Having lived with the Leaf a little while now, a few things stand in both positive and negative lights. Here are my top 5 of each, although this could of course change with time and an alternative perspective. Fortunately, I must say the negative aspects are largely minor and inconsequential so Nissan could easily put them all right with the next generation of the Leaf.
It’s a little nit-picking too, but these are the types of thing you notice with general use and time, unlike on short week-long loans where the car has arrived and been taken away again before you’ve had a chance to really settle into the car’s groove. So, here they are starting with the good points first:
- Electric range. The 30kWh battery is proving to be fantasticly forgetable, in the best possible way. Not once have I experienced range anxiety, whereas in previous tests of the 24kWh Leaf I had. Like-for-like journeys are hard to match, but generally speaking the 30kWh’s extra miles are a dream come true. More than 100-miles is actually pretty darned far to travel, especially living in the south east of England, so a real-world range of 130-miles means I’m never without a few spare miles and I generally don’t have to worry about how heavy I am with the throttle, so the car is more enjoyable rather than constantly monitoring my driving style.
- The revamped touch screen. It’s still not perfect, but it’s a hundred times better than the older system. The design interface is far more appealing and modern and – importantly – it actually works too. There are a few too many hidden menus and uninspired user interface choices, but overall the system is quick and easy to navigate and just works. Good.
- Reversing 360º camera. I know it’s no longer new and Nissan’s Leaf cameras aren’t the best quality compared to say the BMW i3, but the system is a pleasure to use. It’s a genuinely useful addition to have and well-worth the money. Put it this way, no matter how great a driver you are scratching your pricey alloys is all too easy and this gadget might just prevent it from happening altogether. Bonus. For the less observant driver, it’s a total god send. For the more observant, it’s still very helpful.
- Instant air-con and heating. Yep, we live in the UK where the weather is so unbelievably changeable at the moment… one moment it’s roasting hot and the next freezing cold. Thank goodness for instant heating/cooling! This is a benefit not only of the Leaf but any electric car and on cooler mornings a few seconds wait delivers warm air, while on hot days the a/c is deliciously cold like you’ve opened a freezer. I jump in and out of a lot of cars so I really notice the instantaneous response the climate system delivers when stepping into an old fashioned ICE. It’s one of those things you think won’t matter, but is hard to live without once experienced.
- Keyless entry. I must admit this is an unecessary gadget, but it is one that makes life simpler. I never take the keys out from my pocket and instead simply press a small button on the Leaf’s door handles to both lock and unlock the car. Starting is simple too as no key needs to be threaded into a slot with keys jangling about or scratching the surrounding plastics.
The Not So Good
- Something really petty, but oh-so-irritating here. The USB socket. Okay, first of all it looks as though it was a bit of an afterthought and Nissan opted for the budget option of both this and the aux-input for the stereo system. But looks aren’t what I dislike here. No, instead what I dislike most about the USB slot is its inability to provide any real power to my mobile phone. I’ve tried several phones on it now and each sits there as though they’re unplugged. Maybe it’s this car? It’s annoying that I’ve had to resort to my trusty Anker rapid phone charger that plugs into the 12V socket. Fortunately, Nissan has installed this in a sensible location and so the Anker doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb too much.
- Hand… err… foot brake. Yep, America’s antiquated but somehow still popular preference to have the traditional handbrake operated by your foot is a nuisance in the Leaf. For a car that purports to be high tech, why the Leaf doesn’t have a button-type hand brake, I just do not know. Better still, why not go the Tesla approach and have it automated altogether without a button at all! Whatever the reason for Nissan’s choice of hand brake – and it does work fine – it just feels a touch clunky to have to operate it by foot when a more modern approach would not only suit better, but work better too.
- Boot capactiy hampered by EV cables and Bose. I’m not a boy racer who thinks stuffing my boot with anything other than soundware is sacrilege. I’m sure the Bose box provides a wonderful accoustic ambiance, but it’s a shame it is such a big lump at the back of rear seats, where typically I’d place luggage. I’m also concerned about putting anything in the boot that might damage it, although the plastic box looks hard wearing. Still, it’s a cumbersome thing and in a future Leaf I’d like to hope it’s hidden away somewhere. Likewise, the Leaf is only sold as an electric car and as such I find it amazing there’s nowhere to hide away the cables so they don’t take up any room. This would have been easy to do in the design stage, but instead my Leaf boot is filled with two quite large cable boxes that are a bit of a nuisance. A dedicated storage area for these makes a lot of sense, even if it’s under the bonnet rather than in the boot.
- Charge port protective flaps. Not exactly the end of the world, but it is all too easy when messing about with cumbersome cables to try to close the car’s main popup access panel onto an unclosed charge socket protecting flap. The CHAdeMO’s is the main culprit here, as it is big and I fear that it may break if I forget to close it, which I have done once or twice already – but fortunately it hasn’t broken yet. The smaller Type 1 socket is less of a problem, as the access panel can be closed even if you forget it, but it wouldn’t have been too difficult to have this automated when closing the flap and not be required to remember it.
- Steering wheel reach. I’m a taller driver and Nissan make cars with steering wheel reach, but not the Leaf. I don’t know why this is, but I’d have thought it would be something easy to implement and would benefit a huge number of people who may otherwise struggle to get comfy and still be able to reach the steering wheel.