What's the used Nissan Leaf hatchback like?
If you're one of a growing number of used car buyers looking for a second-hand electric car, it makes sense that you'd contemplate a top-seller such as the Nissan Leaf. The original Leaf was introduced in 2011 but, while it steadily improved over the years, it wasn't until this second-generation car arrived that the model became a challenger to a traditional family car. And now that prices have softened, it makes for a good alternative to a used family car, too.
There are two power and battery pack combinations you can find in the leaf: a 40kWh battery with a 148bhp electric motor; and an e+ version with a bigger 62kWh pack with a 214bhp motor. Like a number of electric cars, the Leaf has instant acceleration away from a standstill. The least powerful version has a 0-60mph time of around eight seconds – much nippier than its main rivals, the Renault Zoe and the Volkswagen e-Golf. You actually need to be a bit gentle with your right foot when accelerating out of junctions in the 214bhp model, or you’ll spin the front wheels.
You also get a choice of trims, but unless you're a fan of hair shirts, the entry-level Visia is best avoided. In fact, that model was dropped shortly after launch because most went for the next model up, the Acenta, which has 16in alloy wheels, lane-departure and blind spot warnings, adaptive cruise control and a 7in infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and a rear-view camera.
The mid-range N-Connecta includes 17in alloys, a 360-degree camera system, heated seats and steering wheel and front and rear parking sensors, while the Tekna model gains Nissan's ProPilot suite of semi-autonomous driving aids and a 7-speaker BOSE sound system. Above these are the e+ N-TEC and e+ Tekna versions that both use the bigger 62kWh battery pack. The former has full LED headlights while the latter has the upgraded Bose sound system.
Meet a corner and the Leaf remains fluent: there’s little body lean and the steering is well weighted. Grip is good, too, and while the handling won’t inspire keen drivers, it’s reassuringly safe and secure. The ride comfort is generally very good, too, with only larger bumps catching the Leaf out. In terms of refinement, the Volkswagen e-Golf is better, but the Leaf still impresses. Obviously, there's no engine noise to disturb the calm, however, a little wind and road noise does make its presence known, and the suspension can make the odd clunk too.
Lift off the accelerator and you’ll feel the regenerative braking take effect, especially in e-Pedal mode, which slows the car down without your needing to touch the brake pedal. There’s also the more gentle regenerative braking of B mode (this is selected with the gear lever), with both modes harvesting energy that would otherwise be wasted when you apply the brakes and using it to replenish the battery.
You sit high in the driving seat of the Leaf, so visibility generally is good, although the over-the-shoulder view is hampered by the large rear pillars. Fortunately, a rear-view camera is standard on all trims except Visia. The dashboard is logically laid out and is pleasing to the eye, and you’ll get a 7.0in (enlarged to 8.0in from mid-2019) touchscreen that’s mostly simple to use, thanks to big icons and logical menus. The physical shortcut buttons that flank the display make it easy to hop between functions. Some of the interior plastics feel a little cheaper than those in cars like the e-Golf, for example, and the buttons and switches not quite so reassuring.
Space is good up front, but the steering wheel is only adjustable up and down, not in and out, so some may find that they can't find the right driving position. Rear head room is a little limited by the swooping roofline – anyone over six feet tall will find themselves with a crick in the neck. The Leaf’s boot is longer than some of its rivals, but it is scuppered by rather a large loading lip, and the Tekna and e+ Tekna have less overall capacity because the subwoofers and amplifiers of their Bose sound systems eat into the available room.
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