It’s been seven years since the first generation Nissan Leaf debuted in Australia.
While arguably not that long ago, it certainly was a time where Electric Vehicles (EVs) were far more removed from the minds of Aussie drivers.
In 2019 EVs are a more common part of the driver conversation, to the point where they were even politicsed in the lead up to the recent election.
There isn’t a better time for the second generation of the Leaf to hit our shores. Not only is it one of the more mainstream EVs available in the market, it has one of the more palatable price tags attached to it.
Also, its wild ePedal makes you feel like you’re cutting sick on Rainbow Road.
What is it?
It’s the latest in Nissan’s EV Leaf range, which first entered the Australian market in 2012.
Being on the smaller side, it’s designed for suburban driving and features.
It’s rocking an electric motor with 110kW and 320Nm, as well as a 40kWh battery.
It can get up to 270km of indicative driving range and can charge in 7.5 hours from a 7kW charger. A fast charger can get you from 20 to 80 per cent in around an hour.
It comes in at $49,990, plus on road costs. But if you want a wall charger to match you’ll need to shell out an extra $2,000.
This puts it right in the middle of the Hyundai Ioniq, which starts at $45,000, and the Hyundai Kona Electric which sits at almost $60,000.
What’s good about it?
This is a no brainer if you’re a fan of the planet.
It Normalises EVs
While half the fun of some EVs is how futuristic they feel (hello Tesla), there is something to be said for cars like the Leaf normalising this sub-section of the industry.
Both the exteriorand the cabin of the Leaf look, well, ‘normal’. There’s not a whole lot to distinguish it from a regular petrol-engine car and that’s a ghood thing.
Not everyone wants their daily driver to look like something out of The Jetsons, and keeping the aesthetic firmly planted in 2019 also helps keep the price tag down.
There’s Some Cool Tech
Just because the Leaf doesn’t go ham on the future-tech doesn’t mean it’s devoid of modern inclusions.
In addition to several USB ports, the new Leaf has one of my favourites – a wireless charging pad. Sure it doesn’t charge as fast but if you’re driving around for a little while anyway it doesn’t make that much of a difference.
It’s nice to be able to set and forget with a tangled mess of cords.
The infotainment system is also decent, coming with an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities
And of course, it’s hard to go pass the luxury that is heated seats and steering wheel.
There Also Some Cool Safety Tech
When it comes to safety, the Leaf also has some neat inclusions.
While my driving buddy and I were fortunate enough to not end up in a position to test most of these out, we could still appreciate the intelligent emergency braking, lane intervention and forward collision warnings.
It’s also equipped with blind spot warnings, cross traffic alert and lane departure warnings – all of which worked beautifully on the drive without being intrusive.
Overly sensitive warning systems aren’t ideal, especially if you’re not sure why you’re being beeped at. This is a pet hate of mine and am glad that the Leaf didn’t have this problem.
If I were to nitpick, the reverse camera was on the muddy side, especially compared to something like a Tesla, which has a crystal clear display.
However, there is a significant price difference between these two brands and you can still see things fine enough with the Leaf’s camera.
If you haven’t heard of the ePedal, it’s somewhat reminiscent of driving a go-kart.
It allows drivers to only use the accelerator to accelerate, decelerate and stop the car from moving.
That’s right, you don’t need to use the break at all. It’s basically the same as 150cc Mario Kart, unless you play like a coward.
It’s a little weird at first, and the brake is quite sensitive, but it doesn’t take long to get used to it.
And if it isn’t your thing, you can always deactivate and kick it old school with the individual accelerator and brake.
Whichever option you choose, you’ll find a car that can get up to speed and brake quickly, and maintain a smooth drive on suburban streets and on the freeway.
The Leaf’s charging capabilties is unique in that it is bi-directional, which means that it can charge both ways.
In the future it will allow owners to store energy in the car battery and then use it to power their homes.
Sadly it’s not usable right now, but it’s nice that a car being sold in 2019 is being future proofed in such a forward-thinking way.
It’s kind of cool to think of one’s car not only as a vehicle, but as a moving battery.
What’s Not So Good About It?
The built-in map app in the infotainment system is a little outdated and out of place in an otherwise modern hatchback with a $50K price tag.
It could be a little hard to follow at times due to how busy it is to the eye. If this was my car I would prefer to utilise Google Maps through CarPlay or Android Auto – despite those options chewing up data.
To be fair, 270km is actually incredibly good for a car of this size. In fact, it’s the same as the Mini Cooper SE.
I only mention it as a potential issue for certain drivers. If you’re someone who requires a car for longer drives, you may suffer from some range anxiety.
I certainly fall into this category. I live close enough to the city that I generally don’t need a car until the weekend, and it’s usually for longer drives to a hiking trail or to go down the coast to visit family.
I’m also an apartment dweller who doesn’t have anywhere to install a home charger, so EVs in general become an issue, especially models with a smaller battery capacity.
But I’m not everyone. If you do live somewhere where you can charge at home, or where you park at work, this may not be an issue at all.
Similarly, if you use a car predominantly for suburban trips and a normal daily commute, the Leaf is probably perfect. That’s what it’s designed for, after all.
Should You Buy It?
It’s difficult to encourage anyone to drop a cool $50K after only driving something for a couple of hours.
However, if your lifestyle suits a smaller EV the Nissan Leaf is absolutely worth considering.
It’s one of the most affordable EVs available, is a comfortable and zippy drive, and has has enough modern tech and conveniences to future proof it for years to come.
The new model Leaf will be available from August 1.