Nissan Leaf: new vs old compared

The Nissan Leaf is the world's best-selling electric car, but how does the new version compare with its predecessor?...

Nissan Leaf: new vs old compared

When the original Nissan Leaf was launched in 2010, it made other battery-powered vehicles of the time feel like golf buggies. Put simply, it was the first modern electric car that drove like a proper family hatchback.

Small surprise, then, that it outsold all of its rivals. However, things moved on, and with competition now much tougher, Nissan has now unveiled a new Leaf. The question is: does it retain the strengths of its predecessor while adding enough to justify its higher price?

Nissan Leaf new vs old – styling

Nissan Leaf: new vs old compared

Nissan admits that the look of the original Leaf "isn’t popular with most people", so the new model has been given a more aggressive design in the style of the latest Micra and horizontal rather than vertical headlights to make it appear wider.

It's only really when you look at the two generations from the side that you can see any family resemblance, with the two cars having much the same silhouette.

Nissan Leaf new vs old – performance and driving

Nissan Leaf: new vs old compared

On the mechanical side, the electric motor in the new Leaf produces 148bhp – an increase of 41bhp. That means 0-62mph takes just over eight seconds, compared with 11.5sec in the old car.

But of greater importance is the vastly better driving range that the new Nissan Leaf provides. Nissan claims you can travel 235 miles between charges, meaning it's 81 miles more than what the old top-spec Leaf was capable of. And while we couldn't get near the offical figure, it should be noted that our tests were conducted in chilly weather (3-5deg), which has a huge impact on battery performance.

The other big news is a feature called the e-Pedal. Most electric cars, including the previous Leaf, have regenerative braking, whereby the energy that is usually lost when you lift off the accelerator is instead used to charge back the battery, with the side effect being that the car slows noticeably. But when the e-Pedal is activated, it intentionally exaggerates this so that you can drive around town without ever touching the brake; it takes a bit of getting used to, but makes life easier once you do.

There's less change elsewhere, with both generations of Leaf jostling you around a bit in town, before smoothing out nicely with speed. However, the new car feels more composed than its predecessor on twisty roads and lets in less wind and road noise.

Next: Interior, equipment and infotainment >

Read more: Nissan Leaf review

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