Can the second-generation Leaf really get the sales shifting?
Good things come to those who wait, so they say, but Nissan has been waiting rather a long time for those good things. Back in 2010 when the Nissan Leaf was launched we were told this was the spearhead of an electric revolution and by 2016 they’d have sold 1.5m vehicles. Well, the reality is that 283,000 versions of the Leaf have been sold in roughly that timeframe, and that’s after heavy discounting and government (ie taxpayers’) subsidies.
Time then for a second bite at the electric cherry, made more timely still by the growing black cloud hanging over the diesel sector.
One aspect that needed addressing was the appearance, since the public just hasn’t taken to the Leaf’s looks. The new model certainly looks more aggressive and sorted, and is a bit wider and longer as well. There’s certainly a touch of the new Micra about it, and that’s welcome.
The cabin has also taken a pace forward, with a much simpler and more streamlined dashboard replacing the rather cluttered earlier version. We were in a pre-production model so we’ll wait to see what eventually transpires but the cabin is certainly lighter, airier and slightly larger than before with improved rear legroom in particular. Behind there is a 435-litre boot, so those passengers shouldn’t be too cramped for luggage either.
To go with the new looks is a new battery pack. It sits under the floor and sends its energy to a new electric motor. The old model made 107bhp but the new one can produce 148bhp, a very useful increase. There’s considerably more punch to the power now, as evidenced by the figures – where the old model hit 62mph in 11.5 seconds, this one can crush it in a nadge over eight.
The numbers keep on improving, in that critical area of driving range. Driving range anxiety is not just restricted to the golf course, but this new model should be able to realistically run for 235 miles. That’s a decent range if it works out in real life, especially as the old model would struggle to reach 154 miles.
Part of this extra range comes courtesy of the e-Pedal. When you turn it on it you gain considerably more regenerative braking. This works by harvesting energy when you back off the throttle – something the old model did. But this new model does it with far more prominence, to the extent that the car will slow quite quickly as soon as you back off and will even grind to a halt without you even touching the brakes.
That might be very good for stoking power back in the battery but might prove exciting for someone travelling close behind.
However, everyone will appreciate the new driver assistance systems, like ProPilot which combines adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist. This semi-autonomous function can be taken further with ProPilot Park, where you just hold a button and the car takes over accelerator, brakes and steering wheel to ease you into a tight parking space.
On the move the new Leaf has much more get up and go than the old model, making it a more enjoyable drive and Nissan says UK cars will be tuned specially for our tastes. Price will be key but this is a big step for Nissan.
It looks like Nissan really has turned over a new Leaf but, like we said, good things come to those who wait and you’ll have to wait until next year to actually get hold of the new electric car from Nissan.