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The Charging Point

Your one-stop destination for electric and hybrid cars

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Nissan Leaf

Nissan has plenty of accolades to shout about when it comes to the EV, not least boasting the worlds' best selling zero emissions vehicle in the form of its little Leaf.

The Japanese brand shifted over 300,000 of the previous generation models, which delivered a reasonable all-electric range of up to 120-miles on a single charge and a price tag that helped introduce plug-in people-movers to the masses.

Version 2.0 now packs a beefier battery back and more potent electric motor, while the range has increased alongside the levels of cutting edge driver assistance and safety technology.

Why does this car matter?

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to EV ownership is range and the time it takes to top up batteries from flat to full. On top of this, there's the issue of the slightly thin UK charging network that is seemingly covered by numerous providers that all require individual memberships to operate.

Yet we are in a "chicken and egg" scenario, where more electric vehicles are required on the road to put pressure on the government and the authorities to improve the charging infrastructure and generally simplify the entire experience.

Nissan's refreshed EV should help with this crusade, as early reports state that a new Leaf was sold every 12 minutes in Europe, with the Japanese firm receiving over 20,000 orders in a single month when it went on sale earlier this year. This means there will be a great deal more Leafs using UK roads and a great deal more customers demanding a widespread charging network to make this possible.

On top of this, there's an all-new e-powertrain that sees a 40kWh battery pack and 110kW electric motor team up to deliver 150hp and 320Nm of instantaneous torque, as well as increased range. Alas, claimed range figures have always been a sticky subject, as the outgoing lab-based NEDC test has traditionally overestimated how far one can travel on a single charge.

To counter this, the latest Leaf is one of the first electric vehicles to undergo the WLTP (Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Testing Procedure), which tests using real-world scenarios, runs longer test cycles, introduces higher speeds and takes into account the impact additional equipment may have on range.

The result is an honest figure of 168 miles on the combined cycle (a mix of city and motorway driving), or up to 258 miles in city conditions, on a single charge.

What's it like?

There's very little not to like about the new Leaf and once you get past some of the cheap interior plastics, it soon becomes clear that it represents a lot of car for the money.

Aside from the excellent new e-powertrain, there's also a neat touchscreen display that takes care of the infotainment system, the option to add Nissan's suite of ProPILOT driver systems (that includes adaptive cruise control and emergency braking) and ParkPilot, which autonomously parks the vehicle in the majority of common parking situations.

Customers can even specify a leather interior, heated front and rear seats, as well as a premium seven-speaker Bose sound system.

The driving position is slightly high and the steering wheel lacks adjustability, but that doesn't take anything away from the driving experience, which can be best described as 'zippy'.

The instant torque from the more powerful electric motor ushers in an official 0-62mph sprint time of 7.9 seconds but the 0-30mph dash away from the traffic lights feels much faster than those claimed figures.

Steering is light and easy to wrangle around town but not completely devoid of any feedback, meaning it's possible to confidently thread the Leaf through corners should you fancy an impromptu B-road blast.

Drivers can also activate Nissan's latest e-Pedal technology, which essentially allows the driver to control the car using just the accelerator. In simple terms, activating this function increases the amount of regenerative braking force to the point where it will actually bring the car to a complete standstill.

It's a slightly obscure feeling at first but soon becomes quite enjoyable and teaches the virtues of leaving a good gap between the car in front, while encouraging smoother inputs on the accelerator.

Nissan has also improved the sound deadening and general refinement inside the cabin, which makes this latest EV iteration a more pleasant place to sit when whiling away the longer motorway journeys, even though the top speed is a relatively measly 89.5mph.

It's certainly no Tesla rival in terms of interior quality or range, but it's a good chunk of change cheaper and everything feels solid - something most family car owners will appreciate.

Is it expensive and will it save me money?

In short, no and yes. Despite the new Leaf featuring a revised and more powerful battery and motor set-up, as well as packing some seriously cool new tech, it comes in a little cheaper than its predecessor.

Expect to part with between £25,190 and £28,390 (with the UK government grant), depending on the specification, which sees it sit at the more affordable end of the electric car market and competitive with internal combustion engine family cars of a similar size.

Charging a drained battery from a conventional domestic socket takes the best part of 20+ hours, so it's advisable to have a 7.5kW wall socket installed, where it will take just 7.5 hours.

But once set up, it won't take long before you start noticing some considerable fuel bill savings, especially if you're one of the majority of vehicle owners that rarely drives more than 30-miles or so in any given day.

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What's the verdict?

The latest Leaf continues to push electric motoring for the masses and for that reason, it's not going to bother Tesla, BMW's i division and the Jaguar I-Pace any time soon in terms of luxury or driver engagement.

But it offers a huge amount of bang for the buck, packs more interior tech than the rival Renault Zoe and the extended range will likely be enough to tempt more people away from the petrol pumps and into plug-in transportation.

Some will argue that a 40 to 60-minute for a full charge from the CHAdeMO Quick-Charging network is still too long to make it a real replacement for the internal combustion engine, but that's not what this vehicle is all about.

New Leaf is for those motorists that are fully aware they rarely go beyond the 160-mile range in a week, let alone a day, and those motorists will feel the benefit.

The fact that it's bristling with the latest technology, looks pretty neat and features all the practicality of a family hatchback is just a bonus.

Score 8

Data

Engine/power unit 40kWh battery pack and 110kW AC synchronous electric motor
Transmission Automatic
Power 150hp
Torque 320Nm
0-62mph 7.9 seconds
Top speed 89.5mph
Weight 1,544 - 1,595kg
Emissions 0g/km CO2
Electric range 168 miles (combined) 258 miles (urban)

One of the most accelerative cars on the road is also among the most relaxing. Who saw that coming?"

Read more Portrait of writer Dan Prosser