Two years after it first went on sale, Nissan has revealed a significantly upgraded version of the all-electric Leaf in its home market of Japan. Lighter, more spacious and with an increased battery range, it points the way towards the European-spec Leaf that will be built at Nissan's Sunderland plant from spring 2013.
The most significant changes have taken place under the skin where the electric powertrain has been shrunk down and lightened significantly. By integrating the new, more environmentally friendly electric motor (containing 40 per cent less dysprosium - a rare earth metal - than before) with the inverter and DC converter the powertrain is now 30 per cent smaller and 10 per cent lighter. A new, more streamlined battery case and other optimised parts mean the Leaf now weighs 80kg less than before.
Other changes include moving the charging module from the back to the front, which frees up and extra 40 litres of boot space for a total of 370 litres, plus a more efficient regenerative braking system that increases range by around 15 per cent to 125 miles per charge.
A new entry-level trim level, called 'S' in Japan, has also been introduced that does without luxuries like sat-nav - a move that tallies with Nissan's plans for the UK-built Leaf.
By cutting its transportation costs from Japan and reducing the equipment count, Nissan is expected introduce a new base-spec Leaf, which will cost around £21,000 after the £5,000 Government grant, to the UK from spring.