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Nissan Leaf electric car 2021 review: e+ EV test


Here in 2021, it finally seems like Australia is ready to adopt electric cars, with interest on the rise and many, many new models of various shapes and sizes on the horizon.

Nissan, though, has been quietly chipping away at the EV market with its Leaf, which first launched in Australia way back in 2012 and was then refreshed with a new-gen model in mid-2019.

Featuring a larger battery for increased driving range. Featuring a larger battery for increased driving range.

But even the latest Leaf is beginning to look a little dated compared to the likes of the Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5, so what is Nissan to do?

Introduce the new Leaf e+ of course, which features a larger battery for increased driving range, as well as a more potent electric motor for peppier performance.

But is the Nissan Leaf e+ the electric car to buy?

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

New tech is always going to cost a premium, just look at how the latest flagship smartphones have crept well over $1000!

So, if you’re expecting to pay a little more for an electric car than a petrol or diesel-powered model, you’d be right on the money.

You can get into a base Nissan Leaf for $49,990 before on-road costs, but the new 2021 e+ raises the bar to $60,490. Ouch.

There is quite a long list of equipment to justify the price though, but both Leaf and Leaf e+ actually mirror each other in spec, meaning the $10,500 difference in price is due to the latter’s improved driving range, performance and charging – but more on those in a bit.

There is quite a long list of equipment to justify the price. There is quite a long list of equipment to justify the price.

As standard, the Leaf and Leaf e+ comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, rear privacy glass, heated front and rear outboard seats, heated steering wheel, and a leather and suede interior trim.

Drivers are also treated to a 7.0-inch multifunction display, which can be customised to show driving range, energy consumption and more.

Handling multimedia duties is an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, seven-speaker Bose sound system, digital radio and satellite navigation.

There are some noticeable omissions on the spec list, however, which are especially jarring given the Leaf e+’s forward-facing powertrain.

There’s no wireless smartphone charger and there’s no head-up display, plus the park-brake is foot-operated, which is a big disappointment in a new car in 2021.

17-inch alloy wheels come standard. 17-inch alloy wheels come standard.

Is there anything interest about its design?

If you were expecting all electric cars to look like something out of Star Wars or Blade Runner, you might want to lower your expectations a tiny bit with the Nissan Leaf.

From the outside, the Leaf looks just… fine?

You can tell it’s an electric car because there aren’t big gaps in the front grille to let in air, and the sharp, angular styling helps the Leaf better cut through the air to maximise its driving range.

Step to the side and you’ll see a silhouette of a small hatchback, but spruced up with ‘Zero emissions’ badges and 17-inch wheels with low-rolling-resistance tyres.

The blacked-out C-pillar is kind of cool, and pinches the rear end a bit for a more stylish and even coupe-like roofline.

The Leaf looks just fine. The Leaf looks just fine.

That roof is finished off with a subtle spoiler that carries down into the half-blacked-out tailgate and sharp tail-lights. There’s also a little diffuser down there and, being an electric car, there are no exhaust outlets to ruin the plastic.

Inside, once again, the Leaf looks just fine.

The biggest thing that really stands the Leaf e+’s cabin apart from a conventional small hatchback is the shifter, which is now a small puck-like thing.

It still functions the same, you pull it towards you and down to chuck the Leaf in drive, it’s just not a gear stick, and is one of the only giveaways that the Leaf is an EV from the inside.

The 8.0-inch touchscreen dominates the centre stack, and it's great to see that, despite the Leaf’s futuristic feel, there are still buttons and switches for the climate controls, rather than being an all-touchscreen affair.

It might sound like I'm a fan of the way the Leaf e+ looks, but it doesn’t really break the mould in terms of styling.

Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is completely up to you, as some would rather a more traditional looking vehicle, but I’d prefer a bit more zing in the style department.

How practical is the space inside?

Measuring 4490mm long, 1788mm wide, 1540mm tall and with a 2700mm wheelbase, the Nissan Leaf e+ sizes up nicely against small hatchbacks like the Toyota Corolla, Mazda3 and Hyundai i30.

Up front, there’s no denying the Leaf’s practicality, and the cabin feels light and airy thanks to big and generous windows, even if the A-pillars are a little on the thick side.

However, the seats are positioned a little too high – at least for our tastes – and without a telescoping function on the steering wheel, it can take a bit of time before you find the most comfortable driving position.

There’s no denying the Leaf’s practicality up front. There’s no denying the Leaf’s practicality up front.

Storage options in the front seats include door pockets that will take a big water bottle, two cupholders between the seats, a deep storage cubby under the armrest and a tiny little recess that will fit your wallet and smaller phones.

In the rear seats, space does get a bit tighter, at least for my six-foot-tall frame, but there is still sufficient head and leg-room in the two outboard seats.

Space does get a bit tighter in the rear. Space does get a bit tighter in the rear.

The middle position is pretty compromised, however, because of the lithium-ion battery underneath and all the components needed to get juice up to the front wheels, which eats away significantly at the footwell.

In the back, storage options extend to a bottle holder in the doors and map pockets behind the two front seats.

Opening the boot reveals a cavity that will accommodate 405 litres officially, but you might want to be careful not to load the Leaf to the brim.

The boot will accommodate 405 litres officially. The boot will accommodate 405 litres officially.

There’s a Bose sound system device positioned right behind the back seats, which emits a beeping sound when reversing to warn pedestrians you are there, so you’ll have to be careful not to damage it with anything big and heavy.

It’s a bit disappointing to see there are no bag hooks or luggage tie-down points in there, but at least there are storage nets where you can put your charging cables.

Fold the rear-seats down and available volume swells to 1176L, but the seats do not fold flat, making it trickier to transport longer items.

Fold the rear-seats down for 1176L. Fold the rear-seats down for 1176L.

What are the key stats for the drivetrain?

Under the bonnet of the 2021 Nissan Leaf e+, you will find the electric motor and inverter, which drives the front wheels via a single-speed automatic transmission.

The Leaf e+’s electric motor produces 160kW of power and 340Nm of torque, which is a noticeable step up over the standard Leaf’s 110kW/320Nm output.

As a result, the Leaf e+ is quicker in the 0-100km/h sprint, needing just 6.9 seconds, compared to the Leaf’s 7.9s time.

The Leaf e+’s electric motor produces 160kW of power and 340Nm of torque. The Leaf e+’s electric motor produces 160kW of power and 340Nm of torque.

How much does it consume? What’s the range like, and what’s it like to recharge/refuel?

Officially, the Nissan Leaf e+ consumes 18kWh per 100km … which we’re betting means absolutely nothing to you.

Translating this into real-world terms, the Leaf e+ will travel about 385km with a full charge.

This is much higher than the 270km afforded in the standard Leaf because the e+ has a much larger 62kWh battery, which is part of the reason it costs so much more.

The Nissan Leaf e+ officially consumes 18kWh per 100km. The Nissan Leaf e+ officially consumes 18kWh per 100km.

However, with things like regenerative braking and careful use of the air-conditioning, your mileage can greatly vary.

In our week with the car, I actually managed an average consumption rating of 17.3kWh/100km, bettering the official figure.

Regardless, using a standard household socket will get the Leaf e+ from 30 per cent battery to full in about 11.5 hours, and using a DC fast-charger will cut the 20-80 per cent charge to just 45 minutes.

Using a DC fast-charger will cut the 20-80 per cent charge to just 45 minutes. Using a DC fast-charger will cut the 20-80 per cent charge to just 45 minutes.

Do note that the Leaf e+ features the CHAdeMO DC fast-charging ports, which are a little harder to find than the CCS varieties.

The Leaf e+, as well as the Leaf, also now support bi-directional charging, so you can use your car to power your home to charge things like your phone and Nintendo.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The Nissan Leaf e+ wears a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating from the testing of the regular Leaf in 2018.

The Leaf scored notably high on the adult and child occupant protection tests, with six airbags as standard.

The Leaf e+ wears a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating. The Leaf e+ wears a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating.

Advanced safety technology also extends to autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, traffic-sign recognition, high-beam assist, driver-attention alert, tyre pressure monitoring, front- and rear-parking sensors, and rear cross traffic alert.

Our favourite feature, though, is the surround-view monitor, which helps you nail that parallel park without curbing the wheels.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Like all new Nissan models sold in Australia in 2021, the Leaf e+ comes with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, along with five years of roadside assist.

The battery is covered by an eight-year/160,000km assurance period, which ensures three quarters of capacity after that time.

Scheduled service intervals are every 12 months or 20,000km, whichever occurs first, matching the industry standard.

With Nissan’s capped-price-servicing schedule, the Leaf e+ will cost around $1742 to maintain over five years, averaging out to be about $290 per year.

Without the need to change things like oil and sparkplugs, the all-electric Leaf e+ is much cheaper to keep on the road than petrol-powered competitors.

What’s it like to drive?

If you’ve never driven an electric car before, there is a bit of a learning curve. For starters, the torque is available instantaneously, and there isn’t any exhaust or engine noise to contend with.

But don’t worry, because Nissan has made it really easy to just get into the Leaf e+ and go.

Firstly, there is nothing intimidating about the cabin. The layout for all the controls and switches is well thought out, and everything is just where it should be and does what it's meant to do.

This means that, despite having an electric drivetrain, the Leaf e+ feels familiar – and that’s important to some.

There is nothing intimidating about the cabin. There is nothing intimidating about the cabin.

Turn the car on, put it in Drive and – just like a regular car – push on the throttle to move. But even though torque is available right away, the Leaf e+ never shoots forward at a mind-blending or uncontrollable pace.

Can you tell the Leaf e+ has a peppier engine than the base offering? It’s hard to say without driving the Leaf and Leaf e+ back-to-back, but Nissan’s new electric hatchback offers spritely enough performance.

What is noticeable is the boost to driving range.

While an extra 110 or so kilometres might not seem like that much in the grand scheme of things, it means you don’t have to worry about plugging in and recharging as often, and it's always nice to look down at the range-remaining display and see a three-digit figure.

Nissan’s new electric hatchback offers spritely enough performance. Nissan’s new electric hatchback offers spritely enough performance.

In our week with the car, we only charged up once, and there was never a moment where we stressed about running out of juice before getting the car back to base.

And if you really are worried about your range, or are into hypermiling, there is always the Eco mode, or Nissan’s e-Pedal, to play around with.

The former will just dial back performance to add about 15km to the overall range, while the latter allows the Leaf e+ to be operated with just the throttle pedal.

Lift off the right foot, and the Leaf e+’s aggressive regenerative braking will kick in to recoup energy and slow down the car, forcing you to think about and be careful with your inputs.

It might sound like a marketing gimmick, but it really is the best way to drive the Leaf e+ if range is a concern.

The Nissan Leaf e+ isn’t the last word on dynamics by any stretch, turn the wheel and the car will travel where you direct it, but it does so without any great flair or panache.

No, the 2021 Nissan Leaf e+ is a not dynamic wunderkind, but it absolutely nails being a comfortable, familiar and unintimidating step into the world of electric cars.

If you’ve never driven an electric car before, the Nissan Leaf e+ is the perfect starting point.

It looks and feels for the most part like a conventional car, and it doesn’t throw any of its tech in your face.

It might sound like a criticism, but the Leaf e+ is easy-to-use and unintimidating, which is refreshing in a world dominated by TikToks, smart watches and cryptocurrency.

With a boosted driving range and a bit better performance, the Nissan Leaf e+ certainly puts a strong case forward as your next – or first – EV.

$60,490

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Score

4/5
Price Guide

$60,490

Based on new car retail price

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