The go-to electric hatchback just got a whole lot better
- Easy to drive, silent and refined
- e-pedal set-up is intuitive and nice to use
- Boot larger than it was, and bigger than many hybrid rivals
- It’s not a driver’s car, thanks to lifeless steering
- Longer range, but still shorter than a tank of petrol
- No SUV version available – you need to wait until 2020
The Nissan Leaf enters its second generation just as many rival manufacturers are readying themselves to launch their first electric cars. It’s not a new car, but a very heavily revised version of the old one. That puts Nissan in a very strong position to do well in the Electric Vehicle (EV) market, just as sales are expected to explode following the government announcement concerning the banning of sales of non-electrified vehicles in 2040.
Even though electrification is a hot topic the Leaf finds itself with very few direct rivals. The smaller Renault Zoe might find itself on a number of shared shopping lists, but beyond that, there’s the Hyundai Ioniq and the Volkswagen e-Golf to contend with. The BMW i3 is another option, but it’s more expensive. Consider this the calm before the storm, and by 2020, we’ll probably not be able to move for EVs.
The Leaf has steadily been building sales since its launch in 2011 – and the company had produced almost 300,000 of them globally by the time of the launch of the second-generation model. So, it’s important that the Nissan’s second effort is very good, and that it appeals to newcomers to electric motoring, as well as existing Leaf owners.
What’s new about the 2018 Nissan Leaf?
With the Leaf firmly established on the marketplace, Nissan decided that for the second-generation version it would try and encourage new buyers into the fold. So, in order to tempt the sceptics, it’s extended the driving range, and make it quicker thanks to a new 40kWh power pack. It also looks far less outlandish than before.
At its launch, Nissan claimed a 248-mile driving range, but in real-world driving, this will drop to between 180-220 miles. That’s a massive improvement from the 90 miles or so for the original 24kWh Leaf, and 140 for the revised 30kWh model. Nissan has confirmed that a more powerful, longer-range Leaf will follow in 2019.
The additional power and range for the new model comes via a higher density lithium ion battery pack. The new battery pack is more efficiently packaged and cooled, and as a consequence is worth an additional 40hp – for a total of 150hp, fed through the front wheels.
Performance and design improvements
The second-generation Leaf gets from 0-62mph in approximately 8.5 seconds. Engineers wouldn’t confirm the exact figure at launch, but given that the first-generation Leaf took more than 11 seconds to complete the same test, this is a useful improvement. Maximum speed is unimpressive, though, at 90mph.
The way it looks is so much better than before. Some will bemoan the loss of the individuality of the original car, but then, the new one will have wider appeal to potential new converts to EV, who continue to waver. The fact that it looks so different is impressive, because the proportions are pretty much the same as the old car.
But whereas before, it was bug-eyed and peculiar, the second-generation version gets a new grille like the bold one they fit to the Micra and Qashqai. While the floating roof, and swish new rear lights, mark this one out as much more striking looking.
2018 Nissan Leaf: Other new additions
Inside, it’s more appealing than before. The quality has taken a notable lift, while the new dashboard and controls feel altogether more car-like and inviting than before. Nissan hadn’t confirmed specifications at launch, but it’s expected that the range will comprise of Acenta, Connecta and Tekna models, with a generous equipment tally across the board. At 435 litres, the boot is usefully large compared with its electric (and hybrid) rivals.
There are three new features, which Nissan shouted about at the launch of the Leaf. Its new e-pedal system is designed so that you can drive merely using your right foot. Lift the throttle, and the regeneration system (where charge is put back into the battery) slows the car down markedly. This works in conjunction with the brakes for true single-foot driving.
You also get adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist, called Propilot for semi-autonomous driving on the highway. Also, there’s Pilot Parking assist, which uses a 360-degree camera system to choose your parking space, and put the car in neatly for you at the push of a button. These two systems are found on many rival cars, although Nissan says they’ve made many improvements in terms of functionality and ease of use.
When can I buy one, and how much will it be?
Nissan says that the second-generation Leaf goes on sale in the UK in March 2018. No prices or spec details have been announced as yet, but unofficially, the company says the range will start at around £24,000 for the Acenta model before options.
The Parkers Verdict
The second-generation Nissan Leaf significantly better to drive than before, thanks to its additional performance. The longer range certainly doesn’t do it any harm either – if Nissan set out to make the old Leaf more appealing to new buyers without frightening the old ones, then it has certainly succeeded in those aims.
Does that make it a highly-recommended choice? Yes, and it would be, even if the marketplace were brimming with rivals. Its main appeal is that it’s relaxing to drive and shrugs off city driving with ease.
It’s practical, too, will no doubt be reliable, and for anyone who doubts the viability of an electric car, and who has a lifestyle who can support one, then the 2018 Nissan Leaf looks like a compelling – but hardly exciting – proposition.
Read on for our Nissan Leaf review to see what it is like to drive and how it is to live with – is this the first EV that you can buy instead of a petrol or diesel without compromises?