First launched in America in 2010 and 2013 in South Africa, the iconic Nissan LEAF hatchback became the world’s best-selling electric car but how does the new one compare?
It’s worth noting that the new Nissan LEAF hatchback has considerably more competition than the first one. This includes big names such as the Hyundai Ioniq Electric, Volkswagen ID.3 and Tesla Model 3. That means the once-revolutionary Nissan LEAF has to pull out all the stops to come out on top.
Nissan LEAF Exterior Design Comparison
The original Nissan LEAF adopted the automaker’s typical design but they had to adapt some elements to accommodate the EV powertrain. It had similar headlights to the Nissan Juke which sat above a chunky bonnet. Unlike the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, the Nissan LEAF had to be taller to make space for the underfloor battery.
To mimic the success of the distinctive Toyota Prius that revolutionised the hybrid market, designers also gave the Nissan LEAF quirky looks. This included futuristic elongated rear lights and a smoother front-end as electric motors don’t need air from a big front grille. It probably wouldn’t rank too high on the award for best car design but it didn’t have to as this was the first mass-produced affordable electric car.
On the contrary, the second-generation Nissan LEAF looks a lot better and fits more with the rest of Nissan’s line-up. It has horizontal headlights, a more prominent bonnet and even a faux-grille which indicates that electric vehicle owners don’t necessarily want to stand out from the crowd. They’ve also added some design trickery with a black roof and a hatchback that make the car appear lower than it is.
Nissan LEAF Performance Stats And Running Costs
Today, most carmakers are investing billions into electric powertrain development and the new Nissan LEAF proves that without a doubt. The original LEAF had a 24kWh battery pack with a claimed range of 200 km (124 miles) which dropped well below 160 km (100 miles) in cold conditions.
While that’s not a problem for driving in urban areas when compared to combustion engine cars, the range was simply not good enough for longer journeys. ‘Range anxiety’ became the new buzzword for many prospective buyers which also impacted the car’s ability to be the only household car.
As battery technology improves, so will the range of electric vehicles. This is evident in the current Nissan LEAF which is available in two battery sizes. The smaller 40kWh gives up to 270 km (168 miles) of range while the bigger 62kWh e+ Nissan LEAF can go up to 385 km (239 miles) on a single charge.
The new LEAF also supports fast charging where the entry-level version accepts 50kW charging which means an 80% top-up takes 40 minutes. On the Nissan LEAF e+, however, the charge is up to 100kW and that means around 80% in half-an-hour with a rapid charger.
vIn terms of power, the original Nissan LEAF produces 108bhp with an instant pull-away but 0-100 km/h takes a lengthy 11.5 seconds. It certainly highlights exceptional acceleration but it slows down considerably at higher speeds hitting a maximum of 143 km/h (89mph).
The standard Nissan LEAF has 148bhp and feels faster where it takes 7.9 seconds to hit 100 km/h which outperforms many petrol and diesel rivals. At the top of the range is the LEAF e+ with an impressive 214bhp resulting in 0-100 km/h in only 6.9 with a top speed of 157 km/h (98mph).
What Is The Interior Like?
The original Nissan LEAF’s had an experimental feel to the interior with many quirks compared to other Nissan cars. It was light in colour which gave it a fresh feel with a blue badge on the steering wheel reminding drivers it’s electric. As you’d come to expect from an electric motor, the Nissan LEAF is also very quiet with the automaker even designing quieter wiper motors.
Moving to the new Nissan LEAF, it’s a more conventional offering as it shares many design cues and tech with models like the Nissan Qashqai. It’s certainly sportier but also less distinctive but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Quality seems good overall as everything feels sturdy and there is a new digital display within the instrument panel that provides information in an instant.
How Safe Is The Nissan LEAF?
We all heard the critics talk about electric cars exploding and while it was a concern in the early days, technology had advanced offering greater safety. Being more reliable than most other cars, the Nissan LEAF has helped dispel most of those anxieties over time. In 2012 it even scored five stars in the Euro NCAP crash test.
The current Nissan LEAF is much the same in terms of safety as it also managed a five-star Euro NCAP score in 2019 but with a tougher test. To give you some idea of how safe it is, the new Nissan LEAF has the same rating as the ever-popular Nissan Qashqai SUV.
Alongside next-gen safety design, it also has state-of-the-art driving aids, including semi-autonomous ProPilot system. This allows the Nissan LEAF to speed up, slow down and stay in its lane on highways or dual carriageways. It can even stop automatically when driving in heavy traffic.
Is The Nissan LeEAF Practical?
Considering the Nissan LEAF was the world’s first mass-produced electric car, it had to compete with normal family cars. It had a sizable boot of 370 litres which is a mere 10 litres less than the VW Golf. Even though the boot space increases to an impressive 720 litres with the seats down, they can’t go flat because of the batteries.
The new Nissan LEAF is longer between the wheels giving it a monstrous 435 litres of boot space. This beats the VW Golf with a 380-litre boot while the electric Volkswagen e-Golf only has 341 litres of space. Besides a bigger boot, the Nissan LEAF also has wider-opening doors. If you have to be critical, the LEAF could do with more interior storage space and a steering wheel that adjusts for reach and not only height.
You won’t find much wrong with the Nissan LEAF as its more conservative which appeals to a larger target market compared to the ‘futuristic’, quirkier first-generation model. The safety concerns have been addressed and combined with a surprisingly big boot and a refined, well-equipped interior, the Nissan LEAF is a good, solid choice.
Once batteries offer more range, electric vehicles will help buyers move further away from petrol and diesel cars. However, as it stands, the range is much better than before and it will only continue to improve.
Even with all the technological advances, it’s still relatively early in the development of electric cars so it’s always better to buy the newest model you can afford and that also applies to the new Nissan LEAF.