Treading softly in the Nissan Leaf

The Nissan Leaf has been on sale since 2010 and up until recently it was the world’s best-selling electric vehicle (EV). Its size, safety technology and range make it a well suited car for city driving with the added advantage of no tailpipe emissions and it is quiet.

The Leaf is powered by a 40kW laminated lithium ion battery and its electric motor has 110kW of power and 320Nm of torque that is paired with an automatic transmission. This is not a rapid EV though with a 0-100km/h time of 7.9 seconds and a maximum speed of 144km/h. The front wheel drive Nissan Leaf does suffer from some loss of traction under hard acceleration, even in the dry, and there is also a bit of torque steer, but overall the front tyres cope OK with the torque from the EV motor.

The claimed range for the Leaf is 270km, but based on my usage I calculated that my maximum range would have been 210km from a fully charged battery. For my week I used 19kW/100km in the Leaf and this is similar to the Tesla Model 3 which used 18kW/100km when I drove it. But the Leaf’s energy usage was more than the Hyundai Kona I have driven, which used only 13.6kW/100km.

Here’s what you need to know about charging a Nisan Leaf; it comes with a MODE-3 TYPE-2 EVSE cable for AC charging and you will need to install a wall box in your garage to use this charging option. From a Mode 3 connection it takes approximately 7.5 hours (from empty warning to full) to charge the Leaf’s battery.

While I was driving the Leaf I used a Mode 2 cable, which plugs into a standard 15A 240V wall socket. Using this method it would take approximately 20 hours to fully charge the battery if it was empty. I calculated this cable charged at a rate of 1.95kW/hour when I used it. Conveniently there are three blue lights on the dash that illuminate and indicate how the charging is progressing and these are easy to see when you glance at your Leaf to check the charging status. When fully charged the lights go out and to release the charging cable you need to press the button in the cabin. The charging point is at the front of the Leaf and this may be problematic in the event of a nose to tail accident.

For when you are on the go the Leaf can be charged by a Mode 4 cable tethered to a CHAdeMO DC charger, which is designed for quick charging via direct current (DC). These chargers can be located using the Plug Share app or via the sat nav in your Leaf.  These 50kWh CHAdeMO fast charging points have the ability to accomplish a charge from empty warning to 80 per cent within approximately 60 minutes.

Driving the Leaf is similar to petrol-powered car in that you have a gear selector, albeit one that feels a little futuristic to use. The Leaf also has an e-Pedal that enables “One Pedal Driving” of the vehicle. When you activate the e-pedal the regenerative braking takes over from regular braking for start/stop style driving, but you will still need to use the brake as well in many situations. You cannot adjust the rate at which the regenerative braking retards the Leaf and takes a bit of getting used to as it brakes somewhat heavily.

The gear selector on a Nissan Leaf.

The black leather accented seats with ultra-suede inserts are a nice design and I liked the blue stitching highlights. The front seats are firm, but comfortable and have 6-way manual adjustment for the driver and 4-way adjustment for the passenger. You do get some luxury though, as both the front and rear seats are heated.

The leather accented steering wheel is also heated and has a sporty looking flat-bottomed design. From the steering wheel you can access the voice control, which works well for making calls and selecting audio options. The driver’s dash is a combination of an analogue speedo and a 7” digital driver’s display.

There is a small storage cubby under the arm rest, with two rigid cup holders in the centre console and a good-sized drink bottle storage area in the door cubby. In front of the gear selector there is one 12V outlet, one USB port, one AUX port and a slot to store your smart phone.

The 8-inch touch-screen display gives you access is to sat sav, phone and media etc. Your music can be enjoyed on the seven speaker Bose Energy Efficient premium audio system via AM/FM radio, DAB, USB, iPod, Bluetooth, AUX, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The touch-screen also gives you access to various vehicle information screens including where your energy is being used, either the electric motor, climate control or other systems. It also gives you an indication of your driving range and can show nearby chargers and you can select your favourite charging station and save it.

I found there was enough head and leg room for two adults to comfortably sit in the back seats, which are soft and cushy. My children commented that even the centre seat was comfortable enough to sit on. The Leaf has two ISOFIX/three rear tether child seat restraint points, but in reality only enough space for two car seats. There is no fold down armrest in the centre seat and the drink bottle storage in the door cubby is hard to access when the door is closed. There are also no rear air vents, USB ports or 12V power outlets and there is a transmission tunnel.

The boot is a good size for a small car and would fit a stroller under your average weekly shop. The EV charge cord fits neatly into its storage area so it doesn’t take up too much space in the boot and you also get a space saver spare tyre. The rear seats have 60/40 spilt folding for extra storage options if required.

The Leaf comes standard with intelligent cruise control, blind spot assist, forward collision warning, emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert. It also has a 360o view camera with front and rear sensors and when you reverse the Leaf beeps to warn nearby people that the car is moving. One annoying feature however is the foot operated park brake, which I didn’t disengage before driving off on more than one occasion.

Passive safety features include dual front, side chest-protecting and side head-protecting (curtain) airbags. All Nissan Leaf models built from July 2019 onwards have a 5-star ANCAP safety rating (2018). This includes an Adult Occupant Protection rating of 35.4 out of 38 (93%) and a Child Occupant Protection rating of 41.9 out of 49 (85%).

All new Nissan vehicles come with a 5-Year Unlimited Kilometre warranty and five years of 24-Hour Roadside Assistance. Nissan has also introduced Capped Price Servicing for all vehicles for the first six services according to the vehicle’s service schedule.

The Nissan Leaf is a comfortable car with plenty of driver safety technology making it a synch to drive around a city, but it would be not suitable for driving greater distances due to its battery size. The Leaf is priced from $53,190 drive away so it is amongst the cheapest EVs currently on sale in Australia. Visit your preferred Nissan Dealer test drive the Leaf for yourself.

ProsCons
Driver safety aids that come as standardLimited driving range
Nice interior stylingNo air vents for rear passengers
Balances current driving sensations with futuristic elementsThe foot operated park brake

Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.