Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Some people still associate electric cars with milk float performance, but that really couldn’t be further from the truth – particularly in the Leaf. With a 0-60mph time of around eight seconds, it’s nippier than a Volkswagen e-Golf if not quite as quick as a Kia e-Niro. You actually have to be a bit gentle with your right foot when accelerating out of junctions or you’ll spin up the front wheels.
Unlike in most petrol and diesel cars, when you lift off the accelerator pedal you feel yourself slowing down quite quickly as the regenerative brakes harvest energy to replenish the battery. You can increase this effect by moving the gear selector to B mode, or go one step further by pressing the ‘e-Pedal’ button between the front seats. This makes the regenerative braking effect so pronounced that you barely have to use the brake pedal at all.
But when it comes to electric cars, performance isn’t just about how quickly you can speed up and slow down – it’s about how far you can get between charges. Official tests suggest 168 miles, which is better than the 144 miles claimed for the e-Golf.
However, in our Range Range tests, the Leaf managed 128 miles on a full charge. That’s better than the e-Golf (117 miles) but considerably behind the Zoe (146 miles) and Kia e-Niro (253 miles).
Suspension and ride comfort
In fact, ride comfort is hard to fault on the motorway and faster A-roads. It’s only around town that you notice being jostled around a bit, although potholes are still dealt with in a perfectly respectable fashion.
The Leaf is far from a hot hatch but it does stay more upright through bends than a Zoe or an e-Golf. Its steering is a match for the e-Golf’s, too; less natural-feeling but heavier and a bit more precise.
You might imagine that the supposedly sporty rear-wheel-drive i3 would be the benchmark for handling in this class, but actually it's the Leaf that's the more composed and settled along twisty roads – especially when the road gets bumpy.
Noise and vibration
Electric cars tend to be much quieter than their petrol and diesel counterparts because there’s no combustion engine rattling and rumbling away while burning through fossil fuel.
So, if you’re used to a conventional car, you’ll find the Leaf eerily hushed on the move. True, the e-Golf is even quieter because its suspension goes about its business with fewer clunks, and there’s a bit less wind and road noise, too. But the Leaf is definitely a more peaceful companion than the cheaper Zoe.