Until 2011 electric cars were meant for people who wanted to improve the world and for techno geeks. The Nissan Leaf changed all of that by introducing a decent family hatchback which, despite the electric drivetrain, had a decent price tag as well.
But... other brands followed suit! Renault introduced the Zoe: a compact electric car with an evenly "compact" price. Vauxhall ended range anxiety with the Ampera-e. Tesla made electric cars fashionable and desirable.
What's left for Nissan to revolutionise? Nothing! The purpose of the new Leaf is exactly the opposite: make electric cars affordable for a large audience. Despite the fact that this second generation is based on the first, its looks are completely different. The first Leaf looked futuristic, while this second generation looks like an everyday hatchback.
The cabin is basically the same as that of the first Leaf, but because other cars got more modern the Leaf now looks average. More traditional colours and materials also make the new Leaf look like an average car. And while more and more carmakers replace analogue gauges with displays, Nissan does the opposite: the analogue speedometer is back in the Leaf. The displays that are present have a chaotic layout and low resolution.
Because the Leaf has been designed as an electric car from the start, the batteries could be integrated in the floor and thus a lot of cabin space remains. The space in the front is good, but the seating position behind the wheel can be somewhat cumbersome. That's because the steering wheel adjusts in height, but not in distance to the driver. The space in the rear is fair, but no more than that. On the other hand: the boot is positively huge!
The all-new Leaf offers all luxury and safety features one comes to expect from a car in this segment. Nissan is really proud of its "ProPilot". This means the Leaf will automatically brake, accelerate and steer. However, many other cars can do that nowadays. The biggest difference is that Nissan combines all of these functions under one name.
In real life ProPilot works as well as similar systems from other brands. On simple routes with light traffic and clearly visible roadmarks, the Leaf could travel long distances all by itself. As law doesn't allow for this, within a few seconds an alert appears to encourage the driver to take control. That's why ProPilot is actually a co-pilot which quite literally pushes the human driver into the right direction. In this way ProPilot is a useful aid and worth the price.
Handling of the Nissan Leaf can be summarised as: standard. As usual with electric vehicles the weight of the batteries determines roadholding. Because they are mounted centrally and low in the car, the Leaf is very stable. Also, the weight of the Leaf gives it a certain "grandeur", which makes the car even more comfortable.
Steering isn't outspokenly direct or indirect and the underpinning isn't hard or soft. This means the Leaf doesn't show a strong character, but this also means it appeals to a large audience. Just like Nissan intended.
Another innovation that Nissan proudly presents is the so-called "e-Pedal". By pressing the accelerator down the Leaf accelerates, by releasing the accelerator the car decelerates. However: that's how all electric cars behave! By releasing the accelerator kinetic energy can be converted into electricity and that's how all electric cars increase their range.
Just like with "ProPilot" the only difference is that Nissan named it and refined the concept. By abruptly releasing the accelerator the Leaf doesn't just decelerate harder, it can even bring the car to a full stop. In this way a brake pedal is (almost) unnecessary and the Leaf can be driven with just one foot. Also: in real life the e-Pedal works even better than similar systems in other cars. In fact it works so well that it feels like the Leaf "feels" what the driver wants.
The electric motor has an output of 150 PS / 320 Nm and this makes the Leaf quick and agile. Just like every other electric car the Leaf performs with so much ease that no petrol or diesel car can compete. However... the new Leaf is even more quiet that other electric cars! Even at high speeds the noise from the tyres and drivetrain are minimal; only the wind can be heard slightly.
On top of that the Leaf is also more efficient than other electric cars. Driving at high speeds on the motorway costs 18 kWh / 100 km. A calm drive in city traffic and on rural roads cost 16 kWh / 100 km and that makes the Leaf even more economic than other electric cars. In other words: the Leaf is even cheaper to run.
For now, the Leaf comes with a 40 kWh battery, but a 60 kWh battery has been announced for 2019. According to the NEDC standard the 40 kWh battery gives the Leaf has a range of 235 miles. Several test drives resulted in a real world range of 140 to 155 miles. Please note that the test drives took place in very cold weather, in summer range is expected to be much longer.
Although almost all new electric cars have a so-called "type 2" or "CCS" plug, Nissan sticks to the Japanese "ChaDeMo" plug. "World wide the Nissan Leaf is the most popular electric car, so we set the standard", says a representative of Nissan. Charging can be done at home, on a public charging point (8 hours) or on a high-speed charger (45 minutes).
A test at a rapid charger shows the Leaf charges "linearly" (no peaks or dips) and easily accepts 45 kWh. That's excellent value, especially because the Leaf doesn't have active battery heating or cooling. While charging, the trip computer shows the amount of power being consumed as well as the remaining charging time. This information can be used to opt for another charger that may be less busy and thus offers higher output. Of course Nissan comes with its own app, so the driver can monitor the charging from home.
After Nissan started a revolution in 2011 with the Leaf, it's easy to bash the second generation. That's because there are other electric cars now that can do everything better than the Leaf. Since the first Leaf, cheaper, faster and more exciting electric cars have appeared on the market. And despite the promising commercials, the Leaf merely refines existing technology and therefore is not an innovative car.
And yet the all-new Leaf is as important as the first one! What the Nissan Leaf 2018 does is make electric cars available to the general public. Nissan found the perfect balance between price, performance, range and size. With the new Leaf, buying a petrol or diesel car makes even less sense than before. By making electric cars more common, the Leaf does revolutionise the motoring industry once more.
- Good ride
- Sublime value for money
- Poor space in the rear
- Chaotic layout of displays
- Steering wheel not fully adjustable