2020 Nissan Leaf Launch Review

Nissan Leaf is the world’s top selling electric car.

Why? Price. The entry level EV allowed bolder buyers to dip their first toe into the bewildering waters of of the 21st century.. TV personality, Osher Günsberg was one such bewildered boy, and has driven a Leaf since 2011. He loved it so much, he is on his 3rd car. He has driven in many countries and has bought in to EV ownership 100%.

Nissan sells 10,000 Leafs (or is that Leaves) a month, with more than 420,000 sold so far. The new model takes the previous model’s kudos and turns the volume up to a hundred. It includes new features, with the biggest game changer being bi-directional charging. With this, a canny owner can buy power when it is cheap, and use it when it isn’t.

Usage isn’t restricted to transportation either. Bi-directional charging allows you use your car as a mobile battery. It will power an average home for 6 days or more, without having to make any changes.

On sale in Japan for almost 2 years, the 2nd generation car becomes part of lifestyle environment rather than just a set of wheels.

Read more about the bi-directional charging here.

There is just one trim level and one price, $49,990 plus onroads.

Exterior

Leaf is a halo vehicle for Nissan. Its metalwork is intentionally different. Like Toyota’s Prius, the design is meant to those around it that its driver is really smug.

As a car, Leaf is a small hatch meant for city use. As a battery, it is so much more.

The puny proportions, and ubiquitous 5-door hatch configuration, perfectly suit the latte-set design ethos. Handsome LED lighting saves power while emitting bright clear light. Headlights have dusk sensing auto-on with high beam assist. The driver hardly needs to lift a finger.

Nissan Leaf is 2030mm wide, 1540mm high, and 4490mm long. The wheelbase is just 2700mm and has a coefficient of drag of 0.28. Those figures will matter to some, I’m sure.

Its sloping roof appears to float, with a black C-Pillar that looks like it isn’t there. It also aids airflow. EVs use low rolling resistance tyres, and clever aerodynamic styling, to increase range. It often results in a look that can be polarising, and Leaf is certainly that.

There are 6 colours, with White being the standard one. You can shell out 595 extra shekels for premium colours, and 990 for a two-tone choice.

17” alloys come with a space-saver spare. A physical spare wheel is essential for peace of mind. If you have ever battled an inflation kit you’ll know what I mean

A compact electric  motor allows the bonnet to be kept low, but the 40kwh battery pack means the Leaf is a hefty lass, at 1594kg. No dinosaurs will be harmed in the use of this car, when charge from lean, green, renewable power sources.

Interior

There a few more cues to the greenie-goodness that lies beneath.

Leaf has a outrageously normal cabin. A keen eye will spot the range monitor when the system is switched on. There is blue stitching, which has come to mean green and clean.

The cabin is cosy, with supportive heated seats. Nissan says seat heating is the most efficient form of keeping passengers warm. Heating the entire cabin simply wastes energy. You can heat the whole cabin if you want, but remember, increased heating means increased range anxiety.

To keep your digits toasty warm, the steering wheel can be set to a balmy glow. Leather (accented) upholstery has ultra-suede inserts. Sensibly, seats have manual adjustment to conserve that much needed power

The steering wheel adjusts for tilt and reach, and the rear seats fold 60/40 to give a reasonably flat floor. Cargo space then increases from 405L to 1176L. Leaf has 142mm of headroom in the front, and 140mm in the rear for slightly shorter passengers.

Instruments are clear and easy to read, with a dial for speed, and a 7” LCD screen for other driving status information. Range is displayed just where you most need it, right in front of you. You can set the instruments for a large digital speedo if you prefer that instead.

There is no HUD, something I’d expect in a car that fairly bristles with techy brilliance.

Infotainment uses an 8” touch screen that sits at the top of the centre stack, and has direct select buttons for easy use. Single zone climate controls sit below it, with a power and USB sockets under that.

The centre console houses the weird gear selector and all important ECO and E-Pedal controls.

EVs have no gears as such, so the blue-highlighted knob moves right, then to D or R. Once forward or reverse is chosen, the knob flicks back to centre. PARK is a single button mounted on top. It is easy to use, once you work out how it moves.

It falls apart a bit when you have to try using the dreadful foot-operated parking brake. In the bin with it.

None the less, ergonomics elsewhere has been a success. Much of the cost of an EV is in the battery pack, interior surfaces don’t feel quite as plush as buyer spending 50k price might want. Stay strong people, the benefits of using Leaf to power your house far outweighs and cheap plastic you might see on the doors.

We found the cabin as comfy as a pair of slippers.

Features

Leaf comes with 50kw fast charging capability which will get you to 80% in an hour. Just the ticket when you’ve got places to be.

Charging points are multiplying like randy rabbits, but for now, home is best.

Home charging is a slow affair as it is with all EVs. A full charge from a domestic supply will take 24hours, with a range of around 270km.

TOP TIP: charge for free at shopping centres.

Bi-directional charging means that in the near future you could use your Leaf to power your home as mentioned above. Read more about that here. Leaf is game changing for Australian users. It becomes more of a battery with wheels, rather than a car that sits idle most of the time.

Charging points at supermarkets is often free, so a canny shopper will top up the battery free, and use that charge at home.

Charging is via a Type-2 port with the on-board quick-charger being CHAdeMO.

Charging times are 24hrs from a 10a socket, 7.5hrs from a 32a charger, and 1hr from a 50kw CHAdMO quick-charger. Read about that at ChargeFox.

Other features include Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, DAB, and a rather nice Bose audio system. You can use inbuilt navigation, or the maps on your phone. Better still, you can handle all your calls and message, handsfree.

Cabin entry is via smart unlocking, so the key can stay secreted about your person. Should you ever be carjacked, the perp is in for a nasty surprise when he sets off down the street only to have the car die within a few hundred metres.

Drive and Engine

Driving an EV is a unique experience for newbies.

Torque is the turning force that makes the wheels go around, and Leaf has 320Nm of it. It makes the 110kw power figure almost completely irrelevant, but that’s a conversation for another time.

Maximum torque is available from moment you press your sockless loafer to the carpet. That means the sprint from the traffic lights feels mighty brisk. 0-100 is a respectable 7.9 seconds. While that won’t set the world on fire, it is still quicker than many dinosaur-powered cars.

Top speed is 144kph which may sound slightly modest, but apart from a race track, the speed limits are 110kph so it hardly matters.

Leaf has a new feature called E-Peddle, and no, that doesn’t mean doing a Fred Flintstone impersonation.

Activating the feature allows the user to drive using just the accelerator. The brake peddle only need be used if you want to stop fast. Other than that, Leaf drives like a golf cart. You have to feel it to believe it.

My only gripe is the aforementioned foot operated parking brake, which must be banished. It does not belong in a modern car, and certainly not one sporting greens 21st century credentials. In the bin with it. Give me an electric parking brake please.

Handling feels solid, as most EVs do. Leaf is not a sports car so don’t expect sports handling.

Leaf goes around corners well, and is fun to drive. There is a much in-built smugness to powering off at the traffic lights in near silence. You hear just the faintest hint of whine.

Highway travel is aided by smart cruise control and active lane control. The system beeps annoyingly if you stray over a line without indicating. Active steering will try to keep you centred in the lane but can be over-ridden by the driver.

Safety

Nissan Leaf has a 5-star ANCAP rating date stamped for 2018.

There are 6 airbags, and ISOFIX mountings with tether points. At low speeds, Leaf will makes a strange little warning sound to let pedestrians know to get out of your way.

While on the move, there is: smart cruise control with traffic sign recognition, all-round camera monitor, parking sensors, AEB with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and smart lane control with active steering.

There is an alarm too, just in case.

Good Bits:

  • Bi-directional charging
  • Good range
  • performance

Not so Good Bits:

  • price
  • some plastic feels cheap
  • looks not my thing

Summary

As Nissan says, Leaf is a game changer.

Make no bones about it, once the bi-directional charging emerges from the shadows of the test lab, it become your best friend. In fact, cars like Nissan Leaf will become an important part of national infrastructure.

As it stands, charging EVs from fossil fuels emits around 178gm/k of CO2 (source: EV Council of Australia). But this will change in time, as more power is generated from renewables.

As users learn to maximise the benefit of charging, peaks and troughs in the power grid be completely eliminated. Power failures will be a thing of the past. The only candle-lit dinners will be the ones you plan well in advance.

Don’t think of Leaf as a car. Instead, think of it as a battery, with wheels. Your car would work for you whether on the move, at home, at work, or while shopping. As long as it is plugged in, it is a power asset.

Governments will no longer be able to use “base load power” as an excuse to bolster wealthy corporate profits. As the transition to renewable energy gains momentum, mobility will not rely on long dead animals, and will not dump CO2 in to our failing environment.

Storage of solar and wind power has long been a problem and home battery storage is touted as being a big part of the solution. If everyone had a Nissan Leaf, would the problem would simply evaporate.

School children are more aware of this than the adults who teach them, and as they grow into adults, they will already have turned their backs on coal and oil. By then, EVs will be the norm.

Also look at:  

Facts and Figures: 2010 Nissan Leaf

  • Motor: AC synchronous (EM57), 110kw/320Nm
  • Transmission: reduction drive (no gears)
  • Warranty: 5 Yr/ Unlimited km with 8 Yr for battery
  • Safety: Five stars
  • Origin: Japan
  • Price: from $49,990 MLP*

*MLP – Manufacturers List Price includes GST and LCT but excluding statutory charges, dealer costs and dealer delivery. See your dealer for RDAP. Does not include price of any options.

Nissan Leaf

Rating System (against others in its class)

  • Overall look and feel 5
  • Interior look and feel 5
  • comfort 6
  • Practicality 6
  • Engine/battery 9 (bi-directional charging)
  • transmission 6
  • Technology – cabin 6
  • Technology – driver assist 6
  • Safety 6
  • Driveability 7

Total 62

Vehicle rated against others in its class

1 – terrible

5 – average

10 perfection

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