Used Nissan Leaf (Mk1, 2011-2018) review - How practical is it?

Surprisingly spacious and packed with kit, the Nissan is every bit as practical and usable as conventional family cars

Unlike many EVs that have been adapted from existing ICE cars and so loose luggage and passenger space to accommodate a battery, the Leaf was designed from the outset to have electric power. As a result, engineers have managed to deliver conventional family-hatch levels of space and comfort, while in terms of in-car tech the Nissan beats many of its similar era rivals.

Dimensions and cabin design

When it made its debut in 2010, the boldly designed Leaf looked like it had been beamed onto the road from the future. However, it’s now become a familiar sight on UK roads, and when parked alongside the quirky BMW i3 the Nissan looks a little more down-to-earth. It broke the mould, but others have now caught up.

At 4,445mm overall, the Leaf is noticeably longer than the 4,255mm Golf and a little shorter than the 4,460 Prius. It’s taller than both, but narrower than the boxy Golf and wider than the aero-honed Prius.

Like the exterior, the Nissan’s cabin is starting to look and feel slightly dated. For instance, the blocky LCD display for the speedo and battery charge indicator look a little old hat, as do the graphics for the centrally-mounted infotainment touchscreen – although it’s packed with useful information.

However, Nissan has worked hard to accommodate the car’s large battery pack and as a result it’s practical as any Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf hatch. Three adults can sit in the back, and the driving position has an adjustable seat and a tilt (but no slide) steering wheel, meaning it should suit most people. Isofix mounting points are also standard across the range.

Boot space

The Leaf’s spacious 370-litre boot means it can carry plenty of luggage, too – although this drops to 355 litres if you go for cars fitted with the Bose stereo. 

The load lip can be awkward too, especially as the boot floor is quite low. The seats don’t fold flat either, thanks to the large battery compartment beneath them. There is no safe towing capacity quoted by the manufacturer.

Equipment and technology 

Leaf Visia models feature the standard four-speaker system with DAB, with Bluetooth phone integration and a USB port. Acenta gives you all that plus touchscreen navigation and telematics.

You can download an app to your smartphone and control certain functions of the car, including checking its battery charge level, start or stop charging when plugged in, and schedule when the heater or air-conditioning comes on to warm the car up in winter and cool it down in summer before you start your journey.

The bells-and-whistles spec of the top-level Tekna includes park assist and a reversing camera.

Since the Leaf was launched Nissan has added various trim levels, and there are now three to choose from across the range. These include the lower-end Visia, the middle-ranking Acenta and the top-spec Tekna variant, with the 30kWh battery available on the latter pair of trims.

A limited-run Black Edition, based on the Acenta spec, brings additional features such as 16-inch black alloy wheels, black mirror caps and spoiler and rear privacy glass. Nissan also offered a carrot to potential buyers by including free in-car wi-fi to the first 1,000 Black Edition customers.

In a forward-thinking electric car you’d expect to find a few gadgets inside, and the Leaf doesn’t disappoint, with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, as well as keyless go tech. The Visia+ spec will add a reversing camera and a sat-nav, while the Acenta benefits from cruise control and Nissan’s Carwings system; an extra driving mode designed to recycle energy lost under braking.

Meanwhile the range-topping Tekna trim also comes with a seven-speaker Bose stereo, a 360-degree camera system, heated seats throughout, 17-inch alloys and LED headlights. 

Safety

When it comes to safety, the Leaf is just as good as a conventional car and was handed a five-star Euro NCAP rating. It comes with six airbags and stability control as standard, while an audible warning system warns pedestrians you’re coming, to stop people crossing the road in front of the near-silent Nissan.

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