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We drive the Leaf in the UK to see if it can win over our fleet drivers.
The Nissan Leaf is the world's bestselling electric car and more than 20,000 examples have found buyers in the UK.
That's still small beer compared with fossil-fuel-powered cars like the Ford Focus and VW Golf, and EV sales have traditionally been predominantly to private buyers. So, can the second-generation Leaf convince UK fleets to finally make the switch to electric?
A cheaper alternative
Well, for starters, the Leaf offers huge running-cost savings over petrol or diesel alternatives, while BIK tax stands at 9%, meaning BIK tax costs are just £48 at a 20% rate.
Nissan has also reduced prices of the Leaf by as much as £1,500, depending on trim level, with prices for the entry model starting at £26,000, including the £4,500 governmental grant applied to 100% EVs.
A top-notch Tekna model costs £31,593, but that's still a few hundred pounds less than the first-generation car and undercuts premium rivals such as the VW e-Golf and BMW i3.
Reducing range anxiety
Another way in which Nissan is pushing the EV game on is by reducing range anxiety. The latest battery has increased from 30 to 40kW/h, a 'claimed' 235-mile range on the NEDC test - 80 miles more than the previous generation - or 168 miles on the new and more realistic WLTP test.
Nissan has also helped to drive the expansion in the rapid-charge network, which is available at all UK motorway service stations except Folkestone. Plugged in here, you can expect an 80% charge in around 50 minutes - enough time to reply to a few emails and grab yourself a burger. Nissan's additional solution is a 22kW wall charger that requires no planning permission and can 'rejuice' the car in two hours for an extra cost.
The elephant in the room when it comes to EVs is battery life, and how this impacts on residual values and leasing charges. However, Leaf guarantees roughly 66% battery capacity over 100,000 miles or 96 months. There's no option to lease the battery separately, as is the case with the Renault Zoe.
With a 0-60mph time of around eight seconds, the Leaf is much nippier than a Zoe or a VW e-Golf, and its accelerator is brilliantly responsive, making it a delight to drive around town. In fact, acceleration is so instantaneous you have to be a bit gentle with your right foot when moving out of junctions. Like most EVs, when you lift your foot off the throttle you feel yourself slowing down quickly, due to the regenerative braking. The Leaf takes this a step further when you move the gearstick to 'B' mode, engaging the regenerative system more aggressively on downhill slopes, and helping reduce brake use while harvesting more energy to replenish the battery.
A relaxing drive
However, arguably the most enjoyable part of driving the Leaf occurs when you press the e-pedal button, which makes the electric motor's regenerative braking effect so pronounced that you barely have to brake at all. It's a weird sensation and takes a bit of getting used to, but once mastered it's a relaxing, simple way to drive.
The steering is ideal for urban driving. It's light, but direct enough for you to be able to position the car confidently on city roads. The ride is on the firm-ish side, but only the really big potholes on our uneven UK roads reach the driver, and the bonus of this firm set-up means body roll is kept to a minimum when cornering.
The Leaf benefits from Nissan's Pro Pilot system, which will aid the driver with steering, acceleration and braking. While the top-of-the-range Tekna version comes with radar cruise control, including lane following and traffic-jam assist, all but the base model get built-in connected apps plus Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility.
The interior quality is a significant improvement on the old car. You'll still find some hard plastics here and there, but overall material quality is much higher than before, if not quite as luxurious as an equivalent e-Golf.
The Leaf might not look any bigger than a regular hatchback, but it's actually 12cm longer than a Ford Focus and 2cm wider than its predecessor, meaning more room overall inside.
Something you will notice instantly is the driving position. The front seats are very high, due to the underfloor battery pack, which is great for visibility but means headroom is not good for taller folk. You can easily fit two tall passengers in the back though, and the 435-litre boot provides more than enough space for luggage, although you unfortunately have to lift it over the high boot lip.
Overall, the Leaf hits the sweet spot in terms of usability, likability and affordability, and, based on these attributes, we expect it to be a strong market contender as the inevitable move towards electrification gathers pace.
Importantly, the car also now has a wider appeal than its predecessor, due to the additional performance, and the critical extension in driving range and quicker charging times.
One-pedal driving, packed with tech, bigger range.