SPORTY, comfortable and environmentally friendly, the 2021 Nissan LEAF e+ really does embody the Japanese car maker’s innovation that excites mantra, and all while boasting zero emissions.
We’re testing the range topping variant, with a 62kWh lithium-ion battery and a 385km range. And if you’re worried about it being slow, think again, the LEAF really digs in and takes off, boasting an output of 160kW through its two-wheel drivetrain.
That’s an increase of 50kW over the base model, with the speedo maxing out at 158km/h, which is fine, because let’s face it, if you obey the road rules, you’ll never reach that sort of speed.
Built in the UK, the LEAF e+ has the indicator stalk on the left, which if you haven’t driven a European car, can take some getting used to. Across the range there’s only one option for seats and they’re all manual, which does save on weight.
Our variant came with black leather-accented seat trim with Ultrasuede inserts. The kicker is they’re not only heated in the front, they’re heated in the rear too. It’s clearly built for cooler climates, as the steering wheel is heated too. Great for staying warm in winter.
The exterior colour range is more versatile though, with six to choose from, four of which can be had with black roofing. Exclusive to the LEAF e+ is a Metallic Blue front bumper finish. That colour continues inside, with blue stitching across the dash and seats.
It’s super quiet, being an EV, and the fully electric LEAF puts a whopping 21dB of whir through its drivetrain. It feels as if the loudest thing in the vehicle is the clever reversing chime, which if you don’t expect to hear it, will have you thinking you’ve left a door open.
Weighing in at 2140kg, the LEAF e+ feels solid on the road and is really quite fun to drive, feeling hot-hatch like with the sort of power it has available. Navigating tight corners is a breeze and quick acceleration is there whenever you need it.
The car is pretty well built, with nothing rattling on the inside, keeping cabin noise quiet and minimal. Operating across a couple of different driving modes, the LEAF can be driven in the manner that best suits.
The shift-by-wire drive selector is a funny little device, but so easy to use. Press to park, push forward to drive and reverse to, you know, reverse. In either driving mode there’s two more options to increase efficiency which are e-pedal, and Eco mode.
We particularly enjoyed using the latter two together, purely to maximise range. It feels a little ploddy but, switch them both off, and the hairs will raise when the foot’s to the floor.
The e-pedal is quite an interesting feature, which allows you to use the main pedal to accelerate, but as you back off, the car begins to use its regenerative brake, putting energy back into the battery to continue charging it.
Take your foot completely off and the car will slow down, even smoothly stopping at the end, which is a nice touch. Nissan calls it ‘one pedal driving’ because at no point do you actually touch the brake pedal.
Eco mode is quite literally how it sounds, driving the car in the most economical way possible. Turning this off ensures quicker acceleration immediately, however we’d suggest not trying it too often or you’ll be scrambling for the nearest charging point.
With an advertised 385km of range, and after a night of charging all the way to 100 per cent, it gave us an estimated 410km of range. It’s important to keep in mind with a full EV that everything you do, everything, is dependent on the battery.
Once you start using other accessories you might notice that estimate fluctuating more. Take the demister and heater on an icy winter’s morning for example. The numbers will drop, but once those are switched off, the range goes back up again.
On the technology front, there’s an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth, voice recognition and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Both the latter two are wired. There’s a 7.0-inch digital display in the instrument cluster, combined with an analogue speedometer.
Dusk sensing and auto dipping LED headlights, plus front and rear fog lights, rain sensing front wipers and a rear wiper, and heated side mirrors complete the package. You’ll find a tonne of really intuitive safety features as well.
Blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking are all on hand to keep you safe. Traffic sign recognition is good too, and smart enough to register weather based limits on the M1.
The around view monitor is spectacular when parking in tight spaces, which we put to the test in the garage where the LEAF e+ lived during our test, which didn’t have an abundance of room, to say the least. Let’s just say the parking sensors came in handy.
A kerbside camera is also part of the plethora of goodies the Nissan EV has to offer, along with hill start assist, rear cross traffic alert, tyre pressure monitoring and a vehicle sound for pedestrians.
It has decent ground clearance at 155mm too, with a fairly low cargo floor in the boot making it easy to get things in and out. With the back seats up, you’ll have 405-litres of space, or if you fold them flat, that balloons to 1,176-litres. Decent for a hatch.
In the left and right hand corners of the rear cargo space are nets to securely and neatly store the charging cables, which are the standard 6.6kWh cable for the orange hole in the nose or the rapid charge 100kWh cable for the white portal.
You can use the standard cable for plug-in at home, although this is the slowest method of charge. While Nissan don’t have their own, there are plenty of home charging stations that can be purchased and installed to provide faster charging.
You’ll also find a BOSE subwoofer stashed back there, as part of the seven energy efficient speaker package throughout the vehicle. Underneath the boot is a space saver tyre.
Priced at $64,990 drive-away, the 2021 Nissan LEAF e+ comes with a 5-year 200,000km warranty, with an 8-year 160,000km warranty on the batteries. Offering an eco-friendly option, it’s a fun and styling vehicle, that’s genuinely hard to go past.
With incentives starting to be rolled out across the country, now might also be a good time to invest in an EV. For example, NSW will remove stamp duty on vehicles less than $78,000 and provide a rebate of $3,000 to the first 25,000 sold under $68,750.
From 2027, or once electric vehicles make up 30 per cent of new car sales, a distance-based tax will be imposed. From then, you’ll pay 2.5c (or 2c for plug-in hybrids) per kilometre.
That same tax is already in place in Victoria, will an identical cashback for all electric vehicles (including those already purchased). South Australia is yet to launch their own electric vehicle tax but is planning to. What the rest of Australia will do is as yet unknown.
Our test vehicle was provided by Nissan Australia. To find out more about the 2021 Nissan LEAF e+, contact your local Nissan dealer.