Hyundai Ioniq Electric Premium 2021 review
Hyundai's Ioniq range is nothing if not a flex in the face of Toyota. Sure, Toyota has a dominating...
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Before the Tesla Model 3 came along, the Nissan Leaf was the best-selling electric car in the world, and for good reason. The Leaf has been in the zero-emissions game for a long time, so long, in fact, that it’s now about halfway through its second generation.
Yep, while other electric cars are only getting started , the Leaf has well and truly established itself, but with the effects of a tidal wave of new zero-emissions models now being felt, the Leaf needs to reassert its place in the market.
Enter the Leaf e+, the long-range version of the regular Leaf, which hopes to alleviate any range anxiety and make buyers realise the Leaf can be more than just a city car. So, let’s find out if it really is.
|Nissan Leaf 2021: (base)|
Priced from $60,490 plus on-road costs, the Leaf e+ commands a significant $10,500 premium over the regular Leaf, with buyers compensated for the extra spend with longer range, faster charging and higher performance, but more on all that later.
Standard equipment in the both Leaf e+ and regular Leaf includes dusk-sensing LED lights, rain-sensing wipers, power-folding side mirrors with heating, 17-inch alloy wheels, a space-saver spare, keyless entry and rear privacy glass.
And then there’s the 7.0-inch multifunction display, heated steering wheel plus heated front and rear outboard seats, and black leather-accented upholstery with grey Ultrasuede accents.
What’s missing? A sunroof and a wireless smartphone charger would be nice, for starters.
That said, the Tesla Model 3 mid-size sedan (from $62,900) isn’t that much more expensive than the Leaf e+, with its entry-level Standard Range Plus variant offering better range, charging and performance.
As far as electric cars go, the Leaf e+ doesn’t exactly stand out from the crowd, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Whereas a lot of electric cars make a statement from the get-go with their polarising exterior designs, the Leaf e+ whispers rather than shouts.
And with nothing other than blue metallic trim on the front bumper to visually separate the Leaf e+ from the regular Leaf, it blends into the background that little bit more.
Look a little closer, though, and you’ll notice the Leaf e+’s closed-off version of Nissan’s signature V-motion grille up front, with its charging ports hidden under the cover above.
Around the side, the Leaf e+ does show some flair with its blacked-out B- and C-pillars, which combine to deliver a ‘floating’ roof effect.
The Leaf e+ arguably looks its best at the rear, with its boomerang-style tail-lights looking the business alongside a rarely seen half-black tailgate.
Inside, the Leaf e+ is a little bit more adventurous, with black leather-accented upholstery with grey Ultrasuede accents throughout.
That said, the Leaf e+ doesn’t feel as premium as its price suggests, with cheap-feeling hard plastics used prominently, while the gloss-black trim scratches easily.
Technology-wise, the Leaf e+’s 8.0-inch central touchscreen is well positioned, but the multimedia system powering it isn’t exactly cutting-edge, lacking the breadth of functionality of most its rivals, which makes using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto the safer bet.
The Leaf e+’s 7.0-inch multifunction display is better executed, not only offering up all the necessary information to the driver, but handily positioned to the left of a traditional speedometer.
And while it might not look very appealing, the Leaf e+’s knob-style gear selector actually works rather well, taking advantage of shift-by-wire technology to deliver a different driving experience.
Measuring 4490mm long (with a 2700mm wheelbase), 1788mm wide and 1540mm tall, the Leaf e+ is slightly larger than the average small hatchback, although that doesn’t necessarily mean good things for practicality.
For example, while the boot’s minimum cargo capacity is pretty good, at 405L, its maximum storage space of 1176L with the 60/40 split-fold rear bench stowed is compromised by not only a pronounced hump in the floor, but also some of the Bose sound system’s parts.
To make matters worse, the load lip is very, very tall, making loading bulkier items that bit more difficult, while there are also no tie-down points on hand for securing loose cargo. You do get two side-storage nets, though.
In the second row, the compromised packaging is again prominent, with the rear bench positioned quite high due to the placement of the battery below. As a result, occupants strangely tower over the driver and front passenger.
That said, behind my 184cm driving position, there’s still about an inch of legroom, while an inch worth of headroom is also available. Toe-room is basically non-existent, though, and the tall central tunnel eats into precious footwell space if three adults are seated.
Children, of course, will have fewer complaints, while younger ones are looked after even better, with three top-tether and two ISOFIX anchorage points on hand for fitting child seats.
Amenities-wise, the rear door bins take one regular bottle each, while map pockets are located on the front seat backrests, and that’s it. Rear air vents are nowhere to be seen, with the same true of a fold-down armrest with cupholders, and connectivity options.
Naturally, things are a lot better in the first row, where a USB-A port, a 12V power outlet and even an auxiliary input are located at the base of the centre stack, with a smartphone-sized cubby strategically located beneath.
Two cupholders and a key-fob-sized slot are positioned behind the gear selector, while the central bin is oddly shaped and not particularly deep.
Thankfully, the glovebox is a hit, being able to swallow the owner’s manual and other bits and pieces, while the front door bins can accommodate one regular bottle apiece.
The Leaf e+ is motivated by a front-mounted electric motor that produces 160kW of power and 340Nm of torque, making it a significant 50kW and 20Nm more potent than the regular Leaf.
Needless to say, the Leaf e+ is the higher performing of the two, sprinting from a standstill to 100km/h in a warm 6.9 seconds, which is one second quicker than the regular Leaf. Even its top speed is 13km/h superior, at 158km/h.
The Leaf e+ has a 62kWh battery that provides 450km of NEDC-certified range, figures that are a significant 22kWh larger and 135km longer than that of the regular Leaf.
That said, it’s worth noting that Nissan itself quotes 385km of range for the Leaf e+ and 270km for the regular Leaf, preferencing the more realistic WLTP testing standard in its communications.
Either way, the Leaf e+’s claimed energy consumption is 18.0kWh/100km, which is predictably 0.9kWh/100km higher than the regular Leaf’s.
Driving the Leaf e+ in the real world, we averaged 18.8kWh/100km over 220km of driving, with the launch route predominately taking place on highways and country roads, so an even better return could be achieved with more time spent in traffic.
As such, you can expect to get at least 330km out of a single charge in the real world, which is more than enough to confidently commute, within reason, from the city to the country and back, and you can’t say that about the regular Leaf.
When the Leaf e+ does run of juice, it takes 11.5 hours to charge its battery from 30 to 100 per cent capacity when using a 6.6kW AC charger, while a 100kW DC fast-charger will take it from 20 to 80 per cent in 45 minutes.
For reference, the regular Leaf’s 6.6kW AC charging time is four hours shorter due to its smaller battery, but its DC fast-charging time is actually 15 minutes longer because it maxes out at 50kW.
It’s also worth noting that both the Leaf e+ and regular Leaf have widespread Type-2 AC charging ports, but their DC fast-charging ports are frustratingly of the hard-to-find CHAdeMO variety. Yep, it’s an outdated technology.
What isn’t, though, is bi-directional charging, which the Leaf e+ supports out of the box. Yep, among many uses, it can power your home, fridge and all, with the right infrastructure in place.
ANCAP awarded the entire Leaf line-up its maximum five-star safety rating against its 2018 standard, meaning the Leaf e+ still gets the tick of approval from the independent safety authority in 2021.
Advanced driver-assist systems in the Leaf e+ extend to autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, traffic-sign recognition, high-beam assist and driver-attention alert.
And then there’s blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, surround-view cameras, front and rear parking sensors, and tyre-pressure monitoring.
Yep, aside from intersection assist, cyclist detection, steering assist and front cross-traffic alert, there’s not much missing here.
Other standard safety equipment includes six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), anti-skid brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist and the usual electronic stability and traction-control systems.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
The Leaf e+ also comes with five years of roadside assistance, while its battery is covered by a separate, eight-year/160,000km warranty.
And the Leaf e+’s service intervals are every 12 months or 20,000km, whichever comes first, with the latter pleasingly on the longer side.
Better yet, capped-price servicing is available for the first six visits, costing $1742.46 in total, or an average of $290.41, which is pretty good.
Behind the wheel of the Leaf e+, it’s immediately apparent there’s a bit more to it than the regular Nissan Leaf.
As soon as you plant your right foot, the Leaf e+ instantly yet smoothly delivers its extra power and torque, with the resulting acceleration undoubtedly on the same level as that of a warm hatch.
This higher performance certainly puts a smile on your face, but not in a shocking way (pun intended). Nonetheless, it’s very much appreciated.
What is shockingly good is the regenerative braking. There are three settings for it, with the most aggressive one being e-Pedal, which effectively enables one-pedal driving.
Yep, forget about the brake pedal, for as soon as you lift off the acceleration, the Leaf e+ will decelerate with purpose, all the way to a standstill.
Of course, there’s a learning curve to it, but you quickly work out when to lift off in different scenarios, Not only do you relearn how to drive in a fun way, you're also charging the battery along the way. Brilliant.
Being an electric car, the Leaf e+’s battery is located under the floor, meaning it has a low centre of gravity, which is generally great news for handling.
Indeed, the Leaf e+ can be quite entertaining on a good twisty road, exhibiting strong body control, despite the fact it’s not only shifting nearly 1800kg from side to side, but also forgoes independent rear suspension for a less-sophisticated torsion beam.
Push a little too hard and the Leaf e+ will start to understeer, but grip is assured at any point, even though drive is only being sent to the front wheels.
The Leaf e+’s electric power steering is on the heavier side, which I appreciate, but it’s not necessarily super direct or overly communicative.
Ride comfort is also relatively good. Again, being an electric car, the Leaf e+ has more weight to contend with than a traditional small hatchback, so it is more firmly sprung. As a result, road imperfections are felt, but they’re never overwhelming.
Finally, without a conventional engine working away in the background, reducing other loud noises is a key consideration for the Leaf e+. This is done well, with tyre roar only heard at highway speeds, while wind whistle over the side mirrors only fires up above 100km/h.
There’s no doubting the Leaf e+ is a massive improvement over the regular Leaf. In fact, its longer range, faster charging and higher performance make it a tempting option for electric-car buyers in 2021.
That said, much like the regular Leaf, the Leaf e+ isn’t perfect, with the biggest issues being its compromised packaging and close price positioning to the much more compelling Tesla Model 3.
However, the Leaf e+ should still be above the regular Leaf on the shopping list of those buyers after a relatively affordable electric car with enough range to drive in both the city and the country.
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