2021 Nissan Leaf e+ review

Nissan deserves a lot of credit for the Leaf.

Given many brands are only just now trotting out their first forays into electric cars, it’s pretty impressive that the Leaf is already on to its second generation after arriving in 2010.

For perspective, back then Tesla was still putting batteries into Lotuses.

The current-gen Leaf first went on sale overseas in 2017, but didn’t make it into Australian showrooms until two years later.

Leaf e+ is an easy EV to live with.
Camera IconLeaf e+ is an easy EV to live with. Credit: Supplied/Supplied

With the pace EVs are evolving, it meant its sub-300km range was immediately met with raised eyebrows by many Aussies.

Range shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all for a city car, but in Australia it’s proved a big deal — hence the new Leaf e+ boasting a far more acceptable claimed range of 385km.

Most EVs struggle to reach their claimed range and, after travelling 75km using mostly the energy-harnessing B drive mode, the display said I had 75 per cent battery remaining — equating to about 300km real world range.

It meant I was still confident to head to Gidgegannup for a drive.

The e+ doesn’t just improve range, but also power: its 6.9-second 0-100km/h time knocks a whole second off the regular Leaf.

In a straight line, it’s pretty intoxicating, addictive stuff thanks to the surge of instant torque and smooth acceleration.

But this is a city runabout and, while its holds the road adequately, it’s not exactly a fun car to punt around corners.

It has the standard Leaf specs.
Camera IconIt has the standard Leaf specs. Credit: Supplied/Supplied

The brakes can be a tad spongy as well.

Plus, the highway run through the hills of Toodyay Road did affect the range. Just past Red Hill I had travelled 138km and had 50 per cent battery left.

A 19km run through back roads with, let’s say, minimal regard to energy consumption, had me at 37 per cent remaining, but I actually picked up one per cent of battery on the way back down the hill.

Importantly, I was never stressed I would run out of battery.

At 1.46pm and with 23 per cent battery remaining, I plugged into my standard domestic socket and was told I’d have full charge by 9.40am the next day.

Nissan Leaf e+.
Camera IconNissan Leaf e+. Credit: Supplied

But thanks to the e+’s increased battery capacity, I wasn’t worried about getting to a 100 per cent charge. Over the ensuing days, even if I got to 50 per cent, I knew it would be enough for my daily commute.

It’s an important factor to keep in mind; I mean, how often is your fuel tank completely full?

Plus, if you were to buy an EV, you’d pay to install a wallbox.

Where the Leaf annoyed wasn’t in its EV-ness, as such. At 187cm, it was ergonomically frustrating: the steering wheel’s reach couldn’t be adjusted, nor could the seat be lowered far enough (though there was enough headroom).

The e+ is a city runabout.
Camera IconThe e+ is a city runabout. Credit: Supplied/Supplied

The cabin feels dated thanks to a liberal use of plastics and fairly rudimentary infotainment graphics.

The e+ largely shares the standard Leaf’s spec list and, while there are handy features such as heated seats and a heated steering wheel (which also saves battery power compared with standard heating), there are a lot of absences: no wireless phone charging or head-up display, only single-zone air-con, and back seat passengers miss out on air vents, USB points and the only rear cup holders are in the doors.

However, rear headroom and legroom is good for the small car class, as is the 405-litre boot which easily handled a weekly grocery shop for a family of three.

As with all EVs in Australia in 2021, the elephant in the room is the price.

Nissan Leaf e+.
Camera IconNissan Leaf e+. Credit: Supplied

It’s the Leaf e+’s major sticking point, not because of comparison with internal combustion engine cars, but to other EVs.

For less money (but less range) you can get into the Hyundai Ioniq, while for about the same money you can get into the more desirable Hyundai Kona and Kia Niro SUV EVs with a 455km range.

Or, for not much more, you can get into a Tesla Model 3 — the apple in many EV buyers’ eye.

It’s worth noting the Leaf is able to power appliances and entire homes thanks to its vehicle-to-grid capability.

Once it’s properly in place in Australia it could be revolutionary. Hopefully the rest of the car doesn’t feel so outdated as to turn off buyers before that happens.

VERDICT

With improved range and power, the Leaf e+ is an easy EV to live with but there are competitors in the same price bracket which may appeal more to many buyers.

2021 NISSAN LEAF e+ SPECIFICATIONS

  • Price $60,490
  • Engine Electric with 62kWh battery
  • Outputs 160kW/340Nm
  • Transmission Single speed reduction, FWD
  • Range 385km

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