Nissan Leaf second-gen: an electric car which is pretty much like a conventional one

It feels pretty much like a conventional car — the ride is good, it’s got all the creature comforts you’d expect

With the recent push towards electrification, we’re all set to see a slew of new all-electric models arrive on our shores, which will include the Nissan Leaf — one of the pioneer EVs of modern times. Nissan had planned to launch the first-gen Leaf in our market but were deferred. Now, however, the carmaker is set to launch the second-gen model (pictured here) in India by the end of the year. The model will arrive as a CBU import with prices expected to be about ₹40 lakh (ex-showroom).

Nissan Leaf second-gen: an electric car which is pretty much like a conventional one

A lot has been done to make the Leaf stand out from a conventional car. The wedge shape is alluring, especially in red. The headlights flow neatly into a faux-grille area — a black translucent panel that has neat pyramid-like structures beneath. Around the side, the Leaf gets a floating roof and a blacked-out rear section.

If your expectation of EVs is based on what was on sale in India so far, be prepared to be very surprised. While trims and equipment are yet to be finalised, we can expect it to get a fair bit of kit like six airbags, ABS, a Bose sound system, electronic climate control, electric seat adjustment and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Given that the connected car experience has already started in India, Nissan could offer its full connectivity suite, which includes remote diagnosis and pre-cooling the car via a smartphone; as well as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant control.

On the inside, the dash is quite functional and fairly conventional. The only giveaway to the car’s alternate propulsion system is the gear selector, which is a small knob with a joystick-like movement; the pattern isn’t intuitive, but there is a small legend printed just ahead, along with a position indicator.

Nissan Leaf second-gen: an electric car which is pretty much like a conventional one

The quality of the switches, door pads and dashboard are all quite acceptable if you think of mid-size sedans; but you’ll be disappointed to not find the finish and luxury you’d normally expect from a car that costs ₹40 lakh. The premium paid is not for a luxury car but for the extra attention it will get you — and for the alternate propulsion system that’s billed to be the future of automobiles.

The seats are comfortable and supportive, room at the front is decent and the seating position is quite high (because you sit above the batteries); despite this, you have enough headroom. At the rear, legroom is very good for an average-sized adult and headroom is generous, too. Plus, you can also seat three people in reasonable comfort, although the middle passenger will have to contend with a centre tunnel.

Having tested a wide variety of EVs, we know range anxiety is real, and so we made sure we were near available charging points. The infrastructure is sparse today, but a few companies have started offering space for public chargers — like DLF, which let us use the facility at DLF Cyber City for our test.

We used about 70% of our charge in 87km, and this included a lot of hard acceleration runs (timing), a lot of stationary time with the AC on (cameramen need time to shoot the insides) and very little use of the car’s Eco mode.

As for motive power, there are two powertrains on offer — one with a 40kWh battery system (the one we drove), with an EPA-cycle range of 241km, and the other with a 62kWh battery and a promised range of 364km. The 40kWh system is the version that’s likely to launch here. It has a 150hp motor that puts out 320Nm of torque right from the start. Electric motors develop max torque right from the word go. Thus, from behind the wheel, the Leaf feels like every other electric car — very quick off the line, followed by linear acceleration. While the initial burst is very strong, it’s not really dramatic. And while the claimed 0-100kph time stands at a quick 7.9sec, it doesn’t really feel all that fast due to the lack of any aural drama.

Lift off the pedal and the motor acts like a generator, sending charge back to the batteries; this helps with range and also slows the car down. It’s calibrated to feel close to the slowdown of a conventional car during engine braking. Move to B mode and the effect is stronger. However, it is in e-Pedal mode that it’s at its max, where the car also uses the regular friction brakes to come to a full stop. The effect in this mode is dramatic enough for you to drive around ignoring the brake pedal and using just the accelerator most of the time. However, I found it to be a little too much in certain start-stop traffic conditions. Ironically, the brakes — which feel unservoed otherwise — are at their best in e-Pedal mode.

The Leaf’s ride is good despite the stiff suspension necessitated by the car’s heavy 1.5-tonne weight; and apart from some up-down clunkiness, ride on our roads was good. The light steering is great in traffic, and because of the lower centre of gravity (thanks to the weight of the batteries placed low down), you can fling the car around with some level of confidence; just don’t expect hot-hatch levels of grip from the new Leaf’s ‘efficient’ tyres.

At the end of the day, the Leaf feels pretty much like a conventional car. The ride is good, it’s got all the creature comforts you’d expect, and the space is more than adequate. Of course, being an import, it isn’t going to be cheap; but the real issue will be range. It isn’t bad on its own, but for now, charging points are few and there isn’t a standardised fast-charging plug that can be used by all cars. A home charger would be a must then, but Nissan should consider the 62kWh battery — a potential range of 360km would be far more practical in our environment.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 9:40:55 PM |

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