Nissan were well ahead of the pack when the Leaf first emerged back in 2010, foreseeing the eventual shift to greener technology before most of it competitors.
It means while others scramble to introduce electric cars into their ranges, Nissan already has 420,000 global sales under its belt.
Not many of those were in Australia, however, where it limped to just 600-odd sales in five years thanks to buyer concerns over its high purchase price and limited range.
Now, in a far more EV-friendly climate, the second-generation Leaf arrives in Australia roughly two years since it first emerged overseas.
And while its range and asking price aren’t slam-dunk propositions for most buyers, they’re far more compelling than they once were.
There is 270km of range on offer for an asking price of $49,990 plus on-roads, which is $5000 more than the entry-level variant of the fully electric Hyundai Ioniq and nearly 200km less range than the Hyundai Kona Electric.
But it’s got the Ioniq covered for range by 40km and it’s also far cheaper than the Kona Electric which starts at $59,990.
If you fork out about $2000 for a 32-amp wallbox at your place, it will take 71/2 hours to charge from 0-100 per cent. You can add one to your bill when buying the car, with Nissan having 89 EV dealerships, including 11 in WA.
If you’re stuck with a standard 10-amp socket, you’re looking at close to 24 hours to get a full charge from empty.
The Leaf has a five-year warranty with generous 12-month/20,000km service intervals, while the battery is covered for eight years.
On the road, the Leaf is perhaps the closest to a “normal” car to drive out of any EV we’ve driven. There is the expected strong off-the-line acceleration but not to the same extent as in other EVs and with little of the futuristic whirring.
Most EVs with regenerative braking can have rather wooden brakes, but the Leaf’s anchors feel like a standard car.
There is also e-Pedal mode, which allows you to drive using only the accelerator: press the pedal down to accelerate, back off to slow down and take your foot off completely to come to a stop. It’s easy and intuitive with little adjustment needed.
Thankfully, Nissan’s ancient infotainment system has been updated in this car and adds an 8-inch infotainment screen with sat nav with live traffic updates, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and more.
It’s still a long way from the best infotainment system out there, but it’s an improvement.
The Leaf is pretty well equipped, with auto-levelling headlamps with high beam assist, leather accented seats, a seven-speaker Bose audio and more. There are no rear air vents, but the Leaf has heated front and rear seats — which Nissan says is the most efficient way to warm up occupants.
Leg room is OK back there, but headroom is tight for those around the 180cm mark; I had to take my sunglasses off my head to fit in there.
There is a generous 405-litre cargo space, though there is a large load lip which makes the boot rather bucket-like.
Safety gear includes adaptive cruise control, rear cross traffic alert, traffic sign recognition, 360-camera, auto emergency braking with pedestrian detection and more.
There is also lane departure warning, which owners will want to turn off after 10 minutes of driving.
It is almost hostile, kicking in even when not crossing markings with a severe vibration and an alert which sounds like someone honking their horn at you.
Elsewhere, the Leaf is a nice enough drive, unassuming while having impressive dynamics in corners. The manually adjustable seats feel cheap while the inability to adjust the steering wheel’s reach is annoying and a real head scratcher.
But its main issue is the same which impacts all EVs in Australia: it feels expensive for what you’re getting.
Happily, thanks to phone and car companies investing in the battery industry, the tech is getting cheaper and Morgan Stanley predicts price parity between EVs and traditionally powered vehicles possibly within the next decade.
When this happens, we’ll really see EVs take off. But for now, the Leaf has at least established its place in the growing local market.
Engine Electric w 40kWh lithium-ion battery
Transmission Single-speed auto