Nissan Leaf Review
The Nissan Leaf is a practical electric car that’s good to drive and offers great value for money.
Published: 6 February 2023
The second-generation Nissan Leaf (sold new since 2018) is a pure-electric mid-size hatchback that builds on the strength of the first-generation Leaf (sold new between 2011 and 2018). It’s a good all-rounder that scores highly for value and practicality. Battery range is much improved over the first Leaf although it can’t go as far as some newer rivals on a full charge.
There are two versions of this Leaf model: the ‘regular’ Leaf and the Leaf e+, which has more power and a longer range. There are several trim levels to choose from, each with a different package of features included as standard.
- Very roomy for passengers
- Lots of safety features
- Really easy to drive
- Relatively short range
- Longish charging times
- Infotainment looks out-of-date
Dashboard & tech
There are a lot of buttons spread across the Leaf’s dashboard, steering wheel and doors. You could argue there are too many, but it’s easy to find them all and they’re clearly labelled.
All Leaf models have a touchscreen infotainment system set into the dashboard. It features sat nav, DAB radio and Bluetooth, and supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto if you want to connect your phone. The system is easy to navigate but the graphics look a bit out-of-date compared with newer rivals such as the Volkswagen ID.3.
Riding in the Leaf is a comfortable and relaxing experience. The seats feel quite soft but hold you in place well, so you’re unlikely to develop any extra aches during a journey. There’s a wide range of adjustment for the driver’s seat, less so for the steering wheel, so some people may find it tricky to find a driving position that suits them. If you can get comfortable behind the wheel, though, the driving position is very good. You sit quite high up and the windows are large, so you have a really good view out.
The higher seating position also makes getting in easy and the doors open nice and wide, giving you plenty of space to hop in and get comfy.
All the things you touch most often in the Leaf’s interior – steering wheel, gear selector, air con controls, door handles – have a pleasant feel to them. There are some more-functional materials dotted throughout the interior, but they’re mostly hidden from view. The whole interior feels robust, so you shouldn't have to worry about it standing up to the rigours of everyday use.
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Practicality & boot space
The Leaf is one of the larger mid-size hatchbacks so the amount of passenger space is very generous. There’s enough headroom and legroom for someone six feet or more tall to sit in any of the five seats, a rare thing in a car this size. If you have children, you’ll find there’s lots of room to work in to install a child seat on the Isofix mounts, and to get the kids in and out.
There are useful storage spaces throughout the interior, too: door bins large enough for a 1-litre drinks bottle, a large glovebox, two cupholders in the centre console and a phone tray in front of the gear selector.
Whether you’re comparing it with petrol/diesel or electric rivals, the Leaf has one of the largest boots of any mid-size hatchback. Its 435-litre capacity should easily hold a heavy-duty shopping trip and you shouldn’t have to pack especially lightly for a family holiday. Top-of-the-range models lose a bit of boot space to some components for the Bose stereo, which sit against the back seat. There’s also quite a long drop from the back bumper down to the boot floor, but the opening to load stuff through is pretty big.
You can fold down the Leaf’s back seats if you need to carry bigger loads, in a two-piece 60/40 split, freeing up a total 1,176 litres of space. However, that space is a bit awkward to use. The car’s batteries are underneath the back seats, which are therefore mounted quite high up. That means there’s a long drop from the folded back seats to the boot floor. So what you have, in effect, is two interconnected spaces, rather than one big space. Still, it’s useful if you need to go to the tip or take one of your kids to university.
The Leaf is in its element when you’re driving around town. The steering is very light, the big windows give you a great view out, the standard reversing camera makes parking easy and you can make best use of the ‘E-Pedal’ driving mode. What’s that? Lifting off the throttle causes the electric motor to spin in reverse to recharge the batteries but it also has the effect of slowing your speed.
In E-Pedal mode, the slowing effect is so strong that you can bring the car to a complete stop just by lifting off the throttle, rather than pressing the brake pedal. Although you do occasionally have to use the brakes to stop in a hurry. It takes a bit of time to get used to so-called ‘one pedal’ driving, but it can become completely intuitive.
Out of town, the Leaf is perfectly pleasant to drive. It feels agile and responsive, the body barely leans when rounding corners and the ride is comfortable. It feels solid and stable on the motorway, too.
Electric cars always feel really nippy in town and the Leaf is no exception. That’s because all of an electric motor’s power is available the instant you press the throttle pedal. As a result, the Leaf can move pretty quickly when you need it to. The more powerful Leaf e+ is even quicker, giving plenty of sporty hot hatchbacks a run for their money.
More relevantly, the Leaf can overtake slow-moving traffic on a country road or accelerate down a motorway slip at least as quickly as a petrol or diesel car with a similar amount of power. And, unlike some other electric cars, it feels like it has some power in reserve when you’re cruising along at 60mph or more.
Fuel economy & CO2 emissions
The 40kWh battery fitted to ‘regular’ Leaf models can give a range of 168 miles, according to official figures. Leaf e+ models have a bigger 62kWh battery which can give a range of 239 miles, although many rival electric cars of a similar size have a longer range, with some capable of more than 300 miles on a full charge according to official figures.
Recharging both the Leaf and Leaf e+ takes around seven hours from empty using a 7.4kW wallbox such as you’re likely to have at home or work. Using a public 50kW rapid charger is quicker, taking 60 to 90 minutes to top up from zero to 80%. Note that some Leaf models have a 6.6kW on-board charger which speeds up charging. There are other electric cars that recharge faster, though.
As with any electric car, the Leaf emits no carbon dioxide (CO2) so you currently don’t have to pay any car tax on it.
Value for money
You get lots of space and features in the Leaf for a relatively affordable price by electric car standards, so it’s pretty good value overall.
Reliability & Warranty
Nissan as a brand achieved a fourth-place ranking in the most recent J.D. Power UK Vehicle Dependability Study (in 2019). The Leaf specifically is generally very reliable, so you’re unlikely to experience any major issues with it.
Nissan provides a warranty that lasts three years or 60,000 miles (whichever comes first) on a brand-new Leaf, the same level of coverage as pretty much every other car maker provides. Buy a used Leaf within those time limits and it’ll still be covered by the warranty.
All Leaf models come with lots of advanced driver-safety features. These include adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and rear cross-traffic alert. Some models also have a driver-attention monitor and a 360-degree camera system that detects objects that are too close to the car. Safety organisation Euro NCAP awarded a full-five safety rating to the Leaf.
Trims & Engines
There are three ‘core’ trim levels available on the Leaf – Acenta, N-Connecta and Tekna – and all are very well equipped. The entry-point Acenta has an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, built-in sat nav, DAB radio, Bluetooth, air con, adaptive cruise control and a reversing camera. N-Connecta is distinguished by bigger 17-inch alloy wheels and privacy glass and has front and rear parking sensors, heated seats front and back, a heated steering wheel and a faster 6.6kW on-board charger. Tekna tops the range with leather and suede seat upholstery, and a Bose stereo.
You may also come across other trim levels including 2.Zero, 3.Zero, Visia and N-Tec. These were only available for a short period of time and were either replaced or dropped. Visia was the original entry-point model, N-Tec slotted in between N-Connecta and Tekna and 2.Zero and 3.Zero were renamed N-Connecta and Tekna.
There are two different electric motors available in the Leaf, one with 148bhp that’s fitted to ‘regular’ models and one that has 217bhp and is fitted to Leaf e+ models. The Leaf e+ provides a much higher level of performance – it can make a very quick getaway if you need it. But the bigger, perhaps more relevant, difference between the two motors is that they come with different-size batteries. The Leaf has a 40kWh battery and the Leaf e+ has a 62kWh battery. As a result, the Leaf e+ has a longer official range by about 70 miles.
Being an electric car, the Leaf is an automatic. Selecting ‘Drive’ or ‘Reverse’ with the mushroom-shaped gear selector simply instructs the motor to spin forwards or backwards.
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