First Drive Review: Nissan LEAF

Independent review by David Ward

5-minute read

White Nissan LEAF Exterior Front Driving

First Drive: Nissan LEAF

Explore the key features of the Nissan LEAF in our expert first drive review

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One of the best-known electric vehicles on offer, the latest Nissan LEAF has improved in a wide variety of ways.


  • Super quiet when on the road
  • Plenty of clever gadgets
  • Improved EV range
  • Convenient charging solutions
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Nissan has finally broken the taboo surrounding electric cars, dispelling the myth that they lack road-going performance, are too expensive, and have no realistic range.

All these misnomers are now kicked into touch with the new 5-door LEAF hatchback, which can accelerate from 0 to 62mph in 7.9 seconds and has 38 percent more power than the previous model.

It also has a possible battery range of up to 258 miles and a recharging time of 40 to 60 minutes with standard on-board new technology that includes self-parking, sat nav, and heated front seats.

To top it all, the second generation LEAF range is cheaper than previous offerings that wore the LEAF badge.

Powertrains and Running Costs

The new LEAF, made at Nissan’s Sunderland factory, is said to have running costs of around 85 percent less than an average petrol or diesel family car, and is some 75 percent cheaper to maintain, particularly with no road tax to pay, no London Congestion Charge, and free parking in some areas.

Nissan says it has listened to existing LEAF owners to make more than 100 changes in ways of improving the car and the crux of that, along with ongoing development work at its Cranfield Research Centre in Bedfordshire, sees the new LEAF with 50 percent more battery range, motor power up by 40 percent, and torque up 25 percent.

The new 40kWh lithium battery can be charged up at home with a new 7kW fast charging point, and drivers will be able to get an 80 percent charge in just 40 minutes from a 50kW fast charger.

Driving Experience

To help the much-improved driving distance, there’s now an ‘e-pedal’ switch positioned near the gear selector which allows the driver to motor along using one pedal alone with regenerative braking sufficient to bring the car to a stop just by lifting off the accelerator.

It’s certainly a new way of driving, but it will quickly become second nature – and there’s always the brake pedal if the driver needs it.

It’s all clever stuff really, and while there's still a distinctive EV whine when the driver accelerates, once on the move, it’s much quieter. Nissan says that the second generation LEAF is 30 percent quieter than a modern internal combustion engine in a family car of equal size.

So, what’s it like to drive on normal roads?

For a start, the LEAF’s improved acceleration time of 0 to 62mph is 7.9 seconds is certainly impressive, and it’s nimble enough in normal drive mode and competent enough out on the motorway to keep up with the general speed of traffic – it has a top speed 89mph.

The power output is equivalent to 148bhp, and with no emissions, it has a tax banding of nine percent for business users. The range topping Tekna model has an insurance group of 22 and comes with Nissan’s 3-year/60,000-mile warranty.

It really is an enjoyable car to drive, with the most noticeable feature being how quiet it is once out on the road.
David Ward

Nissan has lowered the centre of gravity by 5mm which may not seem much, but along with quicker responsive steering, the new LEAF feels much lighter and sharper.

With a stiffer body, it also feels safer when driving around bends at any decent speed, and the car has been tuned for our kinds of roads.

Nissan has fitted the new Leaf with the same Intelligent Chassis Control system already used in the Qashqai, and it pays off. Pitching is reduced, and it copes exceptionally well with bumpy and uneven road surfaces.

Equipment and Practicality

The top spec models have what's called Nissan’s ProPilot system where the car will steer, brake, and accelerate on roads where it can detect road markings and the car in front.

With a system of 12 sonar sensors, five cameras and three radars, it can also be used to self-park the car and control the autonomous emergency braking that will warn drivers of pedestrians. The system also enables blind spot monitoring and helps with the self-parking.

To help drivers get to grips with the complexities of electric driving, Nissan has promised that all of its dealers will give thorough tuition to buyers before they set off down the road.

On the inside of the new LEAF, there’s still plenty of black plastic across the dashboard – a little austere in reality, but it's a family car that's far more practical and convenient than it was previously. It also remains a spacious 5-seater and has 435 litres of boot space, around the best in class.

There’s an efficient navigation system with a 7-inch screen that can plan journeys and also show charging locations.

Amongst the high-tech equipment on board is Android Auto, Apple Car Play, and a Bose sound system.


Overall, the new LEAF is a big step forward in the world of all-electric family cars, and it has a much-improved driving range, making journeys of around 170 miles realistic in everyday use. It's levelled up in more ways than one, and now proves to be a convenient, eco-friendly option to traditional internal combustion engine powered cars within its competitive segment.