Now, 12 years on, the Nissan Leaf is still a competitive EV in a much more saturated class. It holds it's own next to the BMW i3, VW ID.3 and Renault Zoe, leading the field with innovations like bi-directional charging (supplying energy back to the grid). In 2021 it celebrated being the UK’s best-selling electric car to date.
There’s plenty of ground to cover with this market-changing EV, so let’s dive in.
Considering the Nissan Leaf has been around for more than a decade, there are surprisingly only two generations. The second landed in 2018, and among other changes, the design was given an overhaul. It's since been more futuristic and less squat in appearance.
It’s also sleeker, channelling the newer trend for more minimalist techy-looking appearances. The front V-motion grille remains – as it’s very much a symbol of the Nissan family – but the blue colour sets this electric car apart from its combustion cousins.
The floating roof modernises the Leaf and adds aerodynamism and sense of movement, while elongated LED headlights complement the boomerang design. It’s a practical car that’s very pleasant in appearance, but isn’t made to be a jaws-on-the-floor sensation.
What's it like to drive?
There are five Leaf models to choose from, varying in price and specification from the entry-level Acenta all the way up to the e+Tekna. All models of the second-generation Leaf can go further on a single charge, have more power and more torque and more driving assists than the first.
There are two battery options: 40kWh and 62kWh. The 40kWh battery gives you 0-62 mph in eight seconds and the 62kWh battery (e+ mentioned above) cuts it down to just under seven seconds. The acceleration is surprisingly zippy, although don’t expect the ‘ludicrous mode’ of a Tesla Model 3.
While speed is important, especially for darting around the city, how much range you get from your EV is more important. The official range for the 40kWh battery is 168 miles, while the 62kWh version claims 239 miles. Even if you opt for the smaller battery, you should be able to go further on a single charge than similar electric hatchbacks like the BMW i3.
It's comfortable to drive, especially on motorways, and the handling is good through tight bends. Grip is pretty decent too, and the rear-wheel drive makes it more fun than some nippier little electric cars like the Fiat 500e or Volkswagen ID.3. One-pedal drive (or 'e-pedal' as Nissan calls it) makes cruising around the city very relaxing and naturally smooth.
All models of the second-generation Leaf can go further on a single charge
The Leaf’s interior hits the premium-feeling end of affordability. It’s clean and well appointed, with a mix of big tech and functional buttons.
The post-2018 interior was overhauled and now has a more understated look, better-quality materials and is generally a much nicer place to spend time. There’s a seven-inch touchscreen and the driver’s display is clear, and quickly shows you the most important summaries of your trip. Some cars also come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
In terms of safety features, expect your Leaf to be kitted out with ProPilot, which includes lane assist and autonomous emergency braking. ProPilot Park will help you park by assisting with braking, handling and using parking sensors. You can manually adjust your settings via the main infotainment screen.
For a small car, the Leaf is more like an SUV in terms of driving position. You sit high up, and you can adjust the steering wheel to minuscule amounts. The dashboard is very user-friendly so it’s easy to navigate while you’re driving, and visibility ahead is great, although the side pillars block your view a little.
A cool feature on the top-line Tekna is that the rear-view mirror is actually a camera. Taller people have plenty of space – headroom and legroom – but tall people riding in the back might feel a bit squished.
Storage throughout the cabin is decent, with cubby holes for keys and cupholders. It’s never going to be SUV-sized, but it’s perfectly good as a small family car.
It’s never going to be SUV sized, but it’s perfectly good as a small family car.
Running costs and reliability
The Leaf is an electric car, so running costs are usually lower than combustion. Expect to pay around £11.20 (at the time of writing) to charge the 40kWh Leaf at home (based on a 6.67p rate). Electric cars have fewer moving parts too, so maintenance costs will likely be lower due to less wear and tear.
What we love
The Leaf is a reassuring fixture on the EV circuit, and we love that it continues to surprise us even though it's been around longer than most.
It still looks modern, holds its own in terms of range, and with this new bi-directional charging, it’s still proving to be one of the most eco-friendly EVs you can buy.
We love that it continues to surprise us even though it's been around longer than most
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Thanks to the 2018 updates, the Leaf continues to be a very well-equipped, affordable and reliable electric car, and it's versatile for your everyday needs.
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