Nissan is on a bit of a roll. While some manufacturers are still working on their first electric cars, Nissan is rolling out the second generation Leaf, with less weight, more range and a design more closely tailored to real-world demands.
The biggest input into the new car has come from existing customers, which explains why it looks so similar to the old one.
Nissan says the Leaf gets the highest customer satisfaction scores of any car it makes - as much as 93% - and the people who own ageing models apparently want to stay loyal to it.
The boot is now bigger; at 370 litres it’s technically just 10 litres short of those of the new Volkswagen Golf and Seat Leon. The curved corners and relatively intrusive wheel arches make an irregularly shaped load space. Still, a 40-litre boost over the old model thanks to some relocated technology means space for one extra suitcase.
This time Nissan has given the European car its own suspension tune. The overly soft, sometimes wobbly ride of the old car was a cause for complaint.
The new set-up is damped with greater conviction to reduce pitch and bounce. It works, too, controlling the Leaf’s body movement better than before while retaining the surprisingly good ride quality that defined the first Leaf. It absorbs bumps and potholes with confidence, composure and impressively quietly. Uncommonly so, in fact, compared to almost any rival.
Driving the new Leaf is thoroughly relaxing, with thoughtfully shaped seats that support your spine well. The padding offers a good balance of soft comfort and measured support and the variable-ratio steering is pleasant at all speeds, but it does give something away in terms of initial turn-in response and there’s no reach adjustment for the wheel.
The batteries now offer a potential 120 miles or more in ideal conditions from a full charge. A real-world 100 miles should be normal in the summer months. Part of this increase comes from a weight reduction of 32kg, chopped mainly out of two key drivetrain components.
That drivetrain has been modified with new torque mapping and an extra driving mode, labelled B. It increases the ‘engine braking’ effect to closer replicate being in a low gear in an internal combustion-engined car, increasing the amount of energy the car recuperates in the process.
It’s brilliant for hilly routes, where the energy recuperated can be almost as much as the energy you use. The top-spec Tekna model really feels like a luxurious car, with heated seats even in the back, leather upholstery, climate control, an extensive in-car systems readout and satnav.
And yet the price is very reasonable when compared to other top-spec cars. You’re getting a very advanced thing, with the capacity to recoup 80% of its full charge in 30 minutes and to cost you less every 100 miles you drive.
At this price, maybe now’s the time to consider the Leaf.