The original Leaf was praised for its fine ride, responsive steering and instantaneous torque so it will come as no surprise to learn that the ‘new’ Leafhas merely evolved into something lighter and more efficient, now travelling for up to 15 miles more on a single charge. It is also cheaper, with the most basic Leaf costing £20,990 (inclusive of the £5,000 Government grant) rising to £25,490 if you want the range-topping Tekna trim level. Trim levels? Yes, that’s right, you can now choose between three trim levels: Visia, Acenta, and Tekna.
If that’s still too expensive, Nissan now gives customers the option of buying a Leaf without a battery. Leasing the battery not only removes any lingering doubts about its longevity (although it is warranted for five-years or 60,000-mile warranty and is assembled, like the car, in Sunderland), it also knocks £5,000 off the price. The cost? From £70 a month, depending on mileage.
Other changes include redesigned front seats to give rear-seat passengers more foot-room, a black interior, a bigger boot, a more efficient heater, and a redesigned charging point. ‘Eco’ mode helps stretch range and ‘B’ mode boosts regenerative braking; both work well although few would choose Eco mode if they were in a hurry…
But this fiddling does little to address the elephant in the room; a Leaf might be worthy but is it logical? Well, yes. Sort of.
Given the restricted range and need to maintain a battery charging regime the Leaf won’t suit all fleets. Local Authorities, for example, might have the mindset to exploit the Leaf’s virtues - congestion charge exemption, nippy city speed performance, zero tailpipe emissions, and free road fund licence - but other fleet managers might be less accommodating, at least until the national charging network improves.
While the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) predicts the number of public charging points will double within the next year, the number of EVs remains low making the case for investment in a national charging infrastructure harder. This keeps the demand for electric vehicles artificially low – and it takes a brave fleet buyer to spend money on technology that might not provide sufficient benefits (financial or otherwise) to warrant the risk.
Virtuous engineering (and the Leaf is beautifully executed with Rolls-Royce levels of NVH) has its place, but for now the risk of turning over a new Leaf might not be worth it for many business buyers. Which is a shame, but entirely understandable.
By Carlton Boyce