Parkers overall rating: 3.9 out of 5 3.9
  • Quick acceleration and instant response 
  • Hard driving seriously dents maximum range 
  • Not particularly engaging to drive

The second-generation Leaf is a big improvement over the original model in many ways – but the overwhelming ease of the driving experience is much the same. You simply knock it into Drive with the dainty little puck-shaped gear selector and go.

The transmission is single-speed, so it functions like a super-smooth automatic, while the 40kWh version’s electric motor’s 150hp and 320Nm of torque produces plenty of everyday performance. It’s nippy with a 7.9-second 0–62mph acceleration time, although its top speed is capped at 89mph to help preserve battery life.

Nissan has worked to further improve the already impressive refinement – adding additional sound isolation to remove noises that would usually be masked by the racket of a petrol or diesel engine – and this is now a serene and quiet machine on both long and short journeys. Very relaxing.

The more expensive 62kWh variant gets a more powerful electric motor with 217bhp and 340Nm of torque. The extra grunt trims the Leaf’s 0–62mph down to a warm-hatch troubling 6.9 seconds and increases its top speed to 98mph.

Both powertrains also feature Nissan’s E-Pedal one-pedal driving mode. This essentially removes the need to use the brake pedal by activating the car’s regenerative brakes the second you lift your foot off the accelerator.

It takes a while to get used to, as it’s programmed to react to severity rather than position. So, if you snap the accelerator shut sharply, the car will come to a correspondingly sharp halt. Once you’ve learnt its quirks, though, you’ll find yourself only resorting to the disc brakes in emergencies. And, like all good driver assistance systems, it can be deactivated with the flick of a switch if you don’t like it.

What’s it like to drive?

In a word, pleasant. At low speeds, the Leaf feels very nippy as 100% of the electric motor’s torque is available instantly. This gives the EV a key performance advantage over its hybrid rivals – especially those fitted with dim-witted CVT gearboxes.

Unlike the previous-generation Leaf, the follow-up model doesn’t run out of steam once you’re away from the city. It accelerates strongly up to the UK motorway speed limit, and there’s enough left in reserve to confidently overtake – especially with the 62kWh variant.

Nissan has also tried to make the Mk2 Leaf more fun to drive than the original – and largely it has succeeded. It’s no hot hatch, but it’s not meant to be. Instead you get safe, predictable handling that’s capable of taking corners at reasonably high speeds when required. Which is actually useful for maintaining momentum in order to maximise driving range.

European Leafs also get a slightly different chassis setup to Japanese models, to suit our more dynamic driving tastes. Changes include dedicated settings for the springs and dampers, slightly stiffer anti-roll bars and a quicker steering rack – European cars only need 2.6 turns of the wheel to go from lock-to-lock, while Japanese cars take 3.2 turns.

The steering has also been given a heftier feel – not heavy to the point where it gets tiring to drive, rather just enough to give you some sense of feedback and grip levels. It’s an artificial sensation but convincing enough to make it easy to drive the car faster. 

The second-generation Leaf’s centre of gravity is also 5mm lower than before, further improving its ability to change direction and its stability in the bends. The result of all these tweaks is an electric car that doesn’t roll around too much when cornering enthusiastically, but still remains suitably comfortable for everyday family motoring.