can it pick up where it left off? Darren Cassey finds out.

Nissan Leaf is much more stylish than before, a handsome car. Picture: NissanNissan Leaf is much more stylish than before, a handsome car. Picture: Nissan

The new Nissan Leaf, second generation of the best-selling electric vehicle which accounted for nearly half of all UK pure electric car sales in the UK last year, has advanced technology, a new look and longer range.

It’s also the poster child for Nissan’s ‘Intelligent Mobility’ eco system. The Japanese firm is branching out to promote a more sustainable society, using renewable energy and allowing owners to plug their vehicles into the grid to support the national network.

Electric vehicles are more expensive than petrol and diesel models but the new Leaf’s starting price is £1,500 lower.

Tablet-like display, embedded into the dashboard, features a larger seven-inch screen. Picture: NissanTablet-like display, embedded into the dashboard, features a larger seven-inch screen. Picture: Nissan

What’s new?

Pretty much everything is new, from the uprated battery and motor, to the exterior and interior styling. There’s also Nissan’s ProPilot semi-autonomous driving assistance features, appearing in the UK for the first time on top-spec cars, essentially adaptive cruise control and self parking.

The other standout feature is e-Pedal to ramp up the regenerative braking – 90pc of driving can be done without using the brakes. It’s easy to use and helps to extend range.

Nissan Leaf's electric range on a charge is now a realistic 177 miles. Picture: NissanNissan Leaf's electric range on a charge is now a realistic 177 miles. Picture: Nissan

Under the bonnet

The fourth-generation electric powertrain has a 40kWh battery, up from 30kWh, giving 148bhp and 320Nm of torque so plenty of punch. Range has risen to 235 miles on the standard NEDC cycle but Nissan prefers to tout 177 miles from the new, more realistic WLTP combined cycle testing. With the e-Pedal, it’s entirely achievable.

How it drives

Nissan Leaf's 435-litre boot can cope with family duties. Picture: NissanNissan Leaf's 435-litre boot can cope with family duties. Picture: Nissan

Few C-segment rivals could keep pace with the Leaf off the line. The electric motor’s instant torque is incredibly satisfying, and useful when darting into gaps in traffic or overtaking.

Attack a winding back road and the weight of the batteries quickly overcomes the low-grip economy tyres but around town, where most of these cars will be driven, it’s quiet and stress-free. Wind and tyre noise are minimal – admirable with no internal combustion engine to mask the sound.

Looks and image

The second generation Leaf moves the game on substantially. It’s a handsome car, with a sharply-styled front end.

What’s perhaps more important is that now it looks like a serious car that ordinary people could buy, not an oddball electric vehicle that takes some explaining.

Inside

The interior looks vaguely similar to that of the old Leaf but improved in every way. The central tablet-like display, embedded into the dashboard, features a larger seven-inch screen. Menus are easy to navigate but graphics look a bit dated.

The new flat-bottomed steering wheel with a slim central hub adds a more premium feel, and the dashboard plastics look more expensive but are still hard. One negative is the large pillars hamper visibility – not ideal for a city car.

There’s decent rear legroom, but the sloping roof affects headroom. A deep 435-litre boot holds a good load of luggage.

Final say

Nissan has really stepped up to the plate with the new Leaf – it looks better, goes further and provides better value. The ride is composed and there’s a real sense of refinement from a decent interior and lack of noise from outside.

The new Leaf is an impressive package – expect its domination of the pure EV market to continue.

SPEC AND TECH

Price: £21,990 to £27,490 after £4,500 government grant

Performance: 0-62mph 7.9 seconds; top speed 89mph

Range: 177 miles

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