Car Reviews

2017 Nissan LEAF Hatchback Review

We drive Nissan's best-selling electric car on Irish roads


Pros: Low running costs, practical cabin, smooth acceleration

Cons: Expensive, rivals have increased range

Electric car sales are increasing steadily here in Ireland and consumer confidence in the technology has certainly been growing too. Since its launch in 2011, the Nissan LEAF has become one of the best-selling electric cars in the world, and it’s easy to see why with its practical cabin and a solid reputation for low running costs. With several new electric models due to arrive on the market in 2017, including the extended-range Renault ZOE Z.E. 40, the LEAF will have its work cut out to remain the best seller in the class however. We spent time with the LEAF on Irish roads recently to see just how well-suited it is to everyday life. 

What is it like?

The LEAF’s styling is inoffensive and hasn’t changed since its mid-life update in 2013. It shares a similar side profile with the latest Nissan Pulsar and with “Zero Emission” badges on the boot and front doors, it’s easy to tell that the LEAF isn’t a conventional petrol or diesel-powered car from the outside. Alloy wheels are standard across the range, but only highest specification SVE models have full LED auto levelling headlights.

There are several giveaways inside that show the LEAF is an electric car, including the battery charge symbol instead of a conventional fuel gauge, a very small gear lever and most noticeably no engine noise when the start button is pressed. The cabin is practical and spacious with good room for front and rear seat passengers, but the quality of the materials is a little rough and the range of steering wheel adjustment could be better. The infotainment screen in the centre of the dashboard is quite easy to use and can display lots of information from driving range, to eco-friendliness and more. Although boot space is reduced to 380 litres because of the car’s charging system, it is still slightly bigger than other electric cars like the Renault ZOE.

The Nissan LEAF is available with a choice of two different electric motors, either a 24KkWh (which stands for kilowatt-hour) with a range of up to 199 kilometres, or a 30kWh version with an expanded range of up to 250 kilometres. Depending on how you drive and the conditions on the road, this range will vary significantly. Both versions of the LEAF produce 80 kilowatts of power which is equivalent to 109hp, and it can cover 0-100km/h in 11.5 seconds. The LEAF is surprisingly quick off the line around town with instant acceleration and  just one gear in D mode, so it’s incredibly easy to drive. The parking break is foot-operated and this takes getting used to.

Out on the road, the LEAF handles similarly to most family cars of its size but due to the added weight of the battery system there is still some body roll through tight turns. The LEAF is more-suited to town driving thanks to its light steering and soft suspension setup, but road and wind noise is quite noticeable at higher speeds. Charging the LEAF is simple, as the charging flap at the front of car opens after pressing a button on the key fob. The 24KWh LEAF that we have here takes around seven hours to charge from empty to full at a standard home charging point, while more powerful public quick charging points (see pictures) provide an 80% charge in less than half an hour. The NissanConnect EV app allows you to keep an eye on the charge level of the car, driving range, activate charging and lots more remotely which is very useful on the go.

Prices for the entry level LEAF XE start from €21,490 including the Irish Government grant for private buyers of €5,000, and as standard it has hill start assist, Our SVE specification LEAF is the highest level model in the range and gets lots of extra equipment including a heated steering wheel, heated seats, leather upholstery, LED headlamps and an excellent sounding BOSE energy efficient sound system (a must for music lovers).

Carzone verdict: 3/5

The Nissan LEAF is undoubtedly one of the best electric cars on sale at the moment thanks to its practical interior, surprisingly good performance and low running costs. What’s more, the LEAF is very easy to drive and charge on the go, which makes it an ideal option for those who are considering buying their first electric car. The LEAF is quite expensive to buy compared with comparable petrol and diesel powered family cars however, and some of its new rivals now offer considerably more range. That said, it remains a very usable all-rounding electric car and offers real savings on running costs for those that have easy access to charge points.

Test Car Details:

Model driven: Nissan LEAF SVE

Prices from: €21,490 (incl. Government grant)

Price as tested: €26,390 (incl. Government grant)

Annual Road Tax: €120

Engine: Electric

Power/Torque: 109bhp

Top Speed: 143km/h

0-100km/h: 11.5 seconds

Transmission: Automatic

Body style: Hathcback

Boot Space: 380 litres