4 April 2018

Review: Nissan Leaf

You can't help noticing how much more a stylish car the new Nissan Leaf is than the model that has led the way towards all-electric motoring, writes Brian Byrne.

The previous Leaf, as a ground-breaker, needed to stand out from its siblings as the electric vehicle it was. But now that job is done, and the new one is styled to be first a good-looking compact car.

It means the Leaf has come of age and is taking its position as a car, not the oddity it was when launched in Ireland in 2010. I can imagine a family wandering around a Nissan dealership and coming across the Leaf and not at all thinking first about the motor. They'll see, and likely want, that 'good-looking family car'.

It is good-looking. The new style elements of the Nissan swooping grille, that kick-up at the rear into a contrasting black C-pillar and 'floating' roofline, some really nice side sculpting … all combine to make the new Leaf both distinctive and mainstream.

Inside, a very significant upgrade in both style and materials does result in a soft 'wow!' from first-timers. The style of the dash area is interesting without being so off the wall that it would quickly pall. There's a clean look to the instruments and the centre stack and its controls, especially the integrated screen. The 'gear-shift' is a small stubby knob on the centre console. Of course there are no gears to shift, so it's just for forward, reverse and park.

It is overall a roomy car too, with no compromises for occupants regardless of their size. A decent luggage space completes the package.

The new Leaf drives like … well, like a compact family car. Like every electrically-powered vehicle, it accelerates very well. It also comes with an 'e-pedal' system, which when switched on provides direct engine braking when you lift off. When you get used to it, you can do without the brake pedal for almost all your driving. It also enhances the regeneration recharging of the car's battery.

Which brings us to the whole range business. Well, this one comes with a 40kWh battery, providing a real-world range of at least 260km, and probably more towards the rated 378km depending on the kind of driving you're doing. Our introduction drive from Dublin down to south Wicklow was quite doable on one charge for both ways.

The latest generation of electric cars are approaching a range ability that means owners will simply plug in at home and then use their car without further thought. On long trips the network of public and commercial charge points ensures peace of mind — with an 80pc recharge ability in 40 mins, it's the time taken for a cup of coffee and the break you should be taking anyway.

At the moment there's an estimated 25m electric vehicles in daily use globally (3,000 of them in Ireland), and by 2025, that figure is expected to have reached 125m.

Meanwhile, in my recent short experience with the new Leaf — I'll have a longer one in due course — it has become a car for anyone.

PRICE: From €26,290; WHAT I LIKED: That you can save up to €1,200 a year in fuel costs; RATING: 5/5.