In a day and age when models like Teslas dominate, it can be easy to forget about the ‘founding’ EVs that began to get these models noticed. It’s the Nissan Leaf that’s the main example, as – debuting in 2010 – it became the first mass-market electric car. To date, more than 600,000 examples have been produced, and for a number of years, it was the best-selling EV.
But the Leaf now faces quite a lot of competition at the more affordable end of the EV spectrum, from popular brands like Hyundai, Kia and Volkswagen. Nissan has continued to update the Leaf over the years, with recent changes including a larger battery ‘E+’ model, enabling a longer range, as well as an overhauled infotainment system.
Changes for 2022, however, predominantly focus on the visuals, with the Leaf adopting Nissan’s latest logo, as well as two new colours launched on the latest Qashqai and new electric Ariya – Pearl Blue and Magnetic Blue. Some new alloy wheels also aim to inject further street cred into the Leaf.
Nissan offers two powertrain options on the Leaf, depending on how far you want to go on one charge.
Beginning with the most affordable version, it pairs together a 39kWh battery with an electric motor developing 148bhp and 320Nm of torque. Getting from 0-60mph takes 7.7 seconds, with this model maxing out at 90mph. This offers a 168-mile range.
The longer-range E+ model has proven to be the more popular option in recent years, with a larger 59kWh battery unlocking a claimed range of 239 miles. It also gets a bigger electric motor, which produces 217bhp and 340Nm of torque – equating to a 0-60mph time of 6.7 seconds and a top speed of 98mph.
Both Leafs can only charge at up to 50kW, meaning a 20-80 per cent charge will take around 60 minutes with the smaller battery, and 90 minutes with the E+ version.
Ride and handling
Though the Leaf might be getting a bit older, it still largely drives well. Both versions offer plenty of performance, with the E+ model being especially brisk. Nissan’s ‘e-Pedal’ which allows you to drive the car with just a single pedal (because of regenerative braking) is also fantastic and makes driving a doddle. Speaking of which, high-spec Leafs come with Nissan’s ProPilot semi-autonomous driver assistance technology, which is fantastic for taking the stress out of longer trips.
It’s not all perfect, though, as the Leaf isn’t the most refined, generating lots of wind and road noise, even on relatively small 17-inch alloy wheels. The ride can also be a bit bouncy and isn’t as comfortable as a Volkswagen ID.3, for example.
Nissan has tidied up the interior of the Leaf over the years, with its latest infotainment system being easy to use, and including smartphone mirroring and various connected functions. The part-digital dials are also very clear and easy to see. It is starting to show its age, though, and looks outdated if you compare it to minimalist screen-heavy interiors like the one in the VW ID.3, but some might prefer the more traditional layout.
One area where it’s hard to fault the Leaf though is for its interior space. Offering more room than even conventionally-powered cars of a similar size (such as the Ford Focus), there’s plenty of space in the rear for adults to sit comfortably, while the boot measures a useful 435 litres.
There are three trim levels available on the Nissan Leaf – Acenta, N-Connecta and Tekna.
Kicking off the range, the Acenta comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, a reversing camera, keyless entry and an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto all included.
Upgrade to the N-Connecta and it brings 17-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass and a 360-degree around-view monitor. You also get heated seats, satellite navigation and climate control. At the top of the range, the Tekna adds LED headlights, part leather and suede seats, a Bose sound system and a ProPilot driver assistance package.
Though the government may have recently scrapped grants for electric cars, the Nissan Leaf remains good value, with an Acenta model with the smaller battery starting from £28,995.
The longer-range E+ models are only offered in the two higher-spec trims, and start from £34,945, rising to £36,445 for the top-spec Tekna.
Even as the years go by, there’s still a lot to like about the Nissan Leaf. Stick with a more affordable version and it’s good value for money, while it’s easy to drive and practical too.
It’s not as cutting-edge as it once was, however, with the interior and overall design starting to feel a bit dated, but if you prefer a more conventional interior layout and don’t want to shout about going electric, the Leaf remains a very appealing choice.