Nissan turns over a new Leaf with next-gen electric car

Five-door hatchback promises a range of nearly 400km and several smart new features

The new Leaf features sharper styling that is a far cry from the odd looking first generation from 2010

The new Leaf features sharper styling that is a far cry from the odd looking first generation from 2010

 

Nissan has revealed the next generation of its Leaf electric car. The world’s best-selling EV with close to 300,000 sales in 49 markets, there are approximately 30,000 Leafs in Norway alone.

However, despite great promises of success, it failed to really spark on th eIrish market initially, proving to be a slow current. Still, there are now close to 1,600 on Irish roads.

The new Leaf features sharper styling that is a far cry from the odd-looking first generation from 2010. The original had an exterior that was at best challenging on the eye. It was a love/hate design that turned as many off as on.

A word of advice if you value your health, don’t say that to a Leaf owner as they are all die hard fanatics and incredibly proud of their cars.

The new Leaf’s bolder look is based on the IDS concept from 2015. The latest Micra gave us the strongest indication of how the front wheel drive car’s styling would be. The new model sits on the same EV platform but the body is new. The car is now slightly longer, wider and lower. Inside has received a total makeover. Again, the cabin is just slightly bigger although the Leaf’s original capacity was good to begin with. Six footers will have plenty of leg and head room both front and rear. Final specification is still being set and the cars presented to us were pre production.

Of course, the most important question with any EV is not the styling but the driving range. The five-seat hatchback gets a higher capacity 40kWh battery as standard. When fully charged the range is double the original’s. Nissan now claims a maximum 378 kilometres range from a single charge. Under Japanese regulations Nissan claims a 400km range, it also says the average Japanese driver will only need to charge once a week.

This increased range means the car can realistically do a daily commute without charging during the working day. Range anxiety has an evil twin and that’s the often poor availability of public charge points. I have cursed EV owners who plug in all day, blocking the charge point. They may be desperate to have enough charge to get them home but at least the Leaf’s now greater range should help avoid this stress. The new Leaf’s range is right up there with the current crop of high-powered battery cars like the Renault Zoe 40kWh and BMW i3.

The new Leaf’s bolder look is based on the IDS concept from 2015. The latest Micra gave us the strongest indication of how the front wheel drive car’s styling would be
The new Leaf’s bolder look is based on the IDS concept from 2015. The latest Micra gave us the strongest indication of how the front wheel drive car’s styling would be

Charging the outgoing higher-powered 30kWh Leaf from flat could take up 12 hours using a standard three-pin plug (3kWh). The new 40kWh Leaf using the same three-pin plug takes up to a maximum of 16 hours from flat because of its higher capacity. If you use a more powerful EV home charger (6kWh) the new Leaf will take eight hours to charge fully from flat. A 40-minute charge at a public quick charger (50kWh) can deliver 80 per cent capacity.

A new optional extra called e-Pedal should be a must for buyers. This driving function allows a single-pedal driving experience. This key driving advance really caught my attention. The new e-Pedal is activated by a switch near the incredibly tiny automatic gearshift. E-Pedal gives the accelerator the functionality of two pedals.

You press the e-Pedal to go and simply lift off it to slow down and stop. I tried the new system on a simulator and it was easier than playing a video game. Electric vehicle driver’s are familiar with the braking effect of lifting off the gas so to speak and feeling a braking effect. I have driven many a journey in lots of EVs with little need to touch the brakes. The new Leaf will also allow you to stop on a gradient without rolling backwards by automatically engaging the traditional friction brakes.

ProPilot, Nissan’s catch all name for its advanced driver assistance systems featured in Nissan’s presentation and needless to say the Leaf is capable of keeping occupants safe while also offering the usual party tricks like auto parking and auto emergency brake.

The ease of use and near effortless driving experience with EVs that all feature automatic gearboxes, is a huge part of their appeal and the e-Pedal is going to help the Leaf fight off the competition. At the moment the Leaf is facing very strong competition in Ireland from the electric Ioniq from Hyundai.

The cabin is just slightly bigger although the Leaf’s original capacity was good to begin with. Six footers will have plenty of leg and head room both front and rear
The cabin is just slightly bigger although the Leaf’s original capacity was good to begin with. Six footers will have plenty of leg and head room both front and rear

Nissan says there is a fleet of 1,200 Irish cars and a total Leaf car park of closer to 1,600 on Ireland’s roads when you factor in private imports. Nissan says the Leaf in Japan will be similarly priced to the outgoing model. Irish prices for the 1,535kg car will be finalised in October and Irish dealers will see showroom models arriving in late December.

In Europe, Leaf sales will start in January 2018 with Irish sales starting a month later. The existing Ireland grade structure of XE, SV and SVE will continue. In 2019 a higher capacity Leaf will go on sale for those needing greater range. The current model comes with the 24kWh or a 30kWh battery as a cost option. There is some run out stock in the country but no plans to continue selling this model alongside the new car. Nissan says 3.5 billion kilometers have been driven by Leafs collectively with no major battery issues to date.

The current Leaf is built in Japan for global sales and in Sunderland in the UK, for the European and Ireland markets. The new 40kWh batteries are also built in Sunderland. When asked about Brexit and its impact on future UK manufacturing, Philip Klein, chief planning officer at Nissan Global, refused to say whether Nissan would continue to build the car and battery in the UK. The senior figure’s most telling line on the matter was “We are pragmatic people”.

In the flesh, the new Leaf is drastically improved. The exterior styling is devoid of geeky awkward Leaf-ness – if you know what I mean. Inside the cabin gets a new contemporary look with the usual touchscreen and current Nissan switchgear. Connectivity is improved too with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto available features.

Nissan pressed the point that the Leaf is no longer just an EV and has the real potential to become the core vehicle of the company. That is a bold statement but even Nissan’s CEO told us the world is shifting towards EV.

The new Leaf looks like it will sit confidently in the compact family car category – it just happens to have an electric motor and €120 annual road tax.

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