First Drive: Nissan Leaf 30kWh

You’re gonna need a bigger battery…

If you’re looking at the picture of the new Nissan Leaf above and are wondering what’s changed, then you won’t be alone. This is, to all intents and purposes, exactly the same Leaf as already exists, but this time it’s got a bigger battery.

Calling this a facelift is a bit of stretch, but after selling more than 10,000 of these pure electric cars in the UK, and giving it a proper facelift a couple of years ago, Nissan felt it was time to make some more changes. This time, though, they’re all under the skin.

The most important change is the battery. While calling it bigger isn’t technically true, it does pack more power in to the same size battery, rising from 24kWh to 30kWh. That’s a handy 25% increase in capacity, which translates to a handy 25% increase in driving range.

In theory then, the new Leaf will travel up to 155 miles before you need to plug it in again, although range will vary dramatically depending on road and weather conditions, as well as how heavy a driver’s right foot is.

For all sorts of reasons, 155 miles is pretty unrealistic. If conditions get as bad as they can get – so that’s sub-zero temperatures in the darkest of winter days – then as little as 80 miles might be a more sensible limit, but that’s still enough for most driving.

A quick stop at any of the growing number of rapid chargers will see you recover up to 80% of the battery charge in as little as 30 minutes too, making longer journeys viable. Beware though; the extra cost of coffee and sandwiches while you wait soon mounts up!

At home on a standard domestic socket, it’ll take an overnight charge of around 15 hours to hit 100% from empty.

Adding that extra heft to the battery has increased the weight of the Leaf, but you won’t notice that on the road, the Leaf remaining every bit the smooth and near-silent driving experience it’s always been. Handling is benign, with nothing exciting ever happening, while the ride quality is pretty good thanks to soft suspension designed to cope with the heft of all those battery cells.

What strikes you is, as with all-electric vehicles, that immediate response to the throttle. It’s intoxicating at low speeds, making the car feel far faster than it really is, although it starts to struggle a little at higher motorway speeds. Still, with little road noise and virtually no wind noise, it’s a relaxing environment.

That’s even more the case now that Nissan has upgraded the infotainment system. Called Nissan Connect, it features 3D satellite navigation (highlighting nearby charge points,) DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and everything else you would expect to find on a modern system, all built behind an intuitive touchscreen that supports smartphone-like pinch and swipe movements. Elsewhere it’s still a little too cheap and plasticy, with little in the way of style, but it’s all perfectly functional.

Nissan expects you to pay extra for the bigger and better battery, with the car carrying a £1,600 premium over the 24kWh model that will remain on sale. However, the difference is extended if you want an entry-level model with a bigger battery – you can’t have that, so you’ve got to go from the basic Visia spec to the more expensive Acenta spec as well as pay for the battery.

Despite that, Nissan promises that the Leaf will only cost you about two pence per mile to run, at least for those covering around 25 miles a day. With the increased capacity, you’ll be able to go an extra day without recharging, and those two facts combined might make the revised Leaf a compelling prospect for those living in urban areas.

An eight-year/100,000-mile warranty should reassure buyers about the longevity of the battery, while the car itself is covered by the more common five-year/60,000-mile warranty.

The maths make even more sense when looking at future technologies. Nissan will be introducing a system to feed power from your car back in to your house so that you’ll be able to, theoretically, charge your car for free at a rapid charge station and then run your house for three days or so at zero cost. Feed it back in to the national grid and you’ll even get paid a small sum.

For now though, the Leaf regains its position at the top of the pure electronic charts, with the longest range, most useable space and most pleasant driving characteristics.

Model Tested: Nissan Leaf 30kWh Acenta
Price: £24,490
Engine: Electric motor
Top speed: 89 mph
0-62 mph: 11.5 seconds
Power: 109 PS (108 bhp)
Torque: 254 Nm (187 ft-lb)
Official range: 155 miles
Road Test range: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 0 g/km
VED Band: A / £0 per year
Car insurance group: 19E
Kerb weight: 1,516 kg

Phil Huff

Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, DAD.info and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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