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First Drive: Nissan Leaf e+

Does the new longer-range Leaf make sense for fleet drivers, asks Natalie Middleton.

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SECTOR Hatchback/EV   PRICE From £35,895 (incl PiCG)   RANGE 239 (WLTP)   CO2 0g/km (NEDC Correlated)

In the electric vehicle hall of fame, the Nissan Leaf’s place is undisputed.

Since its launch in 2010, it’s sold over 410,000 units worldwide, making it the best-selling EV to date. And it’s driven some six billion miles, saving 712 tons of CO2.

But these are fast-changing times and while last year’s second-generation model had already upped the ante on battery power, growing battery capacity from 30kWh to 40kWh, raising power from the electric motor to 150hp and increasing the WLTP range to 168 miles, the range is now relatively small fry compared to the game-changing 279 miles offered by the Hyundai Kona Electric and 282 miles for the Kia e-Niro.

So for MY2019, Nissan has added a ‘halo’ version with a 62kWh battery – up 55% in capacity and giving a 25% increase in energy density. Power from the electric motor is up 45% to 217hp and the 0-62mph time is down from 7.9 seconds to 6.9. And, most pertinently, WLTP range is up to an official 239 miles.

A 6.6kW charger is supplied, bringing a full charge time of 11.3 hours using a 32A wallbox but a charge from 20-80% using a 50kW public rapid charger on the CHAdeMO standard takes 90 minutes – up from the 60 minutes on the 40kWh version. It also has 100kW charging compatibility but Nissan warns it’s equipped with charging safeguards to protect the battery during repeated rapid charging sessions in a short period of time. This may be something to do with the eight-year battery warranty that’s been carried over.

It’s offered in just one trim – the top-of-the-range Tekna, which is also available on the 40kWh version and brings a high level of standard kit, including the ProPilot package of assistance technologies that debuted on the 2018 model.

On our test drive around Southampton and the New Forest, the Leaf e+ was comfortable to drive, if a little too firm over rougher surfaces, as a result of changes necessitated by the heavier battery, with precise steering and a pacey performance if pushed.

The big surprise was how easy it was to get the hang of the e-Pedal functionality, introduced on the 2018 model and essentially bringing one-pedal driving that was startlingly quick to adjust to although I had no hesitation on stamping on the brake too when encountering an over-friendly van coming the other way on a narrow road.

Helped considerably by the e-Pedal’s regenerative braking, we also found the range to be pretty accurate; a sprint on the motorway was compensated for by more sedate driving on country roads.

But the main question is whether fleet drivers would want to pay near £5,000 to jump from the top-trim Leaf to the Leaf e+ or the extra £7,900 from the entry-level Leaf. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, it’s rather a big ask.

Star rating
4.5 out of 5

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.