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Review: 2015 Nissan Leaf Tekna

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In a few days time my Nissan Leaf will be sold and gone, so here's my impressions after over 18 months and 12000 miles. Mine is a 2015 24kWh Tekna (top spec)

Quality, fit and finish

Not great. Distinctly not great. The paint (flat white) isn't good, and there are various noticeable poor bits of panel alignment all around the vehicle. Interior materials are mostly very cheap, with some hard plastics and horrid cheap synthetic felt. However, as a workaday basic car it is fine, but any kind of premium product it certainly is not. Remember that the Leaf (even the current, facelifted 40kWh and 62kWh versions) is based on the 2004-on Nissan Tiida, a low-cost, light-weight basic C-seg hatch. 

Comfort

Actually not bad. Seats are ok (heated front and rear, perforated "Leather") and the ride is softer than many other C-seg hatchbacks. Noise levels are ok - obviously no engine noise and they worked on the Aero and things like the windscreen wiper motor to be quiet - however, road noise is significant, and the glass in the windows is thin so sounds from the outside world aren't well insulated. 

Gadgets

Not bad - App to turn on AC/Heating remotely, Satnav, 360deg cameras, all seats heated, LED headlamps, Bose sound system (not very good), Inrix traffic data. However, the infotainment is not very intuitive, and has some even bigger annoyances than Lexus have managed (total fail on Artist/Album handling). 

Drivetrain

Fantastic. Significant instantaneous torque with no kickdown lag, turbolag, etc. The torque at the wheel is changing directly, immediately, in response to the position of the throttle pedal. Ultimately there's not a HUGE amount of power and you certainly feel that above 40-50mph, but up to 40 and in town, getting onto roundabouts etc then it's way more responsive and nippy than a great many ICE cars, even ones that are much more powerful. There's also no stop-start system to contend with that would make nipping out of a junction that much trickier. There's a psychological element as well, because you'd rarely bother to use full throttle, full performance in something like a ford focus 1.0 ecoboost because of the noise, harshness and lumpiness of trying to make fast gearchanges - it's a lot of effort and wearing because of the noise, whereas in the Leaf you simply put foot to the floor with greater regularity. 

However, this isn't that Nissan engineered an amazing EV drivetrain. They made an acceptable one - much of the benefits above are simply the nature of an EV. The Leaf is not terribly efficient; typically around 3.5-4 miles per kWh. The worst EVs are around 2.5 (Audi e-Tron), with high-performance (Tesla S, X, Jag I-Pace) around 3, up to the very efficient being 4 and better (Tesla 3, Kia e-Niro) and even heading towards 5 (Hyundai Ioniq). In terms of weight and performance and size, the Leaf should achieve better than 4, but it doesn't. 

Handling

Remarkable, in a qualified sense. Some of the ingredients are terrible - high kerb weight (1545kg), very basic suspension design (macpherson strut front, torsion-beam rear), FWD and the aforementioned soft ride. However, the centre of gravity is very low down, and the significant parts of the mass are within the wheelbase, so it has a very low polar moment of inertia. The low centre of gravity means that despite relatively soft suspension it doesn't roll very much when cornering hard, and the weight distribution shares the loading between front and rear very well. It will grip and fling itself around a corner with suprising alacrity. No, it's by no means communicative or go-karty, but it's really very good for a a bog basic family hatchback. With good tyres on (Michelin Crossclimate+) it has a very secure, grippy feel. 

Range / Long Journeys

Either fine or terrible, depending on how you look at it. 

For day-to-day use it's absolutely fine. There aren't many days when many of us drive more than 50 miles, and that's fine. Charge up at night or during the day at work and it's simply not an issue, not a bother. 

Long Journeys can even be ok - I've used it a few times to go to my mother's house (160 miles from my home), and my best run only had 21 minutes of charging time (of which I'd have stopped for 10 to pee and get a coffee in my ICE vehicles anyway). However, that was having a bunch of things go right. When the weather is bad or if a charging point is offline or whatever things can rapidly get more tedious. Ultimately long journeys in it ARE possible, but at some point you'll get bored. 

However, consider the typical middle-class 2-car family. Do BOTH cars need to be able to do long journeys? Or does the family have a big family car/SUV for that stuff, and a smaller hatchback that just gets used for school run, shops, commute, etc? The Leaf is an ideal and brilliant second car, where the range limitations are simply a non-event. 

Running costs / TCO

Outstanding. Utterly insanely cheap to run. 

Fuel costs are 3p/mile from domestic supply (12p/kWh), 2p/mile on E7 (or my workplace charger), and there are still quite a number of free-to-use chargers  (my local supermarket has a 50kW rapid charger that is free). 

No tax of course, and servicing is a non-event. There's no oil, filter, transmission, cam belt, plugs, etc - hundreds of pounds per year on consumables that simply go away. 

Depreciation is the absolute kicker though - After more than 18 months and 12000 miles I've sold the car to a trader for only £350 less than I paid for it. Total cost of ownership excluding insurance has been around £900 (£350 depreciation, £400 tyres (£460, sold old partworns for £60), £150 electricity), working out to 7.5p/mile - or half what most cars cost to fuel alone. 

Random stuff

All of the steering wheel buttons are mounted on top of the large floating piece that sounds the horn. Usually not a problem, but the cruise control button requires a firm enough press that the horn beeps when you turn it on. 

Tekna spec has 17" wheels with an uncommon tyre size (215/50R17). These tyres are literally twice the price of those fitted to the Acenta spec (205/55 R16) (Full set of Crossclimate+ cost me £460 on offer from Costco. A friend got a full set of Primacy 4 from costco for his Leaf Acenta for £231)

Reliability

Never let me down as such, but did start making a clicking/cracking noise. Known issue with driveshafts needing splines lubricating and bolts tightened. Performed under warranty. 

Overall

The Leaf has fulfilled the role for which we bought it brilliantly. That role was as a second car, to cover the repetitive, day-to-day commutes that were costing a fortune in diesel (at the time). I pushed it further in making long journeys simply because of the novelty, and the cost savings (£70 of diesel saved on a single round-trip to my mother's house, for a "cost" of about 45 minutes extra journey time - more than most people earn after tax), and learned a few lessons along the way. 

I don't think it would be a good "only car". A friend of mine has one as his only car (he's had it 6 years, since new and covered 70k+ in it) and it's lead to frustrations at times (but never enough to even think for a second about changing back). As I said before, a brilliant second car. The ease with which you can jump in and drive without worrying about the impact of short journeys on engine wear, instant cabin heat (and preheat from timer or app), etc is great for popping to the shops or nipping over to a friend's house. 

Ultimately perhaps it's telling that the reason I'm getting rid is because it whetted my appetite for a better EV, and I cashed in the Leaf before depreciation takes a turn (which I think it will next year as the e208, Corsa-e, Mini Cooper SE, Honda e and VW ID3 begin to hit the market). I've ordered a Tesla 3. 

Would I buy one again, as a second car? Probably not at current pricing. Pricing has been a bit silly of late, and they've held up well but I think we're in a period of over-valuation. At similar pricing I'd have a Kia Soul EV over a Leaf. 

 

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Great review thanks for taking the time to do it.

i bet your looking forward to getting the Tesla 3 ? I’m still waiting to spot my first one around this area.

We are still enjoying our Mini Countryman Phev,its a real fun car to drive even though the real world range is not great it’s enough for us as a second car.

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Thanks. 

Yes, very much looking forward to the 3. I believe that it is now aboard the Triumph Ace and about to depart San Francisco.

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