Nissan Leaf 2015 Review
With an advanced yet familiar design, the Nissan Leaf has done much to normalise the use of electric vehicles (EVs) around the world. This second generation offering boasts increased range and cabin space, making it an award-winning practical family run-around. So, with old kinks ironed out and the prospect of a massively reduced fuel bill, could the new Leaf mark the start of a popular switch to EVs right across the board?
The perception of the Leaf has been influenced by market context, with rival EV manufacturers attempting to make their cars stand out with somewhat wacky exterior designs. Nissan now have a comparative sense of refinement, taking up the role of experienced leader for EV vehicles. They have their fun moments too though, with a limited edition glow-in-the-dark paintjob designed to showcase the solar panel method that many owners have been using to charge their vehicles.
Nissan only provided one trim level for the original Leaf, which has now been upgraded to four variants: Visia, Visia+, Acenta and top-of-the-range Tekna. The Visia+ trim package will get you alloy wheels and tinted glass, while the Tekna will increase the alloy wheel size to 17-inches and add in LED headlights.
One of the biggest criticisms levelled at early variants of the Leaf was the amount of cabin space eaten up by the battery. Nissan have solved this quandary, bringing the Leaf in line with more conventional hatchbacks, such as the Ford Focus. There’s plenty of room for passengers in the front and rear, while a 370-litre boot is more generous than many other cars of this type.
The speedo and battery charge indicator are both centralised on a sleek LCD display, while the infotainment system is mounted in the middle of the car for shared use. The metallic blue trim motif is carried from the exterior in, highlighting areas of the car’s controls against gloss-black panelling. In terms of driving hardware, the gearstick is a domed design unique to Nissan, while the seat and steering wheel are both adjustable to ensure there’s a setting that’s right for you.
While the cabin feels robust and solid across all trim levels, there are some notable benefits to stepping up through the range. The Visia+ comes with tinted glass for extra privacy, while the Tekna features heated front and rear seats, as well as a seven-speaker stereo system made by Bose (although this will take up around 15-litres of boot space).
On the road
The main event with the Nissan Leaf is undoubtedly its innovative electric engine. Fuelled by plugging into the mains (most often overnight as tariffs are cheaper), the Leaf can help you reduce your annual fuel bills to as little as £260, with each charge costing around £2. Being zero emissions, you can also save a bundle through exemptions from road tax and London congestion charges, as well as the reduction in Benefit in Kind rates if the car is provided by your company.
While the engine technology is ultra-modern, it’s also ultra-simple, with relatively few moving parts making it less likely to break down. It’s also so quiet that an extra feature has been added to warn pedestrians of its proximity, and the sound in the cabin has been muffled to almost inaudible levels – even on motorways.
Conventional charge time is around eight hours for full 155-mile range capacity; however, you can get this down to just four hours with the inclusion of the on-board 6.6kW fast charger. Fast-charge points are now a much more regular sight on our roads, enabling you to pull up and charge up to 80% in as little as 30 minutes. Another feature helps to charge your car whilst driving, by recouping energy from the brakes that is then syphoned back to the battery.
The new Leaf feels almost indistinguishable from a regular hatch in terms of driving experience. Powered by a 108bhp electric motor, the Leaf can reach a top speed of 89mph with an acceleration rate of 0 – 62mph in 11.5 seconds. It comes into its own in cities, with the engine providing sharp acceleration as torque delivery (254Nm) is instantaneous.
In terms of driver hardware, the Visia+ provides a sat nav and reversing camera, while the Tekna offers a 360-degree camera for hazard awareness and parking purposes. Nissan’s Carwings system is a novel addition well suited to EVs, allowing you to control some of the car’s functions from your smartphone. With it, you can check battery levels and control chargine remotely, or turn on your heating/air conditioning to get the car just so before you enter.
Nissan have faced up to some of the previous criticisms of the Leaf and delivered a new model that provides drivers almost the same practicality as a regular hatchback – a rarity on the EV market as yet. The larger interior and innovative tech features are both welcome improvements, but the efficiency and reduced fuel costs of this family hatch are what really sells it.
With a standard three-year/60,000-mile warranty (extended by a further two years for the battery and motor), five-star Euro NCAP safety rating and starting price of just £13,991, the new Leaf is a reliable and cost-effective family run-around ideally suited to urban environments.