Car Reviews

2019 Nissan Leaf e+ Review

Paul Horrell’s 2019 Nissan Lead e+ Review with Specs, Performance, Ride and Handling, Interior, Safety, Verdict and Score.

In a nutshell: Before Australia gets the generation-2 Nissan Leaf in any form, some parts of the world now see an extra version with a bigger battery capacity, adding a useful 112km extra range and better acceleration too.

2019 Nissan Leaf e+ Specifications

Pricing $NA (likely approx $60,000)+ORC Warranty five years, unlimited km, eight years battery Engine Electric motor Power 160kW at 4600 – 5800rpm Torque 340Nm at 500-4000rpm Transmission single-speed, no shifts Drive front-wheel drive Dimensions 4490mm (L); 1788/2030mm (Without/with mirrors); 1545mm (H) Turning Circle 11.0m Seats 5 Kerb weight 1665kg Towing capacity NAkg (braked) NAkg (unbraked) battery capacity 62kWh Energy consumption 18.0kWh/100km Range 382km WLTP Fuel none Spare No

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Australia has waited a long time for the second-generation Nissan Leaf. We’ve tested it three times here on practicalmotoring.com. We drove it briefly in Japan in October 2017, again at more length with a European-spec car a year and a half ago, and again with a British-spec RHD brought over here.

Nissan promises deliveries finally start here in August 2019. If we haven’t all grown old by then. To learn in detail what the Leaf is all about, check out those reviews, as we’ll just be summarising here. This review is instead an update of those, looking at a recently announced additional version with a bigger battery.

The original Leaf sold only 635 copies in its career in Oz. Yet it’s a runaway success where infrastructure and taxes favour it: more than 400,000 have been sold worldwide. Initially it went through just 12 dealers here, but for the second generation, 89 dealers will be selling it.

Most versions of the new Leaf will do a handy but not exceptional 270km from a full battery to fully depleted, thanks to a battery capacity of 40kWh (the first Leaf began with just 24kWh). But we’ve been testing in the UK the additional top-end version. This has a 62kWh battery, good for 382km.

This has been achieved by using better cells in the battery, but also by packing them more tightly using a new laser-welded case structure. It makes the car heavier, by 130kg. That extra weight is more than offset by a more powerful motor, delivering 160kW instead of 110kW in the other gen-2 Leafs.

2019 Nissan Leaf e+ Review

Since we last wrote, extra Chademo fast-charge points have been installed. Melbourne to Sydney is now doable but would need one hypermiling leg. Sydney to Brisbane would need one slow charge at say Coffs Harbour, before making the 240km hop to the next Chademo at Byron Bay. Then there are more than enough Chademo points all the way to Cairns, none more than 200km apart.

But it’s not quite like DC charging in other new EVs, which will be able eventually to charge at 100kW and beyond. The Leaf has an air-cooled (not liquid-cooled) battery. This means it gets hot if charged too fast, so although in theory it can accept 100kW, the protection system restricts charging to about 50kW after a brief while. Getting the new 62kWh battery from 20 percent to 80 percent (ie adding 230km of range) will take more than an hour in warm weather.

2019 Nissan Leaf e+ Review

Basically then, this is still an EV you would trickle-charge (at 6.6kW) every night at home, or every day at work, and never think about ‘visiting a charger’ until you make a long trip. That’s the difference between EVs and petrol cars. EVs mostly get their energy on trickle chargers, while we do something else – sleep, work, shop. Petrol cars get their energy while we stand there holding a hose.

What’s it like on the inside?

The Leaf e+ is just like the top spec grade of the 40kWh Leaf. The interior trim gives an atmosphere like one of the plusher versions of the Qashqai.

2019 Nissan Leaf e+ Review

The driving position can be odd at first because the steering column doesn’t adjust for reach, so you have to adjust your backrest angle to suit. Neither does the seat cushion adjust for tilt. I found it a bit flat.

2019 Nissan Leaf e+ Review

In the back, foot-space is slightly constrained by the underfloor battery, but it’s not bad for two. The boot is reasonable for a compact hatch. The control and display layout is logical enough and simple to use, if not wildly attractive graphically.

2019 Nissan Leaf e+ Review

2019 Nissan Leaf e+ Review

What are the infotainment and controls like?

Nissan supplies a Bose stereo, which sounds OK. CarPlay and Android Auto are supported. Plus there’s live traffic on the inbuilt system. Lots of the connected info is EV-specific, such as charge point location and availability. You can also remotely tell it when to charge, so as to get best-price electricity, and when to pre-condition its interior temperature so you make less use of the battery-draining climate control when you unplug and drive away.

2019 Nissan Leaf e+ Review

What’s the performance like?

Acceleration is smooth, responsive and pretty silent, just like in all single-speed EVs. The e+ has useful extra poke, pretty much on par with a hot-hatch, and gets to 100km/h in 6.9 seconds. But to unlock that, you have to press through a definite detent in the accelerator pedal travel. It reminds you this is a green and juice-saving car if you please.

2019 Nissan Leaf e+ Review

Various power-delivery modes are on offer. Eco mode restricts torque to help range. Then there’s the so-called e-pedal, which puts in lots of regenerative braking effort when you lift the accelerator so you can mostly drive with one foot only. If the battery is full, and can’t accept regenerated energy, this mode will also bring in the friction brakes even before you touch the brake pedal, so the e-pedal is always pretty consistent.

2019 Nissan Leaf e+ Review

The energy-saving hard-compound front tyres can’t always find the traction to put down all the motor’s effort, so the traction-control light becomes a familiar companion.

What’s it like on the road?

Again, think about the tyres – they dissolve into understeer fairly early in a vigorously taken bend, unless you lift the accelerator. But on the plus side the body leans little, because the batteries are mounted low. There’s less pitch and lateral toss than with the high-seat ‘budget’ EVs: BMW i3, Hyundai Kona Electric.

2019 Nissan Leaf e+ Review

The steering does’t have much life or road feel, but it’s accurate enough. New for the e+ are stiffer springs. They are supposed to support the extra battery mass, but they seem to go further than that and give the car a jiggly ride quality over small bumps.

What safety features does it get?

Euro NCAP has now given the Leaf a strong five-star rating. As with the top-spec standard-range Leaf, there’s a full suite that goes some way to justifying the high price.

Propilot is Nissan’s intelligent (fairly) cruise system that allows the car to guide its steering and speed on motorways. It’s standard. If you don’t like the steering intervention, you can use intelligent cruise on its own.

There’s also a lane departure warning system for normal roads, but it’s too trigger-happy in bleeping its annoying warning, so I kept turning it off. That’s often the trouble with ‘safety systems’. The forward collision warning and braking system was less edgy in my test.

Rear cross-traffic alert is also fitted for reversing. Also, for manoeuvring, there’s an excellent 360-degree set of cameras, which chime a warning if anything moves suddenly, such as a child or animal.

2019 Nissan Leaf e+ Review

Editor's Rating

How do we rate the interior?
How do we rate the infotainment and controls?
How do we rate the performance?
How do we rate the ride and handling?
How do we rate the safety features?
PRACTICAL MOTORING SAYS This longer-range Leaf moves it into similar range territory to the new crop of rivals, including the standard-range Tesla Model 3.  Once you get past the slightly oddball looks, the Leaf is just like a normal hatch to operate and drive. That makes it an enticingly easy transition for some people. Whereas other folk will be drawn to the out-there cabin designs of the BMW i3 or Tesla.  And that's the trouble. Battery cells are expensive, and by giving this version of the Leaf a bunch more of them, Nissan is moving it into the territory of some scary rivals, not least the brilliant Tesla. It's probably a race to see whether Nissan or Tesla can get cars into Oz buyers' hands first.

Paul Horrell

Paul Horrell

Paul's working life has been paced out in cars. He began road-testing when the VW Golf was in its second generation. It's now in its eighth. He covers much more than the tyre-smoking part of the road-test landscape. He roots around in the financial machinations of the car corporations and the apparent voodoo of the technologies. Then he clarifies those complications so his general readers – too busy to lodge their heads up the industry's nether regions – get the fast track on what matters and what doesn't. A freelance writer living in London, he usually gets around the city by bicycle, which adds to his (sometimes justified) reputation as a bit green and a bit of a lefty. He's a member of Europe's Car of the Year jury.