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Nissan Leaf 2020 review: family test

The Nissan Leaf is a great car to zip around in and it’s fun to drive.

It’s so interesting to watch the growth of electric cars and how they are expanding into every category.

This Nissan Leaf is a five-seater hatchback. It looks pretty good from the outside and you wouldn’t guess it had an electric motor if it wasn’t for the big 'Zero Emissions' stamped on the outside. 

This Nissan Leaf is a five-seater hatchback and it looks pretty good from the outside. This Nissan Leaf is a five-seater hatchback and it looks pretty good from the outside.

This is a fairly pricey hatchback though, at $49,990 it’s around $10 - $15,000 more than a petrol hatchback, and it’s $5000 more than its nearest competitor, the Hyundai Ioniq.

But it only costs around $700 a year to run. And then there’s the dreamy situation of never going to a petrol station again because you charge up at home. 

Is all that enough to warrant the high price? I did a family review where I test drove the Nissan Leaf over seven days with my family of four to find out.

How much does it cost to own?

Let’s get the important bit out of the way: how does it charge? You can easily charge the Leaf at home, by plugging the cord that comes with it into a regular electricity socket.

You can easily charge the Leaf at home, by plugging the cord that comes with it into a regular electricity socket. You can easily charge the Leaf at home, by plugging the cord that comes with it into a regular electricity socket.

This is the slowest way to charge and it will take around 24 hours to get from zero to 100 per cent. But still convenient because if you’ve got a garage or can plug in at work, you can leave it to charge every day.

Nissan claims it will cost around $700 a year at peak times, or just $300 at non-peak. Less again if you have solar panels.

You can also get a home wall connector installed in your garage, so you plug into that instead of a powerpoint and that will take 7.5 hours to charge. Then there is a CHAdeMO connector which only takes one hour to charge. 

And in about a year (end 2020) you’ll be able to pay $2000 for a two-way battery charger, which essentially stores power in the car’s battery and powers your home in off-peak times.

The Nissan Leaf costs $49,990 before on road costs. The Nissan Leaf costs $49,990 before on road costs.

The Nissan Leaf costs $49,990 before on road costs and warranty is Nissan’s standard five year/unlimited km cover. 

Nissan says the (98 per cent recyclable) battery will outlast the car, and vehicle servicing is required every 12months or 20,000km.

How does it drive?

With all this, the driving is very smooth and very quiet. There’s no engine, so that’s silent and the only noise you get is from the tyres and the road. So it’s a quiet cabin.

There’s no engine, so that’s silent and the only noise you get is from the tyres and the road. There’s no engine, so that’s silent and the only noise you get is from the tyres and the road.

It’s also fast, getting from 0-100km/h in 7.9sec, which makes it super zippy and a pleasure to drive. There’s no issue getting up hills or coasting along highways. 

The gear shifter looks illogical - a small knob that works like a game console controller. It’s tricky to find neutral but drive/reverse and park are easy, and they’re the ones you use the most. 

Like other electric cars, it has regenerative braking which means the car slows to a stop when you take your foot off the accelerator.

It takes some getting used to, and if you really hate it you can switch it off and there is a roll functionality which means it will roll forward once you stop accelerating. 

The gear shifter looks illogical - a small knob that works like a game console controller. The gear shifter looks illogical - a small knob that works like a game console controller.

But how far can you go on a full charge? The claim is 315km.

I got the car at 90 per cent charged on a Friday. By Tuesday it was down to 75 per cent with local driving over the weekend. Then I drove from Sydney's Eastern Suburbs down to the Sutherland Shire and back - by which time it was at 50 per cent.

So, that’s 25 per cent of charge used up driving for about 100 minutes. Which would mean you couldn’t take it on a long road trip. Great if you’re using the car for city and suburban driving or as a second car, but not so good for going away. 

However, Nissan is working with Chargefox, a company installing EV charging infrastructure around the country, and there are 100 fast chargers and 22 ultra rapid chargers to be in place by the end of 2019, connecting Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Adelaide. So you’ll be able to stop and charge on a road trip. 

Parking is easy with a forward camera, reverse camera and 360 degree camera. 

How does it look?

The exterior is eye-catching, I had two people stop to ask me what car it was and one person cross the road to talk to me about it. It looks modern and sporty. 

The exterior is eye-catching. The exterior is eye-catching.

Inside, Nissan's really upped the interior design to give you more value for the dollars you’re paying.

Comfortable leather seats are heated in the front and back, which is rare, and the leather steering wheel feels great to touch and is also heated - a feature we normally miss out on in Australia. 

There’s a blue stitched trim on all the leather and the soft dashboard looks and feels high quality.

The centre console is well designed with an incorporated, large multimedia screen. The rest is kept simple and the result is that you feel really good in the car. 

How easy is it to use every day?

There are two cupholders in the front, with a small centre storage bin, and a spot to throw keys and a phone, and a bottle holder in each door.

Rear passengers miss out on air vents and their own cupholders, but that is standard in this category.

It’s at a good height for kids to climb in and out by themselves, but not so great if you have to bend down to fit a baby capsule in.

The charge port is at the front of the car where you normally find the engine. The charge port is at the front of the car where you normally find the engine.

Charging the car was surprisingly easy, and the charge port opens with a touch of a button on the key. It’s at the front of the car where you normally find the engine (always a novelty not to have an engine) and the parts fit together with a satisfying sound.

How spacious is it?

For a hatchback, it’s surprisingly spacious inside. My family of four fit comfortably. Granted, my children are small (aged five and seven), but with some family members hitting 185cm, the front had enough leg and head space and the rear had enough room to comfortably seat a tall adult or teenager. 

For a hatchback, it’s surprisingly spacious inside. For a hatchback, it’s surprisingly spacious inside.

If you have a rear facing baby capsule you will have to move the passenger seat forward to fit the capsule behind it, but that is the case with most cars (even some large SUVs). 

The rear had enough room to comfortably seat a tall adult or teenager. The rear had enough room to comfortably seat a tall adult or teenager.

Because there’s no fuel tank, the boot is deep and spacious. At 405L it’s not the largest of the hatchback boots but it’s on the bigger end, and had enough room for the CarsGuide pram.

At 405L it had enough room for the CarsGuide pram. At 405L it had enough room for the CarsGuide pram.

I fit two huge boxes from the grocery store plus tennis rackets and school bags and there was still room to spare, so it’s a decent size for a hatchback.

What’s the tech like?

The Nissan Leaf is the first from Nissan to have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which means you can plug your phone in and be instantly connected. Use voice control to make calls and send texts and your phone’s maps app to navigate. 

There is a seven-speaker Bose sound system which sounds good when you turn the music up. 

How safe is it?


The Wrap

The Nissan Leaf is a great car to zip around in and it’s fun to drive. It had enough space for my family of four though works fabulously as a second car, has all the safety and tech you’d need and the interiors are ace. Charging the car was easy, even though I did it the slow way, if you owned one you would get a faster charging port installed. 

Then there are the big environmental points you get which makes you feel good driving it. 

I gave it a family rating of 7.9 out of 10, taking half a point off because it still is a bit pricey. My kids gave it an 8.8. They love electric cars.

Would you buy an electric hatchback at this price? Tell us in the comments below.

Likes

Easy charging
Fast electric motor
Interior design

Dislikes

Can't drive it long distance

Scores

Nedahl:

4

The Kids:

4.4

$49,990

Based on new car retail price