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Nissan Leaf Review

7 / 10
11 June 2024
Nissan Leaf driving on road

The Nissan Leaf walked so that the likes of the Tesla Model 3 and Porsche Taycan could run.

It was the first mass-market electric car on sale, and has helped cement the transition from fossil fuels to electric.

What we like:
  • Cheaper than rivals
  • Familiar interior
  • Larger boot than rivals
What we don't like:
  • Doesn’t have a long range
  • Rivals can recharge faster
  • Not the most desirable EV

Should I buy a Nissan Leaf?

It might not look like it, but the Nissan Leaf is an important car. No, more than that. Revolutionary. Every green-flashed number plate you see now is due to the popularity of the Nissan Leaf which, until 2020, was the best-selling electric car ever built. So, while the Leaf still has a slight tree-hugging-and-flax-sandals image, we think it deserves a whole lot more respect.


The first-generation Leaf, sold until 2018, is instantly recognisable – perhaps not all for positive reasons. When it was time to replace its best-seller, Nissan gave the Leaf smarter, more familiar styling instead of a deliberately weird look, and a bigger battery.


When it was launched, the Leaf’s 168-mile range was competitive – but electric tech has moved fast. Nowadays, that figure looks a little low compared to its nearest rivals, although it’ll still be plenty for the majority of drivers. There is an e+ version with a 238-mile range, but this is less common.

Nissan Leaf charging, close up

With Nissan having launched its newest electric model – the impressive Ariya SUV – we’d have hoped that the pioneering Leaf might’ve got some of the Ariya’s tech. Besides a few minor updates, the Leaf is almost unchanged from when it first arrived. A shame considering the wide range of EVs now available.


Against rivals such as the Volkswagen ID.3, Renault Megane E-Tech Electric and MG 4, you’d have to be mad to buy a brand-new Leaf. But, on the used market, the Leaf represents fantastic value for money – as we write this you can get a three-year-old Leaf from Motorpoint for under £10,000! You’ll struggle to get a fuel-powered car that offers the same levels of space and equipment for the same amount.


The savings continue once you’ve driven off in your Leaf, too, with free VED (road tax) until April 2025 and cheap electricity costs. Even without a dedicated EV home tariff, a full charge for a Leaf costs under £10. On the right tariff, a full recharge can cost less than £4, helping you feel like you’re the next Martin Lewis.

Interior and technology

Like the styling, the interior has been made a bit more normal for the current Leaf. You might spot that many parts of the dashboard are shared with other Nissans, with the touchscreen and steering wheel also seeing service in the Micra and the last-generation Qashqai. There’s also an info screen in the driver’s instrument cluster.


For the Leaf, these screens can show you useful EV-specific info such as battery health and whether the e-Pedal (one-pedal) driving mode is on or off. You can also access charging settings through the screen.

Nissan Leaf interior

The on-screen graphics perhaps aren’t the most modern-looking, but they’re very simple to read. Usability is enhanced by the physical buttons and dials on each side of the screen, with a particularly handy scroll dial for zooming in and out of the sat nav map. Most cars come with sat nav built-in, and all Leafs with a touchscreen get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone connectivity. Even the built-in nav shows nearby EV chargepoints and can plan a route based on how environmentally friendly it is.


Choose N-Connecta trim or higher and you’ll also get access to the NissanConnect Services App, which lets you preheat or cool the cabin and schedule when charging should start if the car’s plugged in.


N-Connecta adds climate control, heated seats, parking sensors and an Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection (MOD) to the entry-level Acenta trim’s pretty decent equipment offering – alloy wheels, a rear-view camera and a host of driver assistance tech all feature as standard. Top-spec Tekna gets LED headlights, part-leather seats, a Bose sound system and semi-autonomous driving capability. You might occasionally find used examples of the special-edition N-Tec, Shiro and 3.Zero models, as well.

Practicality

You can pick up a used Nissan Leaf for roughly the same price as a Volkswagen e-Up, Mazda MX-30, Renault Zoe or Fiat 500e. The Leaf is noticeably more practical than all those cars, as it’s the same sort of size as a Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf.

Nissan Leaf rear seats

The batteries are stashed out of the way underneath the floor, so there’s plenty of space inside the cabin. You’ll fit four six-foot adults in with head and legroom to spare. Your passengers might find their knees tucked up a little – blame the higher floor – but otherwise the Leaf should be comfortable for long journeys. The fifth seat is only for occasional use, as it’s smaller and whoever’s sat there has a big transmission tunnel to avoid.


If your passengers are a lot smaller, there are two sets of Isofix points in the back seats. Wide-opening doors and a marginally higher ride height than something like a Focus make it nice and easy to get kids in and out.


A bulky pushchair will easily fit in the Leaf’s 435-litre boot, which is a really good size. It’s 50 litres more than what’s on offer in the Volkswagen ID.3, and about 80 litres north of the MG 4. A couple of big suitcases or a fortnightly shop will fit snugly in the Leaf’s boot, and there are nets to hold smaller items. We’d like somewhere to store the charging cable, but it shouldn’t be a problem for most drivers. When you need more luggage space, the rear seats fold in a 60:40 split.

Range and performance

The majority of current-shape Nissan Leafs come with a 150hp motor and a 39kWh battery. Those figures are hardly groundbreaking but they’re more than enough for family life or commuting. Nissan’s official range figure is 168 miles – you can expect 150 miles or so in good weather and probably closer to 110 miles in colder conditions.


Long journeys are possible but need a bit of forward planning. In addition to the standard UK/Europe Type 2 connector for AC charging, the Leaf can DC fast charge using a CHAdeMO connector, which has been mostly phased out from new UK EVs. Thankfully, there are still plenty of CHAdeMO fast-chargers up and down the country, and a recharge to 80% takes around an hour.

Nissan Leaf driving rear view

For home charging, look whether your Leaf has the 6.6kW charger fitted. Most do but it was an optional extra in the past. If it’s fitted, a home wallbox will fully recharge the battery in seven hours – ideal if you charge it while you’re asleep.


A rarer choice is the Leaf e+ model, which has a larger battery for a near-240-mile range. Hunt this one out if you think you’ll suffer from range anxiety, or if you want quicker acceleration from its 217hp motor. But even the standard Leaf offers that addictive instant shove you get from many electric cars, allowing you to get up to speed without any fuss and to exploit gaps in traffic. Zero-to-62mph takes 7.9 seconds in the standard Leaf, and around seven in the e+ version.

Driving and comfort

It might surprise you that the Nissan Leaf is really nice to drive. We’ll stop short of saying it’s fun, but it’s a very pleasant driving experience. If this is your first experience of driving an EV, you might well be hooked.


Around town is where the Leaf shines brightest. As well as the instant response of the motor, giving you a few extra mph with a tickle of a toe, you can use the e-Pedal system to swiftly bring you to a stop without even using the brake pedal. Just using the accelerator pedal might take a little bit of practice, but it soon becomes second nature – and the system scoops up energy to boost range.


The steering is light but direct, making it ideal for driving around town. At higher speeds, the steering doesn’t become fidgety and annoying, and the Leaf remains quiet and comfortable. The suspension occasionally feels a little firm – it needs to be to control the weight of the battery – but there’s not much body roll so it won’t feel wayward in corners.

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