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First drive: Nissan Leaf 30kWh. Image by Nissan.

First drive: Nissan Leaf 30kWh
A more powerful battery gives Nissan's Leaf EV extra range.

   



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Nissan Leaf 30kWh

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Longer range on a single charge for the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle comes courtesy of an upgrade to the battery pack, meaning the EV is even more appealing now than it ever has been.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Nissan Leaf 30kWh
Pricing: from 20,790; 30kWh model from 24,490
Engine: AC synchronous electric motor
Transmission: front-wheel drive, single-speed reduction gear
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 0g/km (VED Band A, 0 annually)
Claimed range: 155 miles
Top speed: 89mph
0-62mph: 11.5 seconds
Power: 109hp at 3,008- to 10,000rpm
Torque: 254Nm from 0- to 3,008rpm

What's this?

The third-generation Nissan Leaf electric vehicle (EV), although you'd be forgiven for looking at it and thinking 'what's changed?' Well, nothing - at least visually. It's underneath the Leaf's beaky body that there has been a significant upgrade. A fulsome 6kWh has been added to the battery capacity, resulting in a 30kWh Leaf that has 25 per cent more range than the 2014MY 24kWh model. Incidentally, that car continues alongside the newcomer, with its price reduced so there's a 1,600 gap between - for want of better phrases - equivalent specification short- and long-range Leafs.

Therefore, the Leaf still has a practical, if rather peculiar five-door shape, an interior that's not the greatest in terms of quality and exactly the same packaging space for the battery pack; there has been no need to jig the chassis around to accommodate the 30kWh power cells, although the more powerful battery does add 21kg to the kerb weight. Yet now can cover 155 miles on a single charge, instead of 124. However, don't expect to retro-fit the battery to a 24kWh Leaf (or earlier examples of the car), as the cost would be prohibitive because - aside from buying the battery itself - an owner would have to put the Nissan through homologation again at their own expense.

While the 24kWh comes in entry-spec Visia trim, the 30kWh is only offered in higher Acenta and Tekna grades. That means the long-range Leafs come with the new and improved Nissan Connect EV infotainment system that headlines the 2016MY updates, as well as standard fit DAB radio and some other sundry software improvements; there's also an additional new colour, a burnished Bronze, leading to a nine-hue palette. Like the 24kWh, the 30kWh can be juiced back up to 80 per cent of its capacity in just 30 minutes on a quick charging point, although on a slower 3kWh system you have to factor in an extra two hours on the Leaf's charging times.

How does it drive?

All the additional battery power has come from a change to the cathodes within its cells; and no, 'cathode' is not the character that has just made a dramatic and highly improbable return to Albert Square. It's the part of a battery from which a positive current flows. On the deeply geeky technical side, for the 30kWh car those cathodes are now NMC (lithium, nickel, manganese and cobalt oxide), instead of LMO (lithium manganese oxide with a Spinel structure) items on the 24kWh.

Otherwise, it's as you were for the Leaf. It launches cleanly off the line on the instant torque that is a hallmark of all EVs and is also as impressively quiet as you might expect, although the ride remains rather firm, especially around town. The steering is fine for urban users and the two-stage regenerative brakes do not possess weird pedal feel, so that's nice. Visibility is good, the car is manoeuvrable and reasonably nimble, and overall it's a well-resolved EV.

Nothing dramatic, then, but why would Nissan fiddle with a winning formula? Fully a quarter of Nissan's global sales of the Leaf since it was launched in 2010 have been in Europe (46,000 units) and in that area, the UK is market number one - almost 11,500 have found homes thus far. So adding more real-world usability to the mix is hardly going to put buyers off.

Case in point: Nissan got us to drive nearly 100 miles out of Nice in heavy traffic, up the vertiginous Col de Turini (where temperatures plummeted to two degrees Centigrade, the cold trimming range out of the battery) and then back down the other side to the coast on one charge; and despite not being driven particularly carefully, the 30kWh EV managed it with range to spare. Impressive stuff.

Verdict

The new battery pack doesn't change the driving experience one iota; it simply means you can go further in your 30kWh Nissan Leaf than in a 24kWh model, without having to resort to a charging point. That makes the car more useable than before, which will appeal to urban buyers, but the pay-off is extra expense, the cheapest long-range car commanding nearly 25,000 including the Government's 5,000 plug-in car grant.

3 3 3 3 3 Exterior Design

3 3 3 3 3 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 17 Oct 2015



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2015 Nissan Leaf. Image by Nissan.
 

2015 Nissan Leaf. Image by Nissan.
 

2015 Nissan Leaf. Image by Nissan.
 

2016 Nissan Leaf. Image by Nissan.
 

2016 Nissan Leaf. Image by Nissan.
 

2016 Nissan Leaf. Image by Nissan.
 

2016 Nissan Leaf. Image by Nissan.
 

2016 Nissan Leaf. Image by Nissan.
 

2015 Nissan Leaf. Image by Nissan.
 






 

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