2013 Nissan Leaf review
The majority of the changes are under the skin, but if you look hard you’ll see the front bumpers and grille have been restyled to be more aerodynamic, while inside there’s now the option of a dark interior – the old car was available only with a stain-attracting cream one.
The range has increased to a claimed 124 miles thanks to upgrades to the powertrain and a 32kg weight reduction.
Charging time has also been reduced. The Leaf can now be fully charged in four hours from a 32-amp home charger (a £99 option, though a lower-powered home charger is free), or topped-up to 80% in just 30 minutes if you can find a fast-charging point.
Other changes include an eco mode for the sat-nav system, charge port illumination and the option of heated seats, a 360-degree parking camera and leather trim. There's also a new heating system that uses 70% less energy than before.
Another first for the Leaf is the introduction of different trim levels. The new car is available in Visia, Acenta and Tekna specifications. The old car’s specification roughly matches up with Acenta, which Nissan predicts will account for 70% of sales.
What's the 2013 Nissan Leaf like to drive?
The Nissan Leaf is very easy to drive: push a button, release the foot brake, put it in ‘drive’ and off you go. Maximum torque is available from the instant you press the accelerator pedal, making the Leaf surprisingly nippy.
In fact, you can beat most things away from the traffic lights quite easily, although acceleration does tail off at higher speeds.
The new Sunderland-built Leaf has also been tuned to European driving tastes. The suspension has been stiffened and the steering has been made heavier to simulate improved feel. Both of these things make the Leaf feel more secure at speed, but haven’t harmed the way it drives in town, where it remains comfortable and easy-going.
Refinement is excellent. There’s little road noise and only a faint hum from the electric motor at low speeds, while wind noise becomes noticeable only when you pick up speed.
As before, there’s an ‘Eco’ mode that reduces the sensitivity of the accelerator pedal to improve battery range.
However, there’s now also a ‘B’ setting on the transmission. When engaged, this increases the aggressiveness of the energy-recuperation system, charging the batteries more effectively. This is useful for topping up the battery down a steep hill, for example.
What's the 2013 Nissan Leaf like inside?
Inside, the new Leaf looks very similar to the old one. There’s still space for five, but rear passengers now benefit from increased footroom. Boot space has also grown by 40 litres to 370 litres with the rear seats up.
Some of the plastics around the switchgear feel cheap and out of place in a car costing this much money, but the buttons you use frequently are pleasant to touch and logically laid out.
The height-adjustable front seats are comfortable (if a little flat), but the lack of reach-adjustment in the steering wheel can make it tricky to find the ideal driving position.
We drove the top-of-the-range Tekna model with heated leather seats (front and rear), dark interior trim, a 360-degree parking camera and a Bose sound system.
Even cheaper cars get climate control, Bluetooth and sat-nav. Acenta and Tekna come with alloys, though, whereas Visia models make do with steel wheels.
Should I buy one?
If you’re a company car user who does fewer than 60 miles a day you should definitely consider the Leaf, because you won’t pay a penny in company car tax.
It’s more justifiable as a private buy than before, too, because you can now buy the car and lease the battery separately, saving yourself £5000 upfront.
That means prices start at £15,990 (for the Visia) and rise to £20,490 for the range-topping Tekna model. Leasing contracts for the battery start at £70 a month over three years (with a 7500-mile yearly limit) and go up to £129 a month for a 12-month contract with that allows you to do 15,000 miles a year.
As before, you can still buy the car and the battery together, which costs £20,990 for the Visia, £23,490 for the Acenta and £25,490 for the Tekna.
What Car? says...
Engine size n/a
Price from £15,990 (after Government grant)
Torque 187lb ft
0-62mph 11.5 seconds
Top speed 89mph
Range 124 miles (claimed)
By Matthew Burrow and Vicky Parrott