Nissan turns over a new LEAF: Japanese manufacturer unveils its redesigned electric car which promises to end ‘range anxiety’
Nissan has given its electric LEAF a major make-over – with more than 100 significant upgrades – just ahead of it being built for the first time in Britain.
As part of the nip-and-tuck face-lift, the Japanese car-maker has increased its range, spruced up its interior and cut its price.
The moves come as the second-generation of the zero-emissions car – which can be charged from home socket or from a public on-street charging point – prepares for the first time to roll off the production line of Nissan’s Sunderland factory in June.
Eco chic: The sleek new Nissan LEAF has plenty of space and handles like a dream
The 100-plus changes have been made to make the new LEAF more user-friendly following feedback from pioneering early owners.
Some 50,000 have been sold worldwide since launch in 2011. The new version will more comfortable, roomier, better to drive and able to go father and charge in half the time, says Nissan.
It also aims to reduce the main concern of many potential buyers of electric cars – so-called ‘range anxiety’ – or fear it may run out of juice and leave the driver stranded.
So the new LEAF’s driving range has been boosted from 109 miles to 124 miles and a new heat pump helps this by reducing electrical consumption in cold weather.
Luggage space has been improved by re-positioning the charger under the bonnet. And an optional Quick Charger cuts re-charging time from eight hours to four hours.
Spacious: The new look LEAF has extra leg room and a whopping 370 litres of boot space
Jobs for the boys: The new look LEAF will be made at Nissan’s Sunderland plant
The chassis has been re-engineered to give better handling and driving pleasure on UK and Continental roads.
Subtle styling changes have been made to the nose of the car and front grille to improve its aerodynamic efficiency.
There are now three trim levels – a cheaper entry-level Visia costing closer to £20,000 including the £5,000 taxpayer subsidy, Acenta and the top-spec Tekna with 17 inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, a Bose sound system and an ‘Around View Monitor’ parking aid.
The new LEAF also offers more driving modes, more colour choices, more supportive seats, a clearer sat-nav, new ‘environmentally friendly’ seat fabrics but also a choice of leather trim.
The 48-module compact lithium-ion batteries are mounted underneath the cabin area to lower the centre of gravity for optimum handling.
And overall boot capacity has increased to a massive 370 litres after moving the charger.
A spokesman said: ‘By moving the charger from the rear of the LEAF to under the bonnet it has been possible to increase the luggage area by as much as 40 litres – or about the size of a typical airplane ‘carry-on’ suit-case. There is now no obstacle in the middle of the boot floor when the seats are folded.’
Going the distance: The 48 lithium-ion modules can hold enough juice to make range anxiety a thing of the past
Re-shaped cushions mean more rear legroom. Steering has been given more ‘weight’ to provide a more substantial feel more in tune with UK and European tastes.
Brake performance has been improved and the ‘green’ eco-driving mode has been updated. A new LED inspection light means drivers no longer have to rely on street lighting when charging their cars at night.
Standard safety equipment includes front, side and curtain airbags, anti-lock ABS brakes and brake assistance along with the Electronic Stability Program (ESP).
A Nissan spokesman said: ‘The new Nissan LEAF has arrived – and it has a longer range, is more practical, better to drive and has even more equipment.’
‘Improvements include an extended driving range, greater recyclability, more interior space, better charging performance, more equipment and, with three versions now available, greater choice.’
It will be produced in Sunderland alongside the conventionally-powered Qashqai, Note and Juke models. The high-tech lithium-ion batteries which store charge to power the LEAF are already being produced at a new facility nearby.
Paul Willcox, Nissan Europe’s senior vice president for sales and marketing said: ‘LEAF owners are passionate about their cars and their comments and experiences have genuinely influenced many of the changes we have made.’
He added: ‘The Nissan LEAF has shown that electric vehicles offer viable everyday transport for people with a typical daily commute.
‘With an ever-expanding network of Quick Chargers linking cities across Britain and Europe and improvements we have made to battery life and LEAF’s drivetrain, the traditional ‘range anxiety’ issue put forward by some of the nay-sayers as a reason not to go electric will soon be a non-starter.’
Nissan’s Sunderland plant, which employs 5,400 people, has built more than 6.4 million cars since it opened in 1986 with 80 per cent of production exported to 97 markets worldwide, with total investment topping £3.3billion.
Nissan’s European Design Centre is based in Paddington, London and employs around 50 people, while the its European Technical Centre is based in Cranfield, Bedfordshire and employs around 500 people.