It’s fair to say that recent months have marked a bit of a breakthrough in electric cars, with a host of new manufacturers bringing EVs to market.
But for Nissan, EVs are nothing new and its Leaf is already onto its second generation as other companies just get going with their first.
The first generation Leaf was a weird looking thing and the new model is a big improvement. It is smarter and slicker looking but still stands out sufficiently from conventional hatchbacks.
Nissan Leaf Tekna
Price: £30,995 (£32,660 as tested)
Motor: Single electric motor with 40kWh battery
Top speed: 90mph
0-62mph: 7.9 seconds
Range: 168 miles (WLTP)
Charge time: 7h 30m at 6.6kW
CO2 emissions: 0g
Its interior also stands out but for the wrong reasons. Space is good for four average adults but elsewhere it’s a disappointment. The materials feel cheap and the dashboard appears to have been laid out using the “two-year-old-with-a-sticker-book” approach, with switches in random and inconvenient places.
The infotainment screen is tiny compared with most modern units and the system isn’t as user-friendly as those in rivals. However, it is packed with useful information on the car’s drive system, including a map illustrating how far you’ll get on your remaining charge and where the nearest public chargers are.
Thankfully, the Leaf’s drivetrain game is stronger than its design.
Driving the Leaf it’s easy to see why so many EV owners say they’d never go back to ICE cars. The power is delivered instantly and is completely linear. The smooth silence with which it moves makes petrol and diesel feel agriculture in comparison. And with the latest Leaf there’s enough power (148bhp) and torque (236lb/ft) to match most C-segment hatchbacks.
The e-pedal is also so much better than a three-pedal arrangement. It uses fancy software and actuator technology to enable single-pedal driving most of the time. On my 30-mile drive to work I found I only had to press the brake twice, including negotiating Edinburgh city centre and parking.
It also inadvertently makes you a more economical driver as you learn to anticipate more to make the most of its regenerative braking.
The Leaf’s EV powertrain does still face challenges, however. Its 40kWh battery has an official WLTP range of 168 miles but real-world experience puts this closer to 125 miles. While that’s okay for most day-to-day commuting and family purposes it leaves you facing lengthy charging stops on long journeys.
There’s also the fact that, for just a couple of thousand pounds more, new models from Kia and Hyundai have far larger batteries and offer real-world range in excess of 200 miles.
There’s no doubt the Leaf has shortcomings – the low-rent interior and long-distance range issue chief among them – but for certain users it still makes a lot of sense.
A daily range of 120 miles is sufficient for most commuters and an overnight charge from a wallbox will see you good to go again in the morning, with the car pre-heated to your chosen temperature. The driving experience is also strong, it’s smooth and quiet in a way no traditional-fuel car can be and the e-pedal is a revelation.
Whether it’s for you will come down to how often you undertake longer trips and how easily you can access chargers.