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Nissan Leaf long-term test: practicality and boot space

Published: 10 December 2018

► CAR runs a 2018 Nissan Leaf
► 'Spring Cloud' colour scheme
► Can an EV noob live fault-free?

Month 3 of our Nissan Leaf long-term test review: boot space and practicality

Let’s talk about the Leaf’s boot. It measures 435 litres, which is bigger than the likes of the Renault Zoe, VW e-Golf and Kia Soul EV. There are quite a few compromises to get that space, though; while there are handy bags for your charging cables and little nets to slot the bags in at the sides, the actual opening is really weirdly shaped – almost like a teardrop.

My colleague James Taylor, who borrowed the Leaf to drive to a guitar lesson, had a struggle getting his instrument to squeeze in, battling the pincer movement of the high load lip, the big Bose audio unit screwed to the boot floor and rear seatbacks that don’t quite fold flat.

I appreciate that making an EV comes with compromises, but when one is built from the ground up like our Nissan, surely practicality niggles should be few and far between?

By Jake Groves

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Month 2 living with a Nissan Leaf electric car: punctures and spare wheels

Bang! Argh! Rumble, rumble, rumble. I’m not good at describing moments with onomatopoeia, but that’s pretty much what went down as I was merging onto a Peterborough ring road at about 60mph when my Leaf’s front right wheel met with a stray block of wood about the length and height of a railway sleeper in the middle of a dual carriageway, at rush hour.

Nissan Leaf puncture

It was a massive hazard, and one that I hadn’t spotted until it was too late as I watched for traffic behind me while merging. I coasted the Leaf to a halt after hitting it, mounted the kerb to avoid adding to the hazards, and climbed out.

Before I could even reach for my phone, a police car had swooped in to close the road, but three cars had collided into each other trying to avoid the obstacle before it arrived. No injuries there, but I still counted myself lucky I came away from it only with a blown tyre. We were all guided to a nearby layby to await recovery. 

Nissan Leaf tyre: a Enasave EC300 punctured

Assistance arrived two hours later and I was towed to Smiths Motor Group Nissan in Peterborough. Nissan UK claimed the tyre on the Leaf’s insurance (as Cambridgeshire Police provided an incident number, proving it wasn’t my fault) and three hours later the Leaf was returned sparkling clean, charged and fitted with a new Enasave EC300 eco tyre, like it never happened.

By Jake Groves

Month 1 of our Nissan Leaf long-term test review: the introduction

I can say with absolute certainty that I am the least-prepared person on the CAR team to run an electric car. Up until my new Leaf long-term test car had arrived, I had driven just two – CAR's BMW i3 and Tesla Model S long-termers – in both cases for a short commute. I’ve got only the shakiest grasp on how the whole charging situation works, and in any case I don’t (yet) have the landlord’s permission to get a wallbox fitted for faster charging at home.

But how hard is it to live with one, really? This is the future, after all, whether some of us like it or not, so why not take up the challenge? In fact, EV-angelists will say there’s no challenge to it at all. I should, they say, be able to live with one with only minimal adjustment. And if I can, anyone can.

Jake Groves and our Nissan Leaf electric car long-term test review

My zero-emissions weapon of choice, then, is the second-generation Nissan Leaf. The paint is called Spring Cloud, and the spec level is called Tekna. Spring Cloud looks terrible on Nissan’s online configurator – more like Stagnant Water – but better in the metal. This £575 option is in fact one of the biggest talking points about the car, if only because so many Leafs seem to be painted in Dishwasher White. Comments so far span everything from ‘I actually quite like that’ to ‘It doesn’t match the blue trimmings’ and ‘It’s a bit old person-y’. It’s growing on me; I’m just pleased it’s not a boring white or silver.

Tekna is the Leaf’s top spec level, and it has all the toys: Nissan’s ProPilot semi-autonomous driving tech, heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, automatic air-con, 360° parking aid and enough safety tech to rival Volvo. There’s a Bose stereo system in there, too, and while I know I can park, I’m glad I’ll have the opportunity to satisfy my curiosity about the ProPilot Remote Parking tech – a £1090 extra.

The first week behind the wheel has provided plenty of first impressions. The driver’s seat doesn’t go low enough for me so I feel like I’m perched up, and I have to duck under the rear-view mirror to be able to see around sharp left-hand corners. Plus, since I’m 6ft 3in, I have to slide the seat back quite a way – and that means the lack of reach adjustment makes the steering wheel a bit of a stretch, so I can’t fully get a comfortable driving position. The boot aperture is an odd shape and the (absolutely cracking) stereo’s chuffing great amp is bolted to the boot floor, so packing big things inside is a little awkward.

Nissan Leaf EV side pan

Still, I’ve already done an airport run and back driving like a normal human being at normal human being motorway speeds in one charge. I’ve also revelled in the instant torque delivery, which can make pulling away from traffic lights a quiet pleasure for the driver, and a shock for other drivers expecting it to be as slow as it looks. And I’m finding the amount of info displayed about your energy consumption, both in the car and in the Nissan EV Connect app, is mega handy. 

Our electric car guide: advice, reviews and more

The Leaf’s e-Pedal is great for in town, too, though I’m struggling to see how it’s any different from most other battery-electric cars that have a heavy regeneration mode.

By Jake Groves

Nissan Leaf EV interior

Logbook: Nissan Leaf Tekna

Price £28,390*
As tested £30,055**
Engine Electric motor, 148bhp @ 3283rpm, 236lb ft @ 0-3283rpm
Transmission Single-speed auto, front-wheel drive
Performance 7.9sec 0-62mph, 90mph, 168-mile range (WLTP claim), 0g/km CO2 
Miles this month 972
Total 3062
Energy consumption 370Wh/mile
Fuel this month £32.40
Extra costs None

*Prices reduced by £2500 Plug-In Car Grant before November 2018 changes

Read more long-term test reviews by the CAR magazine team

By Jake Groves

CAR's staff writer, office Geordie, gamer, lover of hot hatches