Nissan Leaf review - Engines, performance and drive

Electric motor responds quickly and smoothly; and, with the e-Pedal system, it makes the Leaf a great car to drive around town

If you’ve never driven an electric car before, what will surprise you most is how easy it is to drive one. Floor the throttle in the Leaf and the car picks up pace smoothly and easily, as the motor’s distant whine is accompanied by glorious, instant torque. It’s tremendously responsive, making this a thoroughly undemanding car to drive.

Just like the first-generation Leaf, this model is at its most relaxing when the conditions and traffic around you are at their most stressful. In town, the e-Pedal system (fitted to every model) really comes into its own – allowing you to drive using just one pedal. There’s a similar system in the BMW i3, but Nissan’s version goes further, engaging the brake if it needs to.

On the road, you can instantly feel e-Pedal in action when you turn the system on. The right-hand pedal immediately has more resistance, forcing you to be firmer with your inputs to maintain rapid progress. Lift off, though, and the speed washes away smoothly.

Most drivers will take a couple of hours to learn where to lift off to come to a halt at traffic lights and junctions – the braking is so strong that, to start with, you’ll stop short of where you're meant to. But once you’ve adapted to the system, you’ll wonder (as we do) why e-Pedal is not the default setting and has to be switched on manually. 

The steering is also ideal for urban driving – light, but direct enough for you to position the car confidently. And, although the ride is firm – anything with such a big battery pack will require that approach, to keep body control in check – the Leaf shows enough of the sophistication of its Qashqai sister car over the worst potholes. Only really sharp imperfections reach the cabin, while the firm set-up means the car doesn’t roll too much in bends. 

Out of town, you’ll really appreciate how quiet the Leaf is. Indeed, Nissan claims it’s 30% more hushed than similarly sized rivals with internal combustion engines, and we can believe that. You’ll notice a bit of tyre noise, but only really because the car is otherwise so serene.

Engines

The standard Leaf has a 148bhp electric motor that gets its energy from a 40kWh battery, while the long-range Leaf e+ has a 214bhp electric motor with a 62kWh battery.

In operation, the electric motors are tremendously smooth and responsive. It’s enough to get the standard car from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds, which is probably much quicker than most people think an electric car can go, while the Leaf e+ is six-tenths quicker with a claimed 0-62mph time of 7.3 seconds.  

Once more, Nissan revealed the Nismo Leaf concept in Tokyo last year. The dual-motor four-wheel-drive model  promises performance to rival that of the Ford Focus RS. 

Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    110kW Acenta 40kWh 5dr Auto [6.6kw Charger]
  • Gearbox type
    Auto
  • Price
    £28,440

Most Economical

  • Name
    160kW e+ N-Connecta 62kWh 5dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Auto
  • Price
    £32,890

Fastest

  • Name
    160kW e+ N-Connecta 62kWh 5dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Auto
  • Price
    £32,890

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