What's the used Nissan Leaf hatchback like?
Way back in 2011 something of a revolution occurred when Nissan launched the first Leaf. This rather unusual looking family car shocked us all. It was purely electric, with zero tailpipe emissions, and its range, and everything else about it, was good enough to make it - for some people - a viable alternative to a conventionally powered car. Indeed if it fitted in with your lifestyle, there was little else to rival it, and it soon became the world’s best-selling electric car.
By the time this second-generation version was introduced, in 2018, the idea of an electric car had really charged the public’s imagination, and a number of newer rivals had been introduced in the wake of the original Leaf’s success. Not surprisingly, this heavily revised model ups the game, with a sleeker design, more power and a bigger battery that offers a much-increased range. It’s more high-tech, more sophisticated and even more appealing, all in an effort to ward off that younger and fresher competition and to keep the Leaf at the top of the tree: practical, easy to operate and exciting to own.
To that end, there may currently be only the one option for powering the car, a 110kW battery/electric motor combo that is good for 148bhp and an impressive 236lb ft of torque, but there are a number of trim options available. Entry-level Visia cars come with 16in steel wheels, halogen headlights and LED daytime running lights, electric windows, lane departure and blind spot warnings, and manually adjustable seats. Stepping up to the Acenta adds 16in alloy wheels, front fog lamps, a leather steering wheel, cruise control and a 7in infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple Carplay. The mid-range N-Connecta includes 17in alloys, electric folding wing mirrors, synthetic half-leather seats, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and object-detecting 360-degree parking cameras. The top-end Tekna model gains full LED headlights, black leather interior, heated seats and steering wheel, an electronic parking brake, and a 7-speaker BOSE sound system, as well as Nissan's ProPilot semi-autonomous drive modes.
Out on the open road, the Leaf is impressive, especially, like a number of electric cars, in terms of instant speed away from a standstill. With a 0-60mph time of around eight seconds, it’s much nippier than its main rivals like the Renault Zoe and the Volkswagen e-Golf. You actually have to be a bit gentle with your right foot when accelerating out of junctions or you’ll spin the front wheels. Lift off and you’ll feel the e-Pedal, which slows the car down without you having to touch the brake pedal. There’s also the more regular regenerative braking that harvests energy to replenish the battery as you press the brake pedal.
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 its handling won’t inspire keen drivers it’s reassuringly safe and secure. The ride comfort is very good, too, with only larger bumps catching the Leaf out, and it’s better than a number of its EV rivals. In terms of refinement, the Leaf impresses, with obviously no engine noise to disturb the calm, but a little wind and road noise do make their presence known, and the suspension can make the odd clunk too.
You sit high in the driving seat of the Leaf, and the steering wheel is only adjustable up and down, not in and out. However, the dashboard is logically laid out and pleasing to the eye, and visibility generally is good, although the over-the-shoulder view is hampered by the large rear pillars. A rear-view camera is standard on all but Visia trims. Go for anything other than entry-level Visia trim and you’ll get a 7.0in 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 cars like the e-Golf, for example, and the buttons and switches not quite so reassuring.
Space is good up front, but rear head room is a little limited by the swooping roofline - anyone taller than six foot will find themselves with a crick in the neck. The Leaf’s boot is longer than some of its rivals, but it is handicapped by rather a large loading lip.
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