Review

Nissan Leaf hatchback

Price  £26,030 - £31,730

Nissan Leaf hatchback

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Very low running costs
  • Comfortable & quiet
  • No emissions
Cons
  • High purchase price
  • Rivals are more fun to drive
  • Limited range & long recharge times

At a glance

The greenest
Visia 109PS 24 kWh 5dr £26,030
The cheapest
Visia 109PS 24 kWh 5dr £26,030
The fastest
Visia 109PS 24 kWh 5dr £26,030
Top of the range
Tekna 109PS 30 kWh 5dr £31,730

“The Nissan LEAF is one of the most significant cars to have gone on sale in the UK. It’s quiet, comfortable, easy to drive and exceptionally cheap to run.”

As the first mass-produced electric car to be sold in Britain, the Nissan LEAF will undoubtedly be heralded as a pioneer in the transition from internal combustion to alternative means of propulsion in the car industry.

Now, however, there are more modern and more advanced EVs out there. Can the Nissan still keep up with rivals like the BMW i3 and Tesla Model S? Or is it starting to get left behind?

Well, there's still plenty to recommend it. Apart from how it's powered, it behaves exactly like a traditional family hatchback – except it's quieter and (in some cases) more comfortable. It's also very cheap to run – an overnight charge will cost a few pounds at most – and exempt from road tax. It also sits in the lowest Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) company-car tax band, meaning it makes plenty of sense as a company car (as long as you don’t have many long trips).

It has easily enough performance for town, where it's quiet, comfortable and relaxing to drive. Range anxiety can make it a little more stressful out on the motorway, but as long as you stay within the limits, it's fine.

What's likely to put people off, however, is that limited range. Now, in 30kWh (kilowatt hours) trim, the LEAF has a maximum range of 155 miles, while the 24kWh version can manage up to 124 miles. But these figures can only be achieved under perfect conditions, so if it's too cold, the air-con's been on too long or if you encounter hills on your journey, the range can seriously reduce.

A charge from a household plug takes about 12 hours, while a home charging point will takes about four hours to charge it fully. There are also many fast-charging points around the country, too – these can charge the Leaf to 80% battery capacity in just 30 minutes.

There's no safety net, however, so if you get stuck, you’re pretty stuck. If this concerns you, then a plug-in hybrid like the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV might be more your cup of tea.

It's also worth remembering that the Leaf's battery won’t last forever and, while it's covered by a warranty, it’ll cost a lot to replace – although Nissan will contribute £1,000 if this needs doing. So, especially if you’re buying used, it's worth checking how much life is left in the battery.

Although the LEAF does look quite pricey to begin with, it qualifies for a Government grant towards its purchase, so that cuts down the price a lot. There are three trim levels – Visia, Acenta and Tekna – each of which is pretty well equipped. We recommend Acenta, as it gives you access to a range of connected apps, letting you control various aspects of the car from your smartphone.

The 30kWh models costs an extra £1,600, but we reckon it's worth it for the extra range. You also have the choice of leasing the battery for a set monthly cost. This lowers the purchase price considerably, but does mean you never own the battery.

In terms of safety, the Leaf is impressive, too. A five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating should put any worries to rest. A range of airbags and a tyre-pressure monitoring system complement the traction control, anti-lock brakes and stability control on the standard safety kit list.

The car also has a very good reputation for reliability, finishing eighth out of 200 models for this quality in our 2015 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. Thanks to the fact that electric motors are so simple, with few moving parts, Nissan Leaf servicing is both straightforward and affordable.

MPG, running costs & CO2

4 / 5

Nissan Leaf extremely cheap to run thanks to the promise of 124 miles of driving for £2 in electricity

Engines, drive & performance

2.6 / 5

The Nissan Leaf is relaxing but unexciting to drive

Interior & comfort

3.4 / 5

Very little wind or road noise and near-silent running makes the Nissan Leaf extremely relaxing for occupants

Practicality & boot space

2.3 / 5

A limited range hurts the everyday practicality of the Nissan Leaf

Reliability & safety

4.3 / 5

Lack of moving parts means there’s less to go wrong in a Nissan Leaf

What the others say

4.3 / 5
based on 4 reviews
4 / 5
"Turn the ignition key, though, and you are greeted with silence. There's no mechanical hum from the electric motor – only a light on the dash to tell you the engine is ready for action. You can select the single forward gear with a switch in the centre console, then it's simply a case of releasing the brakes and pressing the throttle. Acceleration is progressive and the ride smooth."
3 / 5
"Press the throttle and the 551lb, 24kWh, 90kW (121bhp) lithium-ion battery pours current into the 80kW (107bhp) AC brushless electric motor, which drives the front wheels. While 'all-torque-at-zero-revs' electric propulsion can be overstated, the Leaf takes off with alacrity, especially up to 40mph."
5 / 5
"The future looks bright, because the world's first mass-produced electric car is fast, fun and comfortable. It's pricey, but it costs peanuts to run and you get stacks of kit included. Our Electric Car of the Year 2011."
5 / 5
"Could this be the beginning of the end for the internal combustion engine? The Leaf is the first serious mainstream production car to be powered by electricity. It emits zero CO2, can be charged at home for next to nothing and most importantly it drives and looks like a mainstream car. The body was designed using Nissan's ‘smart fluidity' principle, combining flowing lines with aerodynamic efficiency."
What owners say 
4.4612903225806
4.5 /5 based on 31 reviews
77%
 of people would recommend this car to a friend
Last updated 
29 Oct 2015
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