If you only commute short distances and can charge your car at home, then the Leaf could be just what you’re looking for. It will reduce your fuel bills and cut your vehicle emissions to zero.
Nissan was a pioneer when it launched its Leaf in 2011 and it sold more than any other EV (electric vehicle) on the planet. They improved things with an update in 2013 and then the second generation arrived in 2018 with more technology, a better range and improved looks.
Nissan claims a driving distance range of 155 miles for the 30 kWh original. As with all EVs, the official range can be dramatically reduced depending on how you drive, whether there are hills on your route and if you use the air con.
The first-generation Leaf is very practical with lots of interior space and great visibility. The interior is comfortable whether you’re the driver or a passenger, while the silent running provides a lovely feeling of serenity.
The second generation has had major improvements to the interior which makes the whole experience even better. The improved trim design and colours give it a slightly more premium look and feel.
The dashboard is split into two with speed and other info shown on the top, while the digital instrument cluster displays your range and other driving details. The centre-mounted console features a simple to use infotainment system and everything feels solid. This was improved with more modern design on the second-generation Leaf.
Boot space of the first-generation is good at 370 litres, which is big enough for four suitcases or a large pram. You can also expand it by folding the back seats down. The boot size increased to 435 litres with the second-generation.
If you haven’t driven an electric car before it will bring a smile to your face. Acceleration is brisk thanks to an electric motor that picks up speed quickly.
The steering is very light and the driving position is suitable for most. The seating position is slightly higher than you’d get in a traditional car because the batteries are stored beneath the floor. The gearstick can feel awkward at times but it doesn’t take long to get used to. This has been improved in the second-generation model.
It also has a lever E-pedal accelerator. This works like any other accelerator pedal, but when you take your foot off the car brakes and almost comes to a halt. It’s meant to help improve your efficiency when driving.
Ride comfort is excellent in town and country, but it can feel a little strained at motorway speeds. Charging is easy, but with the first-generation, you’ll need power points on your route, unless you only ever plan to charge at home for short trips.
The previous generation Leaf suffered high depreciation from new, which was bad news for new buyers, but great if you’re buying used.
Running costs are excellent, especially if you can charge at home or the office. Even public recharging will only cost you a couple of hundred pounds a year if you do average mileage. Maintenance is low due to fewer mechanical parts compared with a petrol or diesel-engined car and you’ll pay slightly less for servicing.
Road tax is zero, but the Leaf does sit in a higher insurance group than some petrol and diesel rivals.
With fewer parts, the electric Leaf is one of the most reliable cars there is with hardly any problems reported. Nissan gave the first-generation a five-year warranty on the battery range, but increased it on the second-generation to eight years or 100,000 miles.
Safety is excellent. The Leaf received a full five stars from Euro NCAP and has reasonable safety technology, with more on the second-generation.
Best for economy - 30 kWh Acenta
Best for family - 30 kWh Acenta
Best for fun - 30 kWh Tekna
Choices are limited with the Nissan Leaf. If you’re looking at the first-generation then the 30kWh battery version will give you longer range with a claimed 155 miles.
Acenta spec gives you all you’ll need, such as an intelligent sat nav that shows where you can top-up a charge and an improved stereo system. If you want the best equipment, the Tekna version will give you, among other things, heated seats and an excellent Bose sound system.