10.9.2019Nissan Leaf e+ review
One of the most important electric cars on the market has received a highly-anticipated powertrain upgrade, with Nissan now offering customers the Leaf e+. A longer range and small boost in performance will be welcome improvements for many customers of the best-selling electric hatchback. We spend a couple of weeks with the latest model to find out how it performs.
Review by Chris Lilly
Fitted up front is a new, more powerful electric motor for the Leaf line-up, now powered by 160 kW (217 hp) unit. It’s a boost of 50 kW over the 40 kWh model, and sees the 0-62mph time drop to just under the seven-second barrier at 6.9 seconds. It’s noticeable how much quicker the Leaf e+ feels too, with greater urgency at low speeds and improved comfort at motorway pace. It’s no performance hatch, but the Leaf e+ is a nippy enough machine, and performs very nicely both around town and on open roads. Urban environments are its natural habitat however, and the Nissan is very good in tight areas. Even steep hills are easily dispatched, and the Leaf has more than enough about it to mean that drivers aren’t going to be complaining at a lack of performance.
Stiffer suspension for the Leaf e+ makes a bit of a difference to the model’s handling, with a minimal increase in ride height over the 40 kWh version to accommodate the larger battery pack. It’s a welcome change in my opinion, since the Leaf e+ drives better as a result of it, and is feels more grown up on the motorway too. It’s pretty heavy for a family hatchback naturally, considering the large battery it now has but this helps settle things on faster roads. The Nissan remains a handy car about town however, and is easy to pilot about a car park or twisty streets. There is no outright excellence in agility or comfort, but the Leaf e+ scores well across the board.
The Nissan Leaf e+ looks pretty much identical to the Nissan Leaf - which isn’t particularly surprising. There is a (very) slightly altered front bumper, an “e+” logo beneath the charge port cover, and a taller suspension to the tune of 5mm. So yes, there are changes. But also yes, they are almost unnoticeable. What remains is the same practical family hatchback as the Leaf has always been. It’s not huge inside, but neither is the Nissan cramped, and as a set of wheels to cart the family around, it’s a good pick. The floor is high relative to non-electric rivals, because of the batteries placed below, but otherwise head, shoulder, and knee space is on a par with other cars in the class. So to is boot space, though a sub-woofer can be awkward to pack kit around on occasion in the back.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Like the exterior, there is almost nothing to distinguish the Leaf e+ from the Leaf, other than the much larger range on the instrument panel. That said, there is a new infotainment system, which has been rolled out to models with both battery sizes, and it’s much better than the outgoing version. Crisper to look at, easier to use, and with greater responsiveness, it’s not an all-singing, all-dancing system, but it does a good job and removes what was a previous weakness from the Leaf. The rest of the controls will be familiar to existing Leaf drivers, and those in Nissan models in general really. The digital panel for the drivers instruments is good and easy to use, with a wealth of information in the various menus. The e-Pedal button as a quick access to one-pedal driving is welcome too, and everything feels well put together, if not the most visually exciting interior.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
This is the main reason for the Leaf e+’s existence - that all important range figure. On official tests, Nissan states that the Leaf e+ will complete 239 miles on a charge, which is a good distance for its class. Having driven the e+ on the UK launch, we had calculated around 230 miles of range, which is remarkably close for an EV. In fact, that figure proved to be accurate over the course of a fortnight with the Leaf e+. A range of 230 miles - in summer, granted - was a good par figure. On a run on country A- and B-roads from Wales to Buckinghamshire, the average was 240 miles on a charge, and on motorway trips, that dropped to 230 miles. All of these were calculated with mileage covered over battery percentage used, so it’s an accurate reading. There aren’t many EVs that get so close to the official figures in real-world conditions.
The main feature of the Leaf e+ in terms of green credentials is the brake energy recuperation. With the addition of the e-Pedal on this second-generation Leaf line-up, the system is very efficient and flexible. The car can be left in D for mild regen, B for stronger braking with the motor, or e-Pedal, which allows for one-pedal driving most of the time, capable of bringing the car to a complete stop. Of course, charging is the other key feature, with a Type 2 inlet capable of accepting up to 6.6 kW AC and a CHAdeMO for up to 100 kW DC recharging. Nissan’s connected car system received an overhaul recently too, enabling easier and more reliable access to systems such as pre-conditioning and charger check/timing via the driver’s smartphone.
Nissan currently offers the Leaf e+ in top-of-the-range Tekna trim. Included as standard are 17-inch alloys, e-Pedal, large digital driver’s display, LED headlights, automatic air conditioning, ProPilot driving assistance systems, keyless entry and start, NissanConnect EV connectivity, 8-inch infotainment system with sat-nav, Bluetooth, USB, DAB & Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, Bose stereo, parking sensors and camera, heated seats throughout, part leather trim, and automatic headlights & wipers.
The second-generation Nissan Leaf is a good EV, but not usually enough to persuade non-EV drivers into getting behind the wheel. There wasn’t quite enough of an increase in range, power, or equipment, and there was always that feeling in the back of my head that the company could have missed a trick. It’s now clear that the reason for this mild improvement over the first-generation model was to allow space for this Leaf e+, which makes a more comprehensive case for itself, though at a price to match. It’s now a very good electric car, and worthy of consideration regardless for which fuel you want for your family hatchback.
Model tested: Nissan Leaf e+ 62 kWh
Body-style: Family hatchback
Engine / CO2: 160 kW electric motor / 0 g/km
Trim grades: Tekna
On-road price: From £35,895 (exc. PiCG)
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles - battery: eight years/ 100,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars