This Car Review Is About: The second iteration of Nissan’s electric powered passenger vehicle called Leaf. It’s a genuinely well thought out and engineered machine, with good city range, and a price point that should appeal. For the second generation it’s been facelifted (it’s now much prettier) and given a tickle to the driving range.How Much Does It Cost?: Nissan list it at $49,990 plus on road costs. The drive-away price will vary from state to state but figure on a something between $54 to $56K depending on your location.
Under The Bonnet Is: The battery can store up to 40kWh, which is good for 110kW of power and 320Nm. The dash display provides a clear look at current charge with expected range, plus output during driving on the fly. Depending on figures, there is an expected range of either 315km (based on NEDC ADR 81/02 combined cycle) but a more realistic figure is an a 270km indicative driving range (European WLTP combined cycle). This is a more useable figure and with studies showing most city based drivers in Australia clocking just under 40 kilometres per day, it’s user friendly in that respect.
The car has two charging ports in the restyled nose, one with a direct connection to a CHAdeMO rapid charger and get from alert to 80 per cent charge in around 60 minutes depending on charging conditions, with the other a Type 2. There is an adapter with which to connect to an Australian standard 240V socket with more information found here.
On The Outside It’s: More of a distinctively “normal” look compared to the first model, and a slick, sleek, five door hatchback shape with aero styling. There’s a 3D look to the blue plastic that sits directly under the charge panel cover and it’s amazing in the depth of the look. This is matched by a similarly coloured panel in the lower rear bumper. Headlights are full LED, bracketing the now signature Vee that Nissan has for family identification. In profile it’s clear there’s a teardrop look from the aero effect and some subtle aero aids built into the metal and plastic. A sharp kick in the rear door meets neutral black and leads the eyes to the elegantly tapered rear which houses a manually operated ‘gate. Rubber comes from Goodyear’s Efficient Grip range and sit at 215/60 on 17 inch dark grey machined alloys. The colour pallet is reasonable too, with Arctic White, Ivory Pearl with black roof, Magnetic Red, Pearl Black, Platinum and Gun Metallic. Our test car featured the sumptuous Magnetic Red.
On The Inside It’s: Roomy enough for four adults, and looks largely like a normal car’s interior. The noticeable difference is the gear selector. It’s a standard foot on brake, press console mounted button, a faint series of clicks as the drive engages, then a move of the rounded knob across to the right and forward for reverse and reverse for forward. Got that? Good. There is a small diagram next to the selector just in case it’s not immediately obvious. The knob itself is of a deep metallic grey highlighted by an electric blue ring at the base.Another highlight, sort of, is the choice to fit sumptuous and comfortable leather and velour trimmed seats with a bit of extra height than normal. But…with no venting option. Yes, they’re heated, but on a couple of scorching summer days in Sydney, the old glutes got a hammering. At least the single zone aircon cools down quick enough and has a fan capable of blowing good and hard. That sits underneath an 8.0 inch display that is ergonomically laid out but has a fussy audio system in regards to selecting and tuning radio stations. The ones already stored were Melbourne based and naturally wouldn’t connect without a retune. Actually doing so wasn’t easy, intuitive, simple. A bit of a letdown, really.
It does have DAB, and changing stations wasn’t instantaneous, but took a few seconds. Bluetooth streaming is standard. An upside is the display’s look, as it’s far better than that found in other Nissan models, thankfully. It sits inside a very stylish dashboard complete with leather look material, carbon-fibre look and piano black plastics, and a soft look overall. The doors also have some piano black inserts and soft touch material.The dash display is as clean as a whistle. A simple analogue dial for the velocity, an LCD screen of 7.0 inches for the usage info, with the now ubiquitous steering wheel mounted buttons to access the info. The screen will show expected range, Eco usage, charge levels, battery temperature, kWh information and more. To access the charge ports is simple too; a small button above the driver’s right knee and that pops the hatch in the nose. Back down to the centre console and there is a drive mode that, admittedly, we didn’t test for the sake of being prudent.
It’s called the e-pedal and it takes the brake pedal out of the equation. It works as a normal accelerator pedal but when the foot is removed the sensors will have it act as a brake and slow the Leaf to a complete stop. Nifty is the fact it will apply on up-and downhill slopes.
Ancilliaries such as a USB and 3.5mm auxiliary port are easily accessed, but there is no smart phone charge pad, even with a nook that looks like it was designed to house one. Bose supply the audio system and there’s a small yet effective soundbar style bass unit in the boot. Auto headlights and wipers, a pair of bottle holders and a slot for a mobile phone in the console, and bottle holders in the doors aim for a family friendly package. A boot capacity of 405L with the 60/40 rear seats up is enough for most families.
On The Road It’s: Not a rocketship, but it’s quick enough. The pedal has an initially sticky feel, which leads to a feeling that the Leaf isn’t going to be rapid. Thankfully that sticking feeling is only at the beginning of the pedal’s travel and a little more pressure brings out the Leaf’s true ability. It’s gentle to start with but will get some true velocity and exhibit the nature of an electric power system. A 0-100 time of 7.9 seconds means it’ll hustle well enough but it’s the highway and freeway that can really take advantage of the torque the Leaf has.Sink the slipper whilst cruising and the Leaf will sprint away nicely. The energy recovery system can then be set to one of two modes, with the result being the brakes will harvest more energy or will back off enough to extend the range. In either case the Leaf is a superb city performer and fits in beautifully with the urban lifestyle.
Steering is of an artificial feel though, with a sense of isolation from the driver and what feel there is just doesn’t feel that it speaks human. It’s weighted well enough, but it doesn’t communicate what the front end is doing. To counterbalance that is a great ride and part of this is thanks to the Intelligent Ride Control. This adjusts the power and torque of the engine just enough to dampen or raise the delivery. Why? Nissan’s engineers worked out that by adjusting the delivery it acts as a counterweight to the pitching fore and aft a car experiences when hitting bumps and irregularities.
The suspension has a tighter than expected feel, but this is a good thing. The chassis dynamics are tuned to deal with the mass of the Leaf; at 1,594kg plus cargo it’s knocking on the slightly portly door for its size. Naturally that’s due to the battery pack but with the suspension tuned to be taut for the most part, it drastically reduces excess suspension travel. It softens up at the end enough to be comfortable and pliant for most people to be happy with.What About Safety?: No shortage at all. A very smart feature is the subtle but audible tone when the Leaf is reversing to alert pedestrians. There’s the Intelligent Around-View Monitor for 360 degrees worth of vision. Front and rear parking sensors make tight shopping centre situations easier to deal with. Intelligent Trace Control assists in keeping the Leaf on the centre line when driving with imperceptible brake applications. With NIssan placing their safety features under the umbrella name of Intelligent, there’s also Intelligent Driver Alert, Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, Intelligent Emergency Braking with pedestrian detection, and Intelligent Lane Intervention. Naturally there are Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Tyre Pressure Monitor System. Traffic sign recognition has the safety system audibly warn of speed zones and cameras too.
And The Warranty Is?: Five years, and unlimited kilometres. For the battery, Nissan advises:“The Nissan LEAF Lithium-Ion battery State of Health guarantee protects against battery capacity loss (less than 9 bars out of 12) as shown on the in vehicle capacity gauge for a period of 8 years or 160,000 kilometres, whichever comes first. The Warranty commences from the time the vehicle is first registered or put into service (whichever occurs first).” Roadside assist is included and is up to five years. Information on service costs is available here.
At The End Of The Drive. Of the Japanese car makers, Nissan is the only one that currently offers a fully electric vehicle. Toyota has hybrids, Mazda has their SkyActiv engine tech, Mitsubishi has the Outlander PHEV. Suzuki and Subaru have yet to release hybrids, making the Leaf somewhat unique in this area. Bar some items such as no venting for the pews, and a fiddly audio interface, the Nissan Leaf makes its mark for being an electric car that looks like a normal hatch.
It drives, rides, and handles well enough, seats four very comfortably, but importantly has enough usable urban range to make daily range anxiety almost a thing of the past. As a family oriented car it succeeds admirably. And it’s priced almost perfectly given the current state of affairs for the electric car market in Australia.
Go here for detailed information on the 2020MY Nissan Leaf.