Nis­san Leaf

The EV gets a timely up­grade but needs more work to take class hon­ours in the UK

Autocar - - THIS WEEK - JIMI BECKWITH @Jim­ibeck­with

First taste of new EV in Ja­panese spec

The Nis­san Leaf is a world leader in terms of elec­tric ve­hi­cle sales. A to­tal of 280,000 of Nis­san’s ‘Lead­ing Elec­tric Af­ford­able Fam­ily’ cars have amassed 3.5 bil­lion miles be­tween them since the model first went on sale in 2011.

This sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion ver­sion has got the sharp looks of the IDS con­cept seen at the 2015 Tokyo mo­tor show, a driv­ing range of 235 miles from a full bat­tery, a power boost of al­most 40bhp over its fore­bear and more ef­fi­cient charg­ing ca­pa­bil­ity. Other sig­nif­i­cant tech­nol­ogy up­grades in­clude the abil­ity to drive semi-au­tonomously in a sin­gle mo­tor­way lane (although this fea­ture won’t be avail­able on ev­ery vari­ant.

Our test car was to Ja­panese spec­i­fi­ca­tion and sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent to what we’ll get in the UK. The sus­pen­sion will be stiffer in the Bri­tish car, the e-pedal smart re­gen­er­a­tive braking sys­tem gen­tler and the dash­board more Mi­cra-like, plus it won’t get the clever cam­era and dis­play in the rear-view mir­ror.

The UK car will ben­e­fit from that up­graded dash­board from the Mi­cra be­cause the in­te­rior of the Leaf isn’t ex­actly in­spir­ing in Ja­panese spec. There’s a lot of grey plas­tic.

The e-pedal in the Ja­panese car is a lit­tle ag­gres­sive and Nis­san ex­pects UK cus­tomers to pre­fer a gen­tler de­cel­er­a­tion when eas­ing off the throt­tle. Nis­san couldn’t say by how much it will be reined in, but there should be less head-bob­bing from pas­sen­gers when the driver’s foot comes off the ac­cel­er­a­tor. When you’re on the ac­cel­er­a­tor, this new Leaf has got a real lump of torque to fire it down the road – 20% more than be­fore, in fact.

Stiffer sus­pen­sion might not be such a wel­come tweak for the UK, though. The Leaf is slightly firm al­ready. Bumpier sur­faces make them­selves known at low speeds, with a lit­tle more shake than you would hope. Nis­san prom­ises that cor­ner­ing abil­ity will be im­proved, although there’s noth­ing no­tice­ably wrong with that.

Although the new car is slightly squat­ter than the first-gen­er­a­tion Leaf, head­room in­side is ex­cel­lent. Its ex­te­rior di­men­sions make it al­most as wide as a Ford Fo­cus and larger than one in ev­ery other di­rec­tion.

A seat­ing po­si­tion that’s slightly too high com­pared with the shal­low wind­screen makes the in­te­rior feel a lit­tle less spa­cious than it de­serves, though. Other­wise, the dash­board has the per­fect but­ton-to-screen ra­tio. Im­por­tant func­tions aren’t relegated to a sub-menu in the in­fo­tain­ment, but the dash­board is un­clut­tered.

The blue but­ton on the right-hand side of the steer­ing wheel un­locks a key fea­ture of the new Leaf: Propi­lot, Nis­san’s semi-au­ton­o­mous driv­ing sys­tem. It’s as easy to op­er­ate as adap­tive cruise con­trol: just set the speed, wait for the sys­tem to con­firm that it’s ready and re­lax. Let go of the wheel, though, and a re­minder tells you po­litely to keep your hands on it. The re­minder is less po­lite the sec­ond time around. Propi­lot Park makes light work of au­to­mated park­ing, al­beit slowly. Luck­ily, Nis­san will also be up­dat­ing that for the UK mar­ket.

Steer­ing is where this Ja­panese Leaf loses a siz­able chunk of driver ap­peal. It feels numb and not all that di­rect, ei­ther. But guess what? That’s also get­ting up­dated.

Pric­ing will re­main sim­i­lar to the cur­rent range: £26,490 for the first UK cars in a spe­cial launch spec. The Leaf was ripe for a re­fresh, and this new ver­sion ad­dresses some of the ar­eas in which the out­go­ing car was be­gin­ning to lag be­hind ri­vals. If Nis­san car­ries out all of the changes as promised to the cars head­ing for the UK, the new Leaf will be not just a for­mi­da­ble elec­tric ve­hi­cle but a thor­oughly de­cent car full stop.

Blue but­ton on the right of wheel trig­gers au­ton­o­mous mode, in­clud­ing park­ing as­sis­tance

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